A 6-foot-4 right-hander with a blazing fastball, Mike Foltynewicz dominated his high school peers and was summarily selected by the Houston Astros with the 19th overall pick of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The Illinois native signed with the organization just three days later, and within two weeks was suiting up with the Greeneville Astros of the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
Over 12 starts with Greeneville, Foltynewicz went 0-3 with a 4.03 ERA while striking out 39 over 44 2/3 innings pitched. He greatly improved as the season progressed, allowing just one earned run over his final four outings.
With his debut season now in the books, Foltynewicz took the time to reflect on Draft Day, the Appalachian League, his new truck and much more.
MiLB.com: Getting drafted in the first round made you a well-known name in baseball circles, but a lot of people still may not know how to pronounce that name. How do you say it?
Foltynewicz: It's Fol-ten-eh-vich. It gets mispronounced all the time. ... Growing up, my mom would tell me, "You're just going to have to get used to it." A lot of people just shorten it, though, and call me "Folty."
MiLB.com: You're a right-handed power pitcher. Growing up, were there any players in that mold whom you tried to emulate?
Foltynewicz: I always liked Justin Verlander. He's got a tall frame, throws 98 and really knows how to get the ball up there. I always liked watching him play, and admire the things that he can do. I liked him when I was younger, and still do to this day.
MiLB.com: Getting drafted is something that all players dream about, but at what point did you realize that in your case it might actually happen?
Foltynewicz: It was probably the summer going into my junior year, when I went to the Black and Gold showcase. It was the first time I hit 90, and afterward all the scouts came up asking for my name. After that I realized I might actually make it to the pros, that this was something that could happen. I kept working at it, and that's what has gotten me here today.
MiLB.com: You had signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Texas, but decided to sign with the Astros after they drafted you in the first round. Was that a tough decision?
Foltynewicz: It was. Texas was the school that I had always wanted to go to. I'd liked everything about it since I was 8 years old. I saw them play in the College World Series and had all the apparel. It was my plan to go there, because in my mind I didn't think I'd be going that high [in the 2010 Draft]. But I ended up having a pretty good senior year, so it made the decision a tough one.
MiLB.com And what are your memories of Draft Day, when you learned that the Astros had selected you in the first round?
Foltynewicz: We had a game that day, a sectional championship. And on the bus ride to the game it really started to hit me [that it was Draft Day]. We lost that game, and I had come in at the end of it and had a home run hit off of me. So we were all pretty upset and sad on the bus, but I got the call on the ride that I was probably going 19th [overall]. That turned the frowns upside down, me and my teammates were going crazy. It's a great memory, I probably got 50 or 100 texts in the span of an hour.
MiLB.com: You signed with the Astros very quickly after you were drafted. Was it important for you to start your professional career right away?
Foltynewicz: Playing baseball is what I love to do, so as soon as I got drafted, I wanted to show them what I could do. I wanted to make an impact and get as much work in as possible so that I wouldn't be a year behind [in my development]. I liked the way I did it, because I got the whole [Appalachian League] season in and didn't miss a game.
MiLB.com: After receiving your signing bonus, did you splurge on any big purchases?
Foltynewicz: Not really, because I'm going to need that money down the road. Although hopefully I'll be able to make plenty more down the road and not have to worry about it. But so far all I've gotten is a truck, a Ford F150 with nice big rims on it. It's not the greatest on gas, but in the snow it gets you where you need to go.
MiLB.com What were your impressions from your first professional season?
Foltynewicz: It was a good experience for me, but a helluva lot different than high school. In high school I could blow the ball right by people, but in the Minors, guys would be right on top of it.
There wasn't really much to do in Greeneville, but they had one of the nicest fields in the league and the highest average crowd. [The front office] really knew what they were doing and I was thankful to be there. Overall, I had a fun time. [The Appalachian League] is a good league and I liked being there.
MiLB.com: As for your play on the field, it seems that you really improved as the season wore on. Why do you think that was?
Foltynewicz: I think a lot of it was just getting used to the environment. My first start wasn't bad, but in a couple after that, I was really tense. I was throwing the crap out of the ball, but not pinpointing my location. In the middle of the year, I started telling myself that this is just like anything else. It was pitching a baseball, just like I did in high school. I needed to relax, in order to hit my spots like I know I can.
MiLB.com: But despite that strong finish, you still haven't notched that first professional win. Was that frustrating?
Foltynewicz: I tried not to worry about it. My pitch limit was 75, and I just tried to use them all to my advantage. A win would have been nice, but I don't really care about stats too much. When I go out there next season, I want to throw less pitches per inning and not just try to blow the ball past everyone.