Jeff Urlaub Feature Story
Ryan Bender- Midland RockHounds
–June 5th, Jeff Urlaub is a relief pitcher coming out of the RockHounds bullpen for the 2013 season. This lefty strikeout specialist has made a name for himself in the A’s organization and is looking to capitalize on his 2.50 ERA nearly halfway through the season. In his last 10 appearances, Urlaub has made opposing batters suffer with a stingy batting average of .179.
Urlaub is a Scottsdale, Arizona, native eyeing a spot ultimately with the A’s Major League team. I sat down with him recently to pick his brain on his time with the RockHounds.
Q: Who was your childhood baseball idol?
A: Growing up, pitching-wise, it had to be Tom Glavine. Our pitching styles are very similar: we both don’t throw really hard, but the way he moved the ball in and out of the zone and the things he could make the ball do was something that I really looked up to and try to do myself.
Q: How would you compare the RockHounds clubhouse to others you have been a part of?
A: It’s great here. We have a bunch of older guys, and for me being a first year Double-A guy, they help. They definitely help my experience, they have been here before, and they know what to do. They can mentor you a little bit, and I’m always going to listen to what they have to say.
Q: What would you say would be your biggest achievement outside of baseball?
A: I would say getting my college degree. I was able to graduate in four years and still play baseball at a pretty high level. I have also started working on my Masters.
Q: What is your ultimate goal, whether with baseball or down the road?
A: I want to be successful with anything I choose to do. My dream as a kid was to play professional baseball, and I don’t plan on stopping until I make it or all 30 teams tell me I can’t do it! But if baseball doesn’t work, out I’m sure I’ll find some way to stay around the game of baseball because I do have a passion for it.
Q: Can you briefly describe your process and outlook on coming up through pro baseball?
A: The biggest thing is you have to be mentally strong. You have to believe in yourself. Every time you get the ball and go out the mound, your coaching staff believes in you, your manager believes in you, and your defense believes in you. As long as you have those people believing in you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t believe in yourself.
Q: As a left-handed pitcher, what are your thoughts on the focus of today’s game using lefty pitchers primarily against left-handed batters?
A: At this level, you start to find your role as to what you can do in the Majors. I have taken a more active role on figuring out how to get out left-handed batters. Scott Emerson at Spring Training told me something funny, he said, “If you’re going to make it to the big leagues, you got to get lefties out because they pay right-handers to get righties out.” But my focus is when they give me the ball, whoever is in the [batter’s] box, whether righty or lefty, my job is to get them out.
Q: If you were an athlete in any other sport, what would you choose?
A: I would love to say golf, but my golf, game is not good! My passion is golf but I would also love to play ice hockey. I can’t skate, [because] I have huge feet. If I could learn to skate, even though I’m skinny, I’d love to fight somebody or hit somebody into the boards. But more realistic, I guess, would be golf, but my dream would be hockey.
Q: Who has been the most influential and supportive person or people in your life throughout your career?
A: Growing up, my parents were humungous supporters of me. They always said they were proud of me no matter how far I made it and still to this day they do. I also had two close family friends that helped push my game from little league to high school to college. One played for the Yankees and the other is the hitting coach for the Nationals minor leagues. My fiancé Jamie has also been amazing, sacrificing her career to move out here a support me with baseball. They have all been great supporters.
Whether he chooses to hit players into the boards or to rack up K’s on the board, Jeff Urlaub seems to have a solid 2013 season going. As the mid-season reset and All-Star break approach, there is no telling what’s in store for the second half of the season for the RockHounds. But one thing we may predict, if its late in the game and a lefty’s up, you know who to call.