Like most 18-year-olds, Spokane Indians left-hander Kevin Matthews
is adjusting to a new way of life. Rather than leaving home for college like many of his peers, though, Matthews is trying to adapt to life as a professional baseball player.
For most college freshmen, though, their drastic scenery change usually only happens once.
Matthews, the Texas Rangers' 2011 first-round pick, has had to adjust to a new climate and schedule multiple times this season, all while trying to maintain progress on the mound. Shortly after signing his contract with the Rangers, he was assigned to the Arizona League, where his schedule immediately changed to one of early mornings and hot days in the sun. It included waking up at 6 a.m. for 11 o'clock games, and by that time temperatures were already well into the hundreds.
He didn't have much trouble on the mound, though, compiling a 1.50 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched over seven appearances. The performance earned him a quick call-up to Spokane, where he pitched in his first night with the club. Shortly thereafter is when he started to learn the logistics of surviving a baseball season.
"The next night we went to Salem-Keizer, and it was cold -- I was shivering," Matthews said. "I couldn't think which I liked better, the hot or the cold. To be honest, I'd probably pick the hot, just because I don't like cold unless I'm doing something in the snow."
He was able to adapt, which has allowed him to focus on his production on the mound. Matthews has been working with the Spokane coaching staff on minor delivery improvements, such as staying on top of the ball more to help improve his throwing angle. The biggest adjustment to his game, though, is the addition of a changeup to his pitching arsenal.
Although he hardly, if ever, used a changeup in Arizona, he's been throwing roughly 12-15 in each appearance with Spokane.
"It's coming along," Matthews said. "I think it will be better when I start throwing it more and getting used to it. They're telling me to just throw it, and don't worry about the results right now."
In his eight innings of work with Spokane, he has recorded nine strikeouts while allowing two earned runs.
Matthews' focus on the mound has remained steady despite the distracting locale changes. His hometown of Richmond Hills, Ga., is on the other side of the country, and though his father was able to travel and see him pitch in Arizona, he still doesn't have much time to connect with his family back East.
The adjustment was a little easier, though, because of time he spent in 2010 at a summer league in Midland, Ohio.
"I think that helped me out a lot, but it's still hard. I do miss my family," Matthews said. "It's not as hard as it would have been, though, if I hadn't gone last year to Ohio."
When he does have the opportunity to see his family, Matthews said he doesn't take it for granted. In fact, some of the very things that annoyed him at home bring back fond memories while on the road.
"Even me and my sisters bickering," Matthews said with a chuckle. "I miss that, too."
Shaping up: The Vancouver Canadians' Shawn McDermott was named the Northwest League trainer of the year. Vancouver's trainer has won the award every season since 2007 -- former trainers Nate Brooks and Travis Tims previously claimed it.
Watermelon abound: Comedian Gallagher will perform at Yakima County Stadium on Aug. 26 as part of his "Looking for Intelligent Life" tour. Tickets for the show can be purchased at the Bears' office in downtown Yakima, and additional information can be found on their official website.
Dog days of summer: The Boise Hawks have invited fans to bring their dogs with them to Memorial Stadium on Sept. 3. A special seating area will be reserved for fans and their pets.
Quotable: "I think Andrew Lorraine, our pitching coach, has done a hell of a job with him because he showed a nice breaking ball, he mixed in his changeup, he kept the ball down, he kept his composure. All the things we talked about coming out of extended Spring Training he's doing, so it was a nice thing to see." -- Mariners director of operations Pedro Grifol to the Everett Herald regarding the development of pitcher Jose Campos.