Recently I had a chance to catch up with Lake Elsinore Storm pitcher Cal Quantrill.
The ace right-hander has been very kind to myself, as well as the site, and was gracious enough to sit down and speak with me.
Cal was recently chosen to participate in the MLB All-Star Future’s Game to represent the World Team, being that he is Canadian. I heard the news as I drove up the 15 freeway to attend a Storm game. I congratulated Cal right away for receiving the honor and we started out the conversation by talking about the recent news.
“It’s always an honor to represent your country. I think that this is kind of unique though, as we are representing a bunch of countries on one side. It is an honor to be chosen, as there is a ton of talent. To be chosen for this is really cool. Playing at a big league ballpark is something special and I am really excited to get to do it.” You get a sense of his pride in talking about the honor. It will simply be another feather on the cap of this young man.
Cal is a recently crowned lasso roping champion, and I had to ask him about his experience at the California League All-Star game. He was not able to pitch due to his throwing schedule, but the participation in itself was a great experience for the right-handed pitcher. The Storm were well-represented as Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, Josh Naylor, Colby Blueberg, Gerardo Reyes, Jose Castillo, Trevor Frank and Cal were all participants. The All-Star festivities included several unique competitions, and the Padres’ former first round pick showed off his skills with the rope.
“I like to keep reminding people of this. I feel like my accomplishment was overshadowed by the home run derby. I brought home the championship for the Storm and was able to bring home a Yeti, cooler-mug thing. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to throw, but it was a blast. Participating was fun and Visalia did a great job of throwing the event.” Cal is truly proud of this accomplishment and I am sure he has taken some abuse from his teammates, but it is all in good fun.
The conversation steered towards his former Storm teammate Eric Lauer, who was recently promoted to Double-A San Antonio. I know that Cal and Eric are really close, and they often feed off of each other. That type of competition can help guide a young pitcher while motivating them to be the best that they can be. Not that Cal needs any extra motivation, as he is one of the most driven pitchers I have ever had the pleasure to speak to.
“The guy dominates. He controls the zone with four pitches. I am very excited for him. I don’t think Double-A will slow him down at all. The way he pitches is pretty fine. I am so excited for him, but I want to join him as soon as I can. I have a couple of things I have to work out here and hopefully once I do, I catch up with him up there and pass him to the next level.” We both laughed about the comments, but he was dead serious. The two feed off of each other. I have written that before, and it is so true. This type of camaraderie and competition will only bode well for the two pitchers’ future.
Before I spoke to Cal, I managed to talk to Logan Allen for a few minutes. He was very excited to be in Lake Elsinore, though he did express to me “What took so long?” He was partially kidding, as he recognizes how deep the Padres’ pitching staff is presently at the lower levels. I asked Cal about Logan and the fact that a pitcher throwing as well as he is has to wait for opportunities ahead of them in the system. The Padres are loaded in starting pitching and we spoke about how it is exciting to come to the ballpark everyday.
“We have the potential to throw a starter out there who can dominate any given day. A pitcher who can just walk all over a baseball team. Jacob Nix did it yesterday, Lauer and Luchessi have done that consistently. I have shown it at times. We are in a pretty cool situation that there is no weak link to the rotation. It is a really special group and the addition of Logan brings a little something special to this team.”
As a young pitcher developing in a system, there are certain coaches that can really make the difference. Glendon Rusch has been pivotal in Cal’s improvement. We spoke a little bit about the Storm’ pitching coach and how he has improved him as a pitcher, “Ruschy is someone I have spent the most time with thus far. He gets it, he has been there and done it. He knows when things need to be changed and when things need to continue the way they are. He is laid back, but there is a respect that we know when to turn it on. It’s a different experience for me having a left-handed pitching coach. It’s cool to hear how he talks about his curveball and how he envisions the shape and look of mine.”
There are other coaches who help shape a young pitcher and we spoke about a few more characters that have helped him this past 12 months. “Mark Prior has been awesome. He helped me so much when I was drafted. I just saw him yesterday. A new guy we have is a movement trainer. He helps us get our bodies into better positions so that we can throw harder, while making us stronger. Our trainer Ricky Huerta puts up with a lot and needs to be recognized. Hoffman took me out to dinner this spring training and the way he talks about baseball is different. If I can take a little thing from his pitching ability and apply it to mine, then that is a good thing.” We spoke more about the Padres staff and how they have helped the young players. He told me that Hideo Nomo was in the locker room recently, teaching Zech Lemond his splitter. Things like this will only help this ball club in the long run and it is nice to see them do the little things to succeed.
Our conversation turned towards the minors in general. The family atmosphere of the games and the fact that some of the players he plays with and against, might not ever sniff major league action. That is the harsh reality of it, as baseball is a difficult game to have success in, especially for a long period of time. We spoke about the love of the game. “It is a different experience playing at the lower levels of minor league baseball. We enjoy being on the road with each other and winding up at Dennys in the morning eating breakfast. It doesn’t matter about money or anything. I have had a ton of people come up to me and tell me not to forget that process. With the exception of a few key players, everyone has done what I am currently doing, and they are better for it. The man gets it. He really does. This isn’t just a cliché. Looking into his eyes, he understands that he can never be bigger than the game.
We talked about the long bus rides and the camaraderie that is built. He was careful not to dub the clubhouse as a family atmosphere, but did have great things to say about his teammates and the staff. “It’s an interesting dynamic because we have people coming and going. Currently we are at about 60 percent of the team we started with. It changes all the time. I wouldn’t say the Lake Elsinore Storm is a family environment. There is a certain amount of camaraderie that is between the pitching staff or your roommate. You go about your business and that is it. Everyone wants to romanticize baseball, and it is romantic. I love the sport. We do have fun too. We get on each other on the outfield when we are shagging balls. We have a great time, but in the end I am going to do whatever it takes to be the one while they are not.” Wow. Fascinating stuff from this young man and why the Padres see him as a future ace. He wants the ball. He wants the ball all the time. He might be cheering for his teammates, but this man wished he could throw each and every day. He has that kind of fire in his belly.
I ask Cal if he is an analytics guy and he responds by telling me that ” I like to think that I am well read on the subject but I am by no means a master of it.” I asked him, as the analytical movement is huge and was curious if he adjusts his game to specific batters. “Its legitimate data but it comes down to a couple of simple truths- If they hit it hard off of you then you are probably not a good pitcher and if you strike out a lot of batters, then you probably are. You can talk about a lot of different stats, but I prefer to keep it simple. You get too far into that then you can tend to overthink things.” An excellent answer and I expected nothing more from the recent Stanford graduate.
We spoke about goals for Cal this season and into the 2018 season. He tells me that his goals are still the same since he started the season. “I want to continue to work on both my breaking balls. I want to work on the curveball and keep my energy level high. This is my first attempt at a full season. I am by no means a master of it yet. Remaining consistent is also a big goal. There are new things I am working on like refining my command and getting a little more out of my fastball.” A perfectionist and a future ace of the staff. You can see it from this man. He is very young and eager to achieve. The Padres have a good one in Cal Quantrill, we are just starting to witness it first-hand.