By: Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Throwing is something that right-handed pitcher Bobby Eveld has always done, whether it was with a football or, now, with a baseball. Coming into the Blue Jays’ organization in 2016 as a pitcher, there was a bit of a learning curve for the 6-foot-5 Floridian. Eveld had signed with the Blue Jays at the beginning of the summer after only having come to pitching about a year ago.
Eveld (pronounced “EE-veld”), 25, is on his baseball journey after a bit of a detour. He was a quarterback at the University of South Florida (USF) in his collegiate days and, until last year, hadn’t played baseball at a high level since high school, where he was scouted and drafted by the Mets as a catcher.
Bobby and his brother, Tommy, who had also been a quarterback at USF before blowing out his knee, began playing baseball and Tommy started pitching at USF and was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, starting his professional career in the Northwest League.
We spoke to Bobby about his experiences in pitching over the weekend.
Blue Jays from Away: The first thing I’d like to talk about is how your experiences in pro baseball have treated you. You signed with the Blue Jays early in the year last year, and you started playing professionally. What was that like for you and how was that transition to professional baseball?
Bobby Eveld: It was definitely different. It was something that I had never really done before because obviously college is a lot different from professional and on top of that I was playing a different sport. I think overall the transition was made pretty easily due to the coaches and everybody that I was working with over at the Blue Jays and then also my teammates were making it a pretty easy transition too.
BJfA: Now I can imagine that it might have been a little tricky because all of the things I’ve read about you have had you as a catcher in high school and then you didn’t play baseball at all in college, playing football at the University of Southern Florida.
BE: Right. That was something me and my brother kind of picked up when we were done playing football at USF, it was just kind of a hobby because we grew up playing baseball. Once we were done with football, we hung the cleats up there and we were just tossing the baseball around in the backyard, just messing around and we eventually jumped onto a wood bat team with a couple of other friends and then it just kinda took off from there.
BJfA: I’ve read about your brother making the transition from football and how he pitched in college. How did you get into the pitching part of things and did you share a coach or did he share some of his coaching with you as he was pitching in college?
BE: Yeah, well we definitely talk about pitching a lot but it was kind of a weird transition for me, because, like we talked about earlier, I was always a catcher, even all through high school and even when I jumped back into that wood bat league, I was still catching.
The transition to being a pitcher kind of happened last January. I went to a showcase for the Mets. The area cross-checker was there and at the very end of the showcase, he asked me if I was going to pitch and I told him that I haven’t pitched in probably seven or eight years,” and he was like, “Well, I think you should get up on that hill.” So I got up there.
I was throwing high 80s, posted a few 90s and that had been the first time that I was on the mound since, I don’t even know how long. So he told me that my best chance, mainly because of my age, was on the hill and because he thought I had a really strong arm. So I worked with a pitching coach through January until March, just trying to perfect my skills on the mound. And I went back to the Mets’ open tryout in March, I think it was March 1st last year. And I only faced two hitters and I hit both of them so after that they had me throw a live bullpen with no hitters in [the batter’s box] out on the mound on the field.
After that, they explained to me that they couldn’t make a move because I basically had no control. That was the first time that I faced hitters since probably my sophomore year in high school.
After that, I went to an independent ball league tryout up in Tennessee, probably — I want to say in early April last year, and when I got back from that, one of the scouts for the Blue Jays was scouting my brother over at USF, his name is Matt Bishoff, he was talking on the phone with him and my brother Tommy name-dropped me and said that I was getting back into the game. Bishoff came out to one of my bullpens and liked what he saw and I got signed two weeks later.
BJfA: That sounds like an exciting run of events. Certainly, you got into the professional ranks playing baseball much quicker than a lot of people do after they really take it seriously.
BJfA: So now, as the spring turned into summer, what kind of things are you doing on the mound? Are you still really working on fastball command? Are you adding offspeed pitches? Are you deciding you just want to find one offspeed pitch that works and concentrating on that? What’s the approach now?
BE: Honestly, right now, I still think I’m trying to learn my identity on the mound. I didn’t get a ton of action last year because I was hurt for a little while but I feel healthy now and my arm feels 100% so now I can really go at it full speed ahead.
Right now I’m just all ears and taking any advice that I can get on the mound and trying out a whole bunch of different things and seeing what I like best and trying to piece myself together as a pitcher because I haven’t really had to do that before. This is all kind of new to me, I’ve only been doing it for a little over a year so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and try to piece it all together and make myself the best pitcher I can be.
BJfA: Now I know that college football in the United States, especially Division I college football, has huge followings and big crowds. I know you cut your teeth with the USF Bulls and got into some big games playing for them. What was it like when you went to Dunedin and you get on the mound in a game in the Gulf Coast League. How did that rank in your sporting career compared to some of those moments in college football?
