EastVillageTimes had the privilege of securing an interview with San Diego Padres 2015 9th round draft pick Jerry Keel.
Jerry Keel was selected by the Padres in the 9th round of this last year’s draft out of Cal State Northridge. Keel was born in Lancaster, CA and grew up in Southern California. Keel pitched four years at Northridge prior to this last year’s draft.
Keel appeared in 19 games last season with the Padres short season low A team the Tri City Dust Devils. Keel finished with an ERA of 3.00 in 33 innings pitched, including a 1.27 WHIP with 28 strikeouts total. He put up a good showing in his first appearance in the Padres organization and showed some great promise.
Keel and myself discuss what it meant to be drafted by a Southern California team, his experience at CSU Northridge and in the Cape Cod League, and how he sets himself apart from other pitchers.
What was it like being drafted by the Padres considering you grew up in Southern California?
“It was a huge thing. It was something friends would always ask you about when it was getting closer to the draft. ‘Like oh what teams do you want to get drafted by?’ For me it was ideally any of the teams in southern California would be awesome because I would be able to stay and play in my home area. From where I am at San Diego is a four hour drive rather than somewhere on the other side of the country. Another cool thing is knowing that the Padres advanced A team, the Lake Elsinore Storm, play in the Cal League and I am from Lancaster so hopefully one day I will be able to play against the Lancaster Jethawks and it will be sort of a home game for myself.”
Have you ever been to a Padre game at Petco?
“I actually have never been to a Padre game at Petco. I have been to San Diego. Last time I was out there was actually for a Chargers/Raiders game at Qualcomm. I believe the Padres were still playing at Qualcomm so this was back in around 2003. I have not been to Petco. I have driven by it when I played in college playing at San Diego State but I actually haven’t been inside the stadium itself.
What was your time at CSU Northridge like and what was the program like?
“The last four years there were some of the best times of my life. Meeting and developing friends for life and being able to be a part of that school and all that. My time there wasn’t really as normal as it would be at the usual college. I didn’t have a steady coach during the time I was there. I had several different coaches during my time there. It was kind of like an open door. The first year I was there it was Coach Curtis and Coach Larkin, Shaun Larkin, who I believe is in the Dodgers organization now. That was my first year with those guys. Then it was Coach Machado and then Coach Larkin left so we got a new pitching coach in Coach Peraza who was an alumni of San Diego State. He was my pitching coach for my sophomore year and then the last two years of my college career was the first time I had steady coaches. The new coaches were there for my last two years and they are still there. So my last two years it was more steady which I think was better for the program. Being able to be around different mentalities and ways to see the game and kind of absorbing all the information. Rather than starting all over every year. Overall, my four years I wouldn’t change a thing. I chose the school because it was closer to home. Close enough to be able to live there, have roommates and get the whole experience but close enough to home where my parents could see all my games. Being in the Big West was also a great place to play baseball. I also chose the school because I knew I would have a chance to play and make an impact, and somewhere else I wouldn’t necessarily play right away or I would come out of the pen or play less than I wanted my Freshman year. For me it was the best chance to make an impact and learn that way.”
At what point in your life did you decide baseball was your passion?
“I think that was when I was growing up. I used to play baseball, soccer and basketball when I was growing up. I grew up playing Pony baseball and Little League and I joined a travel ball team when I was 8 and when I was 12 years old I got to go to the Cooperstown tournament that’s held out there. My dad asked me about a year before we were supposed to go, because my coach didn’t want us to play any rec ball or anything else, so my dad asked me if I wanted to do this because I wouldn’t be able to play any other sports anymore. And I was on board and it became the game I love and it felt like I had the best opportunity to make it playing baseball.”
What sets baseball apart from the other sports you played?
“What I love about baseball is that I felt more camaraderie. It felt more natural to me. Soccer was fun to experience and to play but it was just something to fill the time. Baseball was always something I looked forward to. I worked hard and was good at other sports but those sports were just used by me to fill the time until baseball season started.”
What was your first half year of professional baseball like?
“It was a really good experience. Being able to go up to the Northwest and still be on the West coast playing baseball and being in an area that was kind of familiar. When I was in college we went up to the Pacific Northwest and I think it was Washington State we played at which isn’t too far from Tri City. I have also played in Seattle multiple times the last few years and Washington and Portland so it wasn’t too much of a shock being away from So-Cal. From a baseball perspective it was really good and I learned a lot, especially coming out of the bullpen for really the first time in my life. I did that a couple of times in college but it was more predetermined. This way was more you never know who gets the call and it was eight or ten pitches and you got to be ready. It took a few outings to get used to but once I caught on I learned a lot and grew a lot as a player. I also got to meet a lot of people from around the country and really around the world with Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans and Australians playing on our team. That was pretty cool.”
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