Q&A With Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year Ryan Weathers
Thursday afternoon, Loretto (Tenn.) High lefthander Ryan Weathers was named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year. The award is part of Gatorade's Player of the Year program, which annually recognizes one player in Washington D.C. and each of the 50 states for athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field.
Baseball America caught up with Weathers—who is ranked No. 16 on the BA 500 and expected to be a first round draft pick this Monday—to talk about winning the award, his success this season (in multiple sports), his Vanderbilt commitment and the MLB Draft.
You can read Weathers' full scouting report here.
Baseball America: First of all congratulations on the award, it's an incredible honor. How much of a surprise was winning this award?
Ryan Weathers: It's most definitely a surprise. I did not think the other day that I was going to be getting Gatorade Player of the Year.
BA: Can you talk me through the announcement and what your reactions were once you found out?
RW: I was having a photo shoot done in our library at school and our athletic director comes in and tells me my truck's being towed. So I'm like, 'Well dadgum why is my truck being towed?' So I go out there and the guy starts talking to me and then my dad walked around my truck and had the trophy. Just to see the smile on his face, you know, I remember me and him locking eyes. That was probably one of the best moments we've shared together. All the hours that he's put into me, helping me become the player I am today. I'm forever thankful for that. Without him I wouldn't even be in the talk for this award.
BA: Obviously this was a successful season for you—you don't get this award without it being successful—but what were your goals coming into the year and how do you feel like you met those goals?
RW: At first, the main goal of this spring was probably just to stay healthy. Then I wanted to win another state championship for our school. We came up one game short, we got runner-up, but at the same time it was a very successful season. I have friends that I made on this team that will last a lifetime and for that I'm thankful. I was very pleased with the performance I had this spring.
BA: How about the development you had as a pitcher? Was there anything on a more minute level that you were working on?
RW: This year I was really working on improving my two-seam fastball, my curveball and my changeup. I was trying to improve those three pitches. The two-seam gives a little bit of a different offering, it sinks a little bit more than my normal run on my fastball. I was trying to work on hitting spots better with it. My curveball, this is really my third full year using that curveball. I didn't start throwing it until I was 15. I saw a lot of things that I was very pleased with this spring. I've been working on it all winter and the beginning of spring—I've been working on it all year to improve it and finally got that spin I wanted. It looked like my fastball. And finally being able to hit locations with it was very appealing to me. And then just trying to improve that third offering with my changeup. I've mostly pitched fastball/changeup my whole life. From when I was about 10 to when I was about 14. I've always had success with it and this past summer, those showcase innings I kind of went away from my changeup, didn't really throw it as much and this spring I tried to dial it back in. Get that fade on it and everything. I throw a straight change, just trying to get that spin where it looks just like my fastball. Toward the end of the year I started getting that spin and I was getting a lot of swings and misses with it. For me it's always been a contact pitch, but I've been starting to develop it into a swing-and-miss pitch. I was very pleased with how hard I worked and how I improved my pitches this year.
BA: What are some things that your dad has taught you that he learned through his major league career that you've latched on to?
RW: He's always told me, first and foremost, make sure you're a good teammate. He said you always have to be a good teammate. Don't ever worry about your individual stuff, just put the team in front of you and I've always been the leader of our high school. I've always put the team first. Do anything you can to win. He's taught me pretty much everything I know about baseball. He talks with me more about the mental side of baseball than the physical side of baseball because you are either gifted with the physical side or you're not. He's always talking mental side. Always showing me how to handle adversity and everything. He's prepped me on how to handle stuff like that. I have the same exact delivery as him, just from the left side. He's always helped me perfect my mechanics, my pitches. He's always told me when in doubt, you need to throw a well-located fastball. He's always taught me to locate my fastballs and change eye levels. He's helped me the most probably on how to change speeds and just slow the game down, because you are in control. All of that stuff I'm very thankful for.
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BA: It's quite a successful year for you all-around: state championship in basketball, runner-up in baseball, Gatorade Player of the Year. Did you expect this sort of success from yourself, and what was the experience like?