BE: I mean, obviously the crowd in college football was a little bit bigger than the Gulf Coast League crowd but it was a pretty similar feeling having the spotlight on you because as a quarterback you know that once you step on that field everybody in the stadium is watching you and everything that you do and it’s kind of a similar approach on the mound because you know that as soon as the ball is in your hand all eyes are going to be on you.
It can be stressful at times but at the same time you have to realize that it’s just a game and you’ve been doing it your entire life and just have fun with it, just compete your ass off and just go at it full speed.
BJfA: A quarterback has to make quick decisions with a lot of pressure particularly because of a defensive line and anybody who might be blitzing charging at him. As a pitcher is it a little bit tougher to dial those instincts back and focus on making a pitch and taking the time you need to make it than having to rush through?
BE: Yeah it actually is a lot different. I was thinking the same thing. It kind of got in my head a little bit to where I was trying not to use that instinct and I was working too slow because I was trying to slow myself down so much that it wasn’t just rapid fire like it is in football. And it got to the point where one of my pitching coaches was actually, “you need to speed it up a little bit.”
So I was like, “that’s no problem for me, I can speed it up as fast as you want me to go. I thought I was working too fast.” So it’s just a little bit different feel on the mound because like I said earlier, I’m still new to it all so I’m still trying to find the reins so I can take them and go.
BJfA: What would be the most important piece of information you’ve gotten about pitching from your brother? He’s a little further down the line than you are. He had a very good professional debut last year in the Northwest League. You said you talk about pitching a lot, what’s he given you that you think you can’t really get unless you have someone close to you in that situation.
BE: A lot of it has to probably do with our mentality growing up. A lot of people when they want to go toss the ball they ask each other if they want to go play catch. We’ve always asked each other if we wanted to throw. We really focused on the throwing part of our game whether it be football or baseball.
So we’ve always had something in our hand that we were tossing at each other. We’re really similar in a lot of ways too. He loves Nolan Ryan and I also love Nolan Ryan and we’re constantly watching videos on him and Tom House just trying to educate ourselves as much as we possibly can to be the best pitchers that we can and we’re constantly offering each other advice.
When we did jump back into that wood bat league I was catching him and as a catcher I’ve always prided myself on listening to pitching coaches so that I could help the pitchers out when they’re out there alone and struggling. Even if it’s just “get your elbow up” or “follow through a little bit better” just little stuff like that. I think for the most part me and him have been on the same page.
BJfA: Would it be a dream to play with him or against him in professional baseball?
BE: Yeah, absolutely. I know the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays have a couple of leagues where they have teams in the same league. I know the one that Tommy was in last year, the Northwest League, our Vancouver team and their team in Oregon.
That would have been really cool to end up there but I wasn’t able to get up there unfortunately, so hopefully in the future if we could play each other that would be really awesome.
BJfA: You mentioned earlier that you had an injury to your arm, because you said it’s feeling fine now. Can you tell us what that injury was?
BE: Yeah, I strained my UCL in my elbow. It was just a minor sprain so I was out for a couple of weeks. They just shut me down and had me doing a whole bunch of rehab exercises but it’s completely better now. I feel as healthy as I’ve ever been before.
BJfA : Well that’s great. You were saying that in your showcase for the crosscheckers you were throwing in the high 80s, just touching 90. Has that increased? We know that as arm strength improves, velocity usually goes up. How are you doing these days?
BE: Well, that was last January when I was doing the showcase, and that was the first time that I stepped on the mound. Once I learned how to pitch, earlier last season, I was consistently low 90s, on a good day I hit 93 a couple of times and I think I posted one 94 but I had only been throwing since January so I have really high expectations for myself. I fully expect for that fastball velocity to go up.
BJfA: I think that would be an exciting development for both you and for the people who are keeping an eye on you as you come through the Blue Jays’ system. As we wrap things up here, do you have any thoughts about playing baseball that you didn’t think you would have back when you were playing football. Maybe about what baseball players do to prepare and things like that.
BE: Yeah, it’s a whole different ballgame and that was pointed out to me one of the first times I ever pitched for the Blue Jays. I came out when I was scheduled to pitch, I came out before everybody else and started running around and stretching. I wasn’t scheduled to pitch for at least another two hours.
One of our pitching coaches said “you’re crazy, what are you doing? You need to take your time warming up!” And I was like, “I’m used to football games where we’re out three hours before the game, running around, breaking a sweat, going back into the locker room, hanging out, coming back out with some pads on, breaking another sweat, going back and forth.”
It’s a whole different game with baseball where it’s more mental preparation than anything when you’re about to get on the hill because it doesn’t really take that long to get loose. Obviously with a baseball, you’re limited with the amount of times that you can throw a baseball, much less pitch it. Football is different. You can throw all day long without getting sore. That’s something that I need to get used to and put together a little routine for myself where it’s the perfect amount of throwing and the perfect amount of time before I get ready before I pitch.
We’d like to thank Bobby Eveld taking the time to talk to us. Follow him on Twitter: @13ob_O