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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Terry Doyle: Minor League Pitcher Circling the Globe to Get His Major League Shot


Projections are an increasingly important part of baseball; particularly young player development. With myriad statistics and tools of evaluation, teams often look past players who can’t be defined by criteria like how hard they throw a ball or their physical measurables. It’s a safe approach that allows teams to move quickly through an ever-surging tide of prospects. Unfortunately this can leave some players struggling to find opportunity, even when all they have done is consistently produce. Pitcher Terry Doyle has found himself in such a situation, and though he has gone to Japan to continue playing baseball, he hasn’t given up on his dream of one day playing in the major leagues.

Doyle, a big right-handed starter from Boston College, was a late (37th round) pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2008. Over the next five seasons he became one of the most consistent pitchers in the organization, posting a 33-27 record, with a 2.94 ERA and striking out close to a batter per inning. His work moved him all the way to the top of the minors, but wasn’t enough to earn him a ticket to Chicago.

Lacking a true dominant pitch, Doyle simply gets hitters out. Although he has a track record of success, baseball evaluators have a hard time envisioning him repeating his performance at a major league level, leading to him being bypassed by less productive prospects.

Not wanting to stagnate, Doyle took an opportunity mid-way through this past season to jump from the Triple-A Charlotte Knights to the Fukouoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. He hasn’t missed a beat since joining his new team, putting up his typical stellar numbers. He is currently further from home than he has ever been before, but his goal remains unchanged. As long as he is pitching he still has a chance to play in the major leagues, and that keeps him going and hoping that he will eventually be noticed and receive the credit he is due.

Terry Doyle Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up there were a lot of players I really enjoyed watching. Greg Maddux was probably my favorite non-Red Sox player but being from 45 minutes north of Boston, the Sox were king. I played a lot of shortstop growing up and John Valentine and Nomar were my two favorite players. When I got to middle/high school, Pedro Martinez was at his best, and he became my favorite player. The thing that I loved was how every pitch he threw; he challenged the hitter to beat him. He was never intimidated or scared. Always knew he was going to get the out. I loved that.

Do you have any regrets not signing with the Dodgers when they drafted you in 2007 (21st round)?: Every day we make choices that affect the outcome of our lives, but not signing with the Dodgers is one that I never second guess. Just like my choice where I attended college (Boston College). I went back to school, had a fun year with my classmates, who are still my best friends, and got my degree and teaching certification, which ended up being a very important part of my career so far. I hoped I would get an opportunity to play professional baseball the next year, and the White Sox gave me that opportunity. If I had signed with the Dodgers things may have turned out a little differently but I don't see them being that much so.

Can you describe what your 2007 draft day experience was like with the White Sox?: Draft day 2008 was great, but awful at the same time. Going into the day, I knew I wasn't going to be drafted high. But at the same time I had talked to about 15 teams leading up to that day, so I was very confident I was going to be picked. By the time the 37th round came along I was feeling pretty disappointed. At the same time, getting the phone call from my scout, Chuck Fox, was a great feeling. I was able to look forward to starting my career.

What was something extravagant you did for yourself or your friends/family after you signed?: After I got drafted I didn't do anything extravagant for my family or friends. As a senior, anything outside of the top ten rounds means a signing bonus of around $1,000. For that much money I could maybe afford to take my family to McDonald's and treat them to anything their hearts desired. Hopefully I can treat them to a trip to my major league debut sometime in the future!

Which pitches do you throw; and which is your best; and which do you believe needs the most work?:  I throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball which some would call a sinker, a curveball, slider, and a changeup. I think every pitcher’s best pitch is their fastball. If you can locate a fastball, it's a hard pitch to hit no matter how hard you throw. Besides that, I would consider my curveball my best pitch. My changeup is definitely the pitch I’m least comfortable with, which is why I'd call it my worst pitch.

Given the success you had in the minors, why do you think you didn't advance further than you did?: I think that the reason I didn't reach the big leagues is simple; I don't have anything that makes me stand out. The way I feel anyways is that after a game hitters are asking themselves ‘how come I didn't hit that pitch better?’ To me, it doesn't matter why the hitters miss a pitch, but scouts are trying to predict success at the next level, which is hard to do, especially when someone like myself doesn't have anything that stands out as being above average. It's difficult to predict success at the next level when my "stuff" is defying the odds at every level I've played at.

Can you elaborate how you came to play in Japan?: Japan came about really quickly. I was in Charlotte and my agent called me the morning we were flying to Toledo for an eight game road trip there and in Columbus. He asked me if I was open to the idea of playing in Japan. I said yes, figuring it would be a fun experience and be a good career move for me. By the end of the four game series in Toledo, the Hawks had made an offer to the White Sox to purchase my contract, and they had worked out a contract with my agent that we had all agreed to. I spent the next series in Columbus knowing that after that, I would be heading home and then on to Japan. It really happened extremely fast and was completely unexpected!

How was playing in Japan and adapting to that culture?: Japan is a very different country from America. The baseball has a very different style and the culture is different. Every day here in Japan I'm noticing little differences. One of the first things I noticed is that when people sneeze they don't say anything. It's like nothing happened. I grew up in a house where it was rude not to excuse or ask to be excused after a sneeze. I'm a very easy going person and lots of the differences I don't really think about. The baseball is very different, but it's a lot easier to explain during a game. Scoring is harder here, so teams play for a run every inning. I've seen teams sacrifice bunt with the number three hitter and a 6 run lead. Very different from America.

What are your plans for 2013?: Next year is still up in the air. The team I’m with has an option to pick up for me, but if they decline it I’ll be a free agent. Hopefully I’ll have lots of options between America and Japan. I'll be 27 on Opening Day, so I’m still young enough that I'm about to enter my prime and still learning lots about the game every day. We'll see what happens with it all though!

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