I caught up with Chamberlain at the Futures Game to talk about what he’s doing to prevent future injuries, how the Hawaii Winter League helped his confidence, and how his son motivates him to become the best athlete he can be.
Adam Foster: A lot of people thought you were going to be a top 10 overall pick last season before you came down with triceps tendonitis. How much did that injury have to do with you getting hit a little harder as a sophomore at Nebraska than you did as a freshman?
Joba Chamberlain: It was just one of those things were in college you think you’re a little invincible. You think you can get a little tweak here and can come back and be ready just like you were the week before, but that’s not the case. And I probably came back a little too early...you live and you learn. At this point now, I understand my body a little more, and know that if something does still happen this game is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. I just gotta be prepared for that.
Foster: What have you done to prevent a similar injury in the future, especially when you’re going to be asked to pitch more innings?
Chamberlain: Just to better prepare myself between starts: stay in good shape, have a good mind of what you’re going to do and have a good every-day plan with your arms and legs and everything to get you to stay healthy.
Foster: How did you hurt your hamstring during Spring Training?
Chamberlain: I threw a wild pitch and went to cover the plate and my cleat got caught...kind of got me a little bit. But it had been bothering me before, so it’s kind of one of those things where I’m glad it happened at the beginning of the year and not the end of the year.
Foster: You were pretty impressive last fall in the Hawaii Winter League. How much did your success there help boost your confidence heading into the season?
Chamberlain: It was awesome. A lot of guys there are now in Double-A and Triple-A. There’s always a sense of not doubt but just I gotta do this. There are times where you struggle a little bit, and there’s always, like I said, not doubt but a question. And if I went out there and had a good start, I just kept going from there.
Foster: What do you do to try to get hitters out?
Chamberlain: Just go pitch my game. You can’t try to focus on hitters weaknesses too much and kind of stray away from your strengths. You gotta take your strengths and some of their weaknesses and attack that. Not focus only on their weaknesses and kind of get away from your game. Just pitch my game and stay within myself and do what I need to do.
Foster: Can you describe your arsenal of pitches?
Chamberlain: Fastball: mostly four seams – I’ll throw an occasional two seems in there. Slider, curveball, changeup.
Foster: Out of 100 pitches, how many times would you throw each of those?
Chamberlain: I’d probably go about 65-70 percent fastballs, and then try to go 10-percent on the rest.
Foster: Why didn’t you start pitching until your senior year in high school?
Chamberlain: I liked to hit. I was a decent hitter – as every pitcher says they are. And my senior year came about and coach goes, “We need pitchers and you throw kind of hard.” So I think I got about 19 innings in my senior year in high school and pitched a little bit that summer, just kind of started from there. Went to college and hit a little bit and pitched, and the rest is history.
Foster: Were you hoping to take a little batting practice at the Futures Game?
Chamberlain: Nah man. I’ll leave that to (the hitters). I’d rather be pitching.
Foster: Do you think waiting so long before you seriously started focusing on pitching will work in your favor in the long run?
Chamberlain: I think so. There are a lot of guys that start throwing breaking balls young and things like that. It’s one of those things...I’ve got a young arm and hopefully it stays fresh. It has treated me good and I’m trying to treat it the best I can, and get as much out of it as I can.
Foster: How does being a father affect your disposition as a minor leaguer?
Chamberlain: It’s one of those things where it’s a good and bad thing. It’s a bad because you miss your family and you miss those things. It’s also on the other hand a good because I know the harder I work, the easier it is gonna to be for him. I had some stuff growing up and I want him to have everything that I didn’t. It makes me work a little bit harder to get there and be established and have the chance for him to be with me, and live with this game that has been so great to us as a family, and to do the things that I was never able to do.
Foster: Speaking of working hard, you worked for your city’s maintenance department out of high school. Did you even dream that you would be where you are today back then?
Always. On probably a weekly basis, my dad talked about it. He always
said, “You’re going to do this.” And I’d look back and say, “Dad,
you’re crazy. There’s no chance.” We’d always watch on TV and he’s
always put it in the back of my mind that you can do this. It’s been a
fun ride, from waking up and going to work to playing late that day.
It’s something that I wouldn’t trade for. It has made me who I am today
and I wouldn’t trade back anything.
Adam Foster can be reached at email@example.com.