"I now know how to deal with adversity."
Statistically, 2006 has been a rough season for Collin Balester. His ERA is up, as are his walks, but at the same time, his mental toughness has increased as well. Rather than accept 2006 as a failure, the experience has only made the young right-hander stronger. (Free Preview!)
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The expectations and hype came hard and fast for the trio of top pitching prospects that were on the Opening Day roster for the Potomac Nationals. Along with Balester, there was Mike Hinckley as well as Clint Everts, both of whom had already experienced the pressures of being a top prospect. This season, however, it would be Balester who everyone was going to be watching under the microscope.
With the trio of star pitchers all struggling by the end of April, doubts and questions began to surface about their health and even their ability. Perhaps the concern was warranted considering the three hurler's April statistics. After the first month, Balester, Everts and Hinckley had earned run averages of 7.94, 7.04, and 4.35 respectively.
"I started off so slow probably for the first seven to eight starts," Balester told CapitolDugout.com. "After a while, I finally started to feel good out there on the mound. At first, it felt like I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but then I put nine starts together where I didn't give up more then three earned runs."
While having the trio of top pitching prospects on one team may have put some added pressure on the three hurlers, it was also a comfortable feeling for Collin Balester. Dealing with the media, even at the minor league level, can be difficult, and having two other pitchers to share the adversity with has only benefited the 20 year-old right-hander.
"At the end of spring training, we knew that we would be together and we all had real good feelings that we would have great starts," the California native explained. "Obviously, that didn't happen. We all started slow and we did think it would make it easier to be together because of all the media and hype. But, when we started to struggle, it still wasn't easy because they were always asking us if we were hurt and all that. You also have to give [Jonathan] Felfoldi and Ricardo Morales a lot of credit [for helping us get through it]. Those two have probably been the most consistent pitchers on the staff and they get no credit. Those two guys have pushed the whole staff because they just go out and do their job and do it right every five days."
When you've had as many ups and downs in a season as Balester has had, being able to deal with bad outings is crucial. Despite the disappointments of this season, one thing that the young righty has learned is how to keep an even keel temperament at all times.
"This year, I have learned a lot about attitude mainly because of Clint [Everts] and [Jonathan] Felfoldi," Balester admitted. "Those two guys have good attitudes no matter if they win or lose. So, I have to take that lesson out of this season and also how to deal with adversity."
So, what exactly has been the problem for Balester in 2006? He has shown flashes of brilliance and meeting the potential that everyone knows he has, but has also had some very tough outings along the way. While he can't put his finger on a true explanation, Collin has some theories as to what's gone wrong this season.
"When I'm going bad, I just try and think back to when I was going good," the lanky right-hander explained. "I mean, every pitcher wants to be on every time you toe the rubber but it's not always going to happen. So, you have to just deal with the stuff you have on that given day."
"What causes me to have bad days," he pondered. "I'm not really sure. It just happens. Those games are just going to happen. Maybe you get in at six in the morning from a bus trip or something like that. Things like that could be a little part in it, but the bad days will just happen. You just have to try and limit them."
With approximately six regular season starts left for Balester in the 2006 season, he is not out to try and save his season by pumping up his statistics. The one goal at this point in the season is to help his team win.
"I'm just going to go out and keep my team in the game and try and win so we can push for the playoffs," he said. "I mean, if we make the playoffs then I would be so happy. I wouldn't even care if I had a horrible year as long as I new that I helped the team make the playoffs because that's all that matters in this game, not stats."
"I would say I feel pretty good about the season," Balester concluded. "The stats don't show that I had a good year, but I think that this season was a big learning experience for me and for the rest of my career. It is going to help me in the long run because I now know how to deal with adversity."
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