Shane Watson exchanges lemons for fastballs at Phillies’ training camp
2012 first-round draft pick adjusts to life in the big leagues
CLEARWATER, FL — Life for Shane Watson moves a little quicker as he sets the alarm clock a little earlier.
But those are the incidentals that come with living a childhood dream.
The 19-year-old pitching prospect of the Philadelphia Phillies has arrived in Clearwater, FL., and the Bellflower, Calif., native is just getting settled into a life of bright lights, early mornings and long days on the mound.
“They get us up at 6:00 a.m.,” said Watson after putting in a day’s work with the team’s minor league training camp on Tuesday at the 45-year-old renovated Carpenter Complex.
The wide-eyed right-hander would gladly get up at 2:00 a.m., if it meant a life of throwing strikes, change-ups and his signature curveball.
“He has a great slider,” Lakewood high school coach and Watson’s old mentor, Spud O’Neil, told the Toronto Observer over the phone. “It’s an out pitch for him. You should see the movement on his ball.”
Watson’s had a taste of the fast life, even before his name was called in the first round (40th overall) of the 2012 MLB draft.
“[Back in June], I was at prom one day, graduation the next, and the next day they flew me out,” said the prospect.
Watson even had his own entourage making sure he stayed out of trouble with the graduate needing to adapt to the public eye.
“Everyone in high school knew [about my draft chances] and everyone was watching out for me so I didn’t do anything stupid.”
Watson relieved some of that pressure by going to Six Flags in California with his graduating class in an overnight theme park extravaganza.
The pitcher owns seven innings pitched with Philadelphia’s farm team, the Gulf Coast League Phillies, while allowing five hits and three runs and has a 4-3 record with a 1.19 ERA in 11 games with Lakewood.
The six-foot-four California kid got his power by hanging out in his grandma’s backyard when he was a pint-sized ball player.
“I had a lot of avocados and lemons in my grandma’s backyard so I just threw those around,” said Watson.
Now those avocados and lemons have turned into 92-mph fastballs.
Watson’s gained some versatility since coming to Clearwater. The high school pitcher who had a secondary pitch (curveball) after graduating (an extremely rare feat) has also learned some new tricks.
“I’m really comfortable with my change-up now,” said Watson. “I couldn’t throw [one] in high school, but I’ve definitely been working on it.”
Adjusting to life away from home is made easier by the calls he receives from his mom, his dad Scott, as well as his brother Scotty.
His six-year-old nephew Tristan also tries to get a word in.
“I’m always talking to him. He’s always jazzed up,” said Watson.
There’s also Mikey, Lakewood’s equipment manager, who Watson makes sure to visit every time he goes back to Lakewood. Watson signs a ball for the special needs team member as often as he can.
“It was pretty fast,” Watson said of making the transition to the big leagues. “But I’ve got to grow up fast.”
No more avocados or lemons.
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