Charismatic and easy-going, Balester has gained quite a following due to his MySpace personality, Ballllllly Sta®. His energy-filled videos - dancing, dunking basketballs, and windmilling golf balls - have even attracted the attention of Washington Nationals beat writers.
He has also shown signs of promise on the mound, striking out nearly 19.0% of the batters he has faced as a pro, being selected to participate in the 2007 Futures Game, and advancing to Triple-A at the ripe age of 21.
I met up with Balester to talk about the similarities between Ballllllly Sta® and the professional pitcher Collin Balester, how he is working on commanding the strike zone, and his preference for his drop-and-drive mechanics over tall-and-fall.
Adam Foster: I’ve talked to people who have instantly become fans of yours when they’ve seen your MySpace videos. Did you think those would circulate across the internet as much as they have?
Collin Balester: No, not even. Now when people see me to sign autographs, they tell me, “Oh, I like your MySpace! I’ve seen your MySpace.” It’s kind of funny how that’s gotten out.
Foster: Is the Ballllllly Sta® who we see in those videos the same Balester who shows up in the clubhouse?
Balester: Oh yeah, oh yeah! I just try to have fun and always put smiles on people’s faces...just loose and have fun. That’s what I’m about.
Foster: Do your teammates ever give you a hard time about that?
Balester: Everyone likes to give me a hard time about everything just because I’m so loose and I’m not going to get upset about anything. It’s pretty fun to have teammates that like to mess around with me.
Foster: Did you learn anything from Dmitri Young when he was in minor league camp during Spring Training?
Balester: Yeah, Dmitri Young’s awesome. He’s like the same person as me almost...funny, loose. He’s a good, good guy. You just tell him how everything is and (he’d say to) just keep going, keep staying healthy, and good things are going to happen. He’s one of the roll models I looked up to in Spring Training.
Foster: What’s it like to be one of the first prospects to make his way through the Washington National’s system?
Balester: It’s pretty cool. It’s an honor to be thought so highly of...just gotta keep it going; get stronger and stronger.
Foster: How have you gone about improving your ability to command the strike zone?
Balester: Just worked on it in the offseason about my control. And then just being able to get in my mind that I don’t want to walk anybody and challenge hitters – that’s what I do best.
Foster: Can you describe your arsenal of pitches?
Balester: Fastball, curveball, changeup.
Foster: And if you were to throw 100 pitches, how frequently would you throw each of those?
Balester: Probably 60-70% fastball, and then the rest off-speed pitches.
Foster: What do you try to do to get hitters out?
Balester: Just challenge them. Just try to let them get themselves out. Not do too much. Just challenge them because I’m not really afraid to use my stuff.
Foster: As far as not being afraid to use your stuff, what did you do to become comfortable throwing your changeup?
Balester: Just threw it a bunch during the offseason. Just kept on throwing it, throwing it, throwing it. Someone told me, “It’s a feel pitch, you’ll start to feel it.” And I definitely have. So I just feel comfortable throwing it now.
Foster: You’ve lasted six or more innings in a majority of your starts. What do you attribute to being able to last late in ball games?
Balester: It all comes down to challenging hitters and not being afraid to show your stuff. You challenge hitters and they’re going to get themselves out; then you go long into ball games.
Foster: Last year, the Nationals tried to change you into a tall-and-fall pitcher after you had been drop-and-drive, but the decision was made for you to revert to drop-and-drive. What are some advantages that drop-and-drive pitchers have over tall-and-fall?
Balester: It’s different for everyone but as drop-and-drive, I get more power going to the plate and my fastball has more life. That’s just the way I’ve been pitching. So it’s better for me to pitch like that than just fall over and not have as much leverage and as much getup on the fastball, like I’m used to using.
Foster: Are we going to see any more MySpace videos this offseason?
Balester: (Laughs.) Yeah, I’m pretty sure you will. I get bored.
Adam Foster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.