RW: After I played for USA Baseball last year, going into basketball the main deal was: it's not your main sport so just stay healthy. And the games started rolling around and the competitor came out in me and I just totally forgot about all of that and was laying everything out on the line every game. To win basketball, that was probably more fun than baseball because it's a lot harder in basketball than in baseball. There are a lot more teams playing for that. It taught me how to think on the fly more. I learned a lot from basketball that carries over to baseball. Those split-second decisions you have to make in basketball helps you on those split-second decisions you have to make in baseball.
So we won the state tournament in basketball and then started the baseball season. I think my second game back we got to face Garrett Wade from Hartselle (Ala.) High. That was one of the most fun high school games I've ever been a part of. He's an awesome player and getting to play against him, us kind of facing off, it was really fun. And it was a good experience.
Then I had an injury on my throwing hand my fourth game of the year. I got a bone bruise in between my thumb and my index finger. That kind of brought everything back to reality: you're not too invincible or too good of a player to not be knocked down. And that was some serious adversity that I had to overcome this year, worrying about if I would hurt it worse or if it would ever get better. Being told that a bone bruise can last two weeks or two months, it was a tough decision. It taught me how to play through pain this year. There were several times where I was having to take a lot of ibuprofen just so I could be on the field. Just because my hand was killing me. At the end of the day it showed me that I can play through whatever and that I'm always going to play as hard as I can no matter what.
And then to finish state runner-up with the friends I've had since we've been six years old, it was an amazing experience. Me and the senior class, we've won two of our three state championships and nobody can every take that away from us. Those are memories that will last a lifetime. I was very happy with the high school career that I had at Loretto. I'm always glad that I came to a small school. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
BA: For those who aren't aware of your basketball skill, could you describe yourself on the court?
RW: Well about half the year I played the two spot, the shooting guard spot. I was kind of our shooter on the team, spot-up shooter. Then about halfway through the year before the tournament started I got switched to point guard, so when I went there I had to do everything. That was probably the most fun I've ever had in basketball, being able to do everything. The pressure is all on you to be able to make everything go and that was a lot of fun. I think honestly at the end of the day it helped me play better in basketball. And it helped me play better in baseball.
BA: What are your plans for draft day?
RW: I think we're going to stay at the house and we're going to watch it with family and friends.
BA: Can you tell me a little bit about your Vanderbilt commitment? What do you like about the school and the program?
RW: So, we were playing my 15-year-old year, we were playing a game at Vanderbilt at the Music City Invitational. And before the game—we played a four o'clock game—coach (Tim) Corbin wanted me to come talk to him. This is when they were in the process of getting their brand new facility and everything. He sat down and talked to me for about two hours and five minutes of it might have been about baseball. He just talked to me about how to become a better person, a better man. That was first and foremost for Vanderbilt. What goes into being a good Vanderbilt baseball player is being a good person first. And coach Corbin is a dad, a coach, a mentor all in one. He's one of the best people I've ever met. And on my baseball circuit, the relationship I've made with him—it's irreplaceable. And then coach (Scott) Brown, he's been to a ton of my games. I've always talked to coach Brown, me and him have a great relationship. And you can't argue with the people they've produced out of there, you can't take that away from them. So they develop you when you get there and they continue to develop you into a well-rounded baseball player and also a well-rounded person. For me that was something you couldn't turn down.
Now, Monday will be a tough decision. Hopefully my name is called out Monday at the draft. If not, I'm going to Vanderbilt and I get to play for coach Corbin. I feel like I'm in a win-win situation, but at the same time it's going to be tough to have to make that phone call to tell one of the people that I'm not going to be coming there, that I'm going to be going elsewhere. For me that will be a tough decision because I'm a people person and to make those relationships with people and to have to tell them you might not be able to be able to go there—that's a tough thing to do.
BA: Whether you go pro or go to Vanderbilt, what is the next step for you as a player?
RW: Next step is just continuing to sharpen my skills. Just keep getting better and better. Right now, I don't feel like I need to change my approach with baseball right now. But going into pro ball, there also comes adversity. You have to go in knowing you're going to fail, no matter what. It doesn't matter if you are the best player in the world, you're still going to fail. You're going to have those days where you don't know why in the world you're still playing baseball. But to get back up and to continue to perfect your craft is a big deal. Going into this summer I just want to keep perfecting mine.