Despite signing late and logging only 15 innings in his first year as a professional, Kevin Gausman -- the fourth overall pick in the 2012 Draft -- will enter this season as one of the Orioles' top prospects.
Ranked second in the system behind fellow right-hander Dylan Bundy, the LSU product throws four pitches, including a fastball that tops out in the upper 90s.
Gausman spoke to MiLB.com about putting his home state of Colorado on the baseball map, dining with Mickey Mouse and his infamous obsession with Hostess doughnuts.
MiLB.com: Take us back to the early days. When did you first start playing baseball?
Kevin Gausman: I first started playing baseball, honestly, because my brother did. My dad didn't really play baseball growing up; he grew up in a small town in Nebraska and he was more focused on football, but my brother was my hero growing up and I always wanted to do whatever he did. We started playing, and from Day One I just knew that I fit with it and I always liked it and always felt more comfortable on a baseball field than anywhere else.
MiLB.com: Brian's seven years older than you. Did that age difference play a big role in your development?
Gausman: That is something that definitely helped me. I saw how big he was, and looking back I remember watching him in high school and thinking, 'Wow, he throws so hard -- he's so good.' It's pretty cool to look back and think about the person I looked up to so much and him being one of the key reasons why I am where I am right now.
MiLB.com: Do you have any specific memories of playing ball with him?
Gausman: I actually remember I was behind home plate holding a radar gun when he hit 90 mph for the first time. Just thinking, 'Wow, this is crazy -- it's so fast.' Another one was in our backyard. We were maybe 80 feet away from each other, and it seemed like every other post on the top of our fence was knocked down.
We just kind of beat up that fence. There were random holes all over the place, and the neighbors would complain. That's one of the funniest memories about growing up, because I'll go home and all of those holes are still there.
MiLB.com: Were you always compared with Brian through high school?
Gausman: Definitely. We both went to Grandview High School. From Day One, I felt like I was compared with him in every aspect, both on the field and off. But I think that was something that pushed me to be better. Growing up, I always wanted to be better than him, and that gave me the attitude -- kind of a "go get it" attitude.
MiLB.com: When did you realize you wanted to go pro?
Gausman: I would say probably my senior year in high school. I knew it was something that I was good at. I knew I loved baseball and I knew that I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I wouldn't say for sure that I knew that was what I was going to do, but I would say my senior year of high school was when I knew I had a chance to fulfill one of my dreams.
MiLB.com: On Draft day, when did you first hear from the Orioles?
Gausman: Not until after they picked me. I was as clueless as everyone else. I was just sitting back in my chair, and then the next thing I heard I was the first pitcher taken, No. 4 overall, by the Baltimore Orioles. I thought I had a good chance to go in the top 10, but you never really know. When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be a late-first-round pick, and I ended up going in the sixth round. I think my experience with the Draft helped me the second time around.
MiLB.com: The Orioles gave you a $4.3 million bonus. How exciting was that?
Gausman: I love the fact that they have faith in me and know that I won't let them down on purpose. Having that relationship with [LSU pitching coach] Alan Dunn, who came from the Orioles organization, the Orioles got to know a lot about my background and family.
MiLB.com: What motivates you to succeed?
Gausman: I would say probably just my love for baseball and the love for my state of Colorado. I want to put the state on the map. Being from Colorado, you don't get the chance or the time to master your skill like kids from Arizona or Texas or Florida or California or any of the states that play baseball all year round.
Eventually, I want to open up an academy for kids out here in Colorado to really help them, so they have a place where they can go all year round to throw a bullpen or stay in shape.
MiLB.com: Looking ahead to 2013, what do you hope to achieve?
Gausman: I just want to stay healthy and have a great year. Obviously, I'd love to have a good Spring Training and make a statement and then get a couple starts wherever they put me and eventually make it up to Baltimore. That would be a Cinderella story. I just want to help out any way I possibly can, whether I'm a one-inning guy or a workhorse starter.
MiLB.com: You spent some time at Disney World this offseason. Did you enjoy your time away from throwing?
Gausman: I was there for three days. There's so much to see -- you can never see all of it. We were just walking non-stop, my feet were just killing me. My favorite ride was the Mummy Ride at Universal Studios and The Hulk Ride at Universal Studios. I'm not a big fan of "It's a Small World After All;" that kinda put me to sleep a little bit. But they're all great rides and it was my first time there. I felt like a little kid. I had dinner with Mickey and Pluto and Goofy and Minnie.
MiLB.com:You're famous for your superstitions in the clubhouse and the dugout, including eating powdered doughnuts between every inning on days when you pitch. Where did these superstitions come from?
Gausman: The doughnuts started about eighth grade and has been going strong every since. I've always hopped over the line between every inning and after every inning. I've been doing that as far back as I can remember. My dad always told me that it was bad luck to step up on the chalk because you don't want to mess up how the field looks.
There's a bunch of other stuff, too. I put my socks on a certain way and I'm the type of person that if something's working I'm going to keep doing it. If something goes wrong, I might think about changing it, but things are going pretty well and I'm going to keep doing it.
MiLB.com: How did you react to the news that Hostess filed for bankruptcy?
Gausman: I actually didn't find out until one of the Orioles fans tweeted me about it. Then, of course, I did my research and found out more. I was pretty disturbed by it and it was a sad day, but I'm a little happier now they said they might come back. I had a bunch of Orioles fans saying they were going to pick up all the Hostess doughnuts in Baltimore and put them in storage for me. It was a fun day and we all had fun with it.