Today’s player interview features Steve Cishek, closer for the Miami Marlins. Steve has been a long time Cressey Performance athlete, and he was generous enough to share some of his thoughts regarding his career path. In the 2012 season, Steve went from reliever to being named the closer for the Miami Marlins. Steve posted a 2.69 ERA and 15 saves while logging 63.2 innings.
Section 1: The Road to the Big Leagues
Jay – Steve, after spending over four seasons in the minor leagues, could you touch on some of the key components in how you moved through the system and eventually got the call from the Marlins?
Steve – When moving through the system you have to learn how to make adjustments. I learned a lot from the pitching coaches I had and they helped me with making the adjustments. However, when you are on the mound, they cannot make the adjustments for you, you are on your own. Each time you get moved up, the better the hitters get. So, finding a way to succeed was based on trusting your stuff and making the necessary adjustments.
Jay – What advice would you give to current minor league players that are in the same position as you were five years ago?
Steve – To develop a routine and work harder than the person next to you. I understand that when you are on a team the person next to you is a friend and basically family. However, you need to push yourself and not give in to other peoples’ laziness. I noticed as the season went on some of my teammates would get over it and would get lazy. I didn’t want to get dragged down that path.
Section 2: Playing in the Big Leagues
Jay – Steve, when making the transition to the major league level, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make in facing major league hitters?
Steve – I learned that to pitch in the big leagues you absolutely have to throw strikes. Coaches hate pitchers that are scared to attack hitters. I used to be scared to get hit in the minors, so when I finally trusted my stuff and said forget it, I went after hitters and tried to get early contact outs.
Jay – Having gone from reliever, to set-up man, and most recently becoming the closer for the Marlins, how have you altered your approach in preparing to pitch?
Steve – I developed a routine that I do every day in the bullpen. This way I know I am mentally focused every single game. So, when I was pushed later in the bullpen, 8th, or 9th inning, I would do the same routine that I did as a long relief pitcher. My routine worked for me so I never wanted to change it.
Jay – If you don’t mind, take us through a typical day at the park.
Steve – for a 7:00 p.m. game… I show up between 1:00-1:30. I eat lunch and relax. At 2:30 I go to the weight room and foam roll and warm myself up using Eric Cressey’s pre-workout routine. I then play catch at 3:00 followed by the team stretch at 4:15. I then condition and shag batting practice until 5:30. Eat dinner, shower, get dressed, and visualize pitching in a high intensity environment, hitting my spots and having success. I also lift on certain days between 1:30 and 3:00; upper body one day and lower the next. I won’t lift upper body until after the game. After most games I do my shoulder workout routine.
Section 3: Off-Season Training
Jay – In being a long time Cressey Performance athlete, how has your off-season training contributed to your physical development as well as your mental preparation?
Steve – My off-season training is vital to my performance during the season. Working out at Cressey Performance is the best place I can possibly train. Otherwise, I would not drive an hour and a half there and back to train there. Eric’s workouts are specifically designed to help in areas of weakness or areas that gave me trouble during the season. More importantly, my offseason training helps me mentally as I know if I put in the work, then I know I am prepared for the season. I know that I did everything possible to set myself up for success, so I have nothing to lose. Also, training at Cressey Performance is like being on a baseball team with the attitude of the guys, so it makes training a lot more fun. Training by myself would be brutal.
Jay – As January approaches, you plan to begin throwing once again. When first picking up a baseball after a long season, what are some of your initial goals in preparing for spring training?
Steve – I just plan on getting my arm strength ready to throw bullpens every other day in the spring. Matt Blake helps out by giving us throwing programs he designs that will get our arm strength to where it needs to be for a long season. This year not only do I need to get my arm ready, I also need to work on my change-up to use against left-handed hitters.
Jay – Steve, let’s talk about bullpens. We know that being indoors can get monotonous. What is your approach to throwing bullpens that allows to be best prepared for facing hitters at the highest level of baseball?
Steve – Early on when I throw, I’m just trying to get my body in a rhythm, staying smooth and hitting my spots, and not try to blow it out. Once I start mixing in my slider and changeup, then I try to amp it up. I won’t face hitters until live batting practice in spring training, but by that time I hope to be 10 bullpens completed.
Section 4: Advice for High School Athletes
Jay – Steve, you were a two sport athlete in high school. In today’s world of sports, kids try to specialize in a particular sport at an early age. Could you give us your take on how being a multi-sport athlete helped you to develop and play collegiate baseball, and eventually professional baseball?
Steve – Playing multiple sports is great because it makes you more of a well rounded athlete. For example, if you are playing basketball, you are getting far more agility work than you would in baseball. So, when you are playing baseball, you can react quicker to a ball, or while stealing a base, etc. Also my competitive edge in basketball gave me a burning desire to win in baseball. Any way I can compete I do it because mentally it trains me to desire to achieve success.
Jay – In having been asked to play several roles for the Marlins’ bullpen, what message would you give to high school players for how to handle accepting different roles for the team?
Steve – For me, I thank God for the opportunity just to be playing baseball. It is great to set goals and get to the position you want to be in. But, more so, I am thankful to the Lord to be able to play baseball and use the gifts given to me to glorify Him. So, no matter where I am on the field, I humbly accept it and I go at the game as hard as I possibly can. I’ll do anything to help the team. So, understand that whatever position you are given, that’s where the coach believes you can better help the team. So, be thankful.
Jay – Steve, you spend around three hours commuting daily to and from Cressey Performance during the off-season. It is obvious that you take your physical preparation very serious. If you could do high school athletics over again, what are some changes you would do in regards to your strength and conditioning approach?
Steve – I would change everything I did. I did not lift, long toss, run or anything. I just played whatever sport was in season. I didn’t know how to work at anything until college. I am thankful I went to Carson-Newman because they showed me what it takes to have success in college. The amount of work was overwhelming, but I had a burning desire to get better to help the team and I wish I had that same desire back in high school.
Jay – In regards to college recruiting, you chose to attend Carson-Newman. Many high school baseball players face some tough decisions when committing to a college. What were your priorities when choosing to commit to Carson-Newman that may help high school players in making their decision?
Steve – In my position, I was looking for a liberal arts school that would give me scholarship money and had a coaching staff that placed school and family before baseball. Coach Griff definitely made it a point at Carson-Newman that our education was important. The first thing he told us that if we missed a class we run 5 miles. I liked the discipline he instilled in us as players and being so far away from home, I knew I could trust the coaches at Carson Newman which made it a 2nd home for me.