Sunday, July 20, 2014


We have written a number of posts about Yankee pitcher, David Phelps, and his ability to take risks, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Last week, we had the opportunity to catch up with David in Baltimore just before the All Star Break. In his candid conversation with us, David offered an understanding about how he approaches the game, how his experiences at University of Notre Dame, both academically, socially and athletically prepared him for his multiple roles on the Yankees and the importance of his family and faith in his life.

This is a big moment ladies and gentlemen.  I am happy to announce our interview with David Phelps. I enjoyed speaking with David. He's a terrific guy...

BYB: Incredible pitching on Thursday night in the wake of Masahiro Tanaka’s injury and I know the news is devastating to the team. And you just went out there and pitched. How do you pull yourself together when these things happen and you have to go out there and perform? Where do you get that gumption?

David Phelps: I knew he was getting tests, but I hadn’t heard the results. Regardless of what is going on with our players and our team, I go out there every time to give us a chance to win regardless of how I am feeling. The biggest thing that night was I knew our bullpen was a little short. I was trying to give us as much length as possible, knowing that they needed it. That was the biggest thing going on in my mind. As soon as I’m behind the white lines, I try to turn everything else off.

BYB: How does it feel to be pitching for the New York Yankees?

David Phelps: When I re-watch my outings and see if everything is moving the way I thought it was and make sure my pitches are what I thought they were, I kind of have to pinch myself when I see myself pitching. When I’m out there I’m more caught up in the moment and let my competitive attitude take it, but when I sit back and say ‘Oh my gosh I’m actually pitching for the Yankees”, it’s everything you could ask for. It’s a first class organization, they treat us fantastic and they put a winning team out there, year after year.

BYB: How did attending the University of Notre Dame and playing baseball for an organization whose roots are firmly embedded in excellence and winning prepare you for your role today?

David Phelps: I think one of the biggest ways the University of Notre Dame helped is not only did it demand excellence on the athletic field but it was also expected that you would have excellence in the classroom too. Notre Dame really fortified that work ethic in me. Baseball was always something I had to work at but it also came natural to me. I had to work hard to get good grades. That is the work ethic that was instilled in me. Notre Dame also prepared me for today because I was able to meet my wife; without her I would not be where I am today, in this career or even in life.

BYB: I think sometimes people minimize the experiences and the experiential learning we have in our formative years while in college and I think some guys decide, 'hey, I am just going to jump into the farm system and kind of see what happens'. There’s a lot to be said for the experiences that a young person has on the collegiate level. Not just in sports but the foundation and social level, like you said, meeting your wife, some good friends and having Notre Dame behind you as an alum must be an amazing feeling.

David Phelps: That’s exactly right. Had I gotten drafted right out of high school, I would not have been ready. Maybe not so much from a baseball standpoint, but I am amazed at the guys who get drafted out of high school and have success because you’re still a kid and you don’t know who you are yet or who you want to be and that’s one of the biggest things college can do for us. College can teach us essentially who we are. You are finally away from your parents, you are finally living on your own and here you can really define who you want to be.

BYB: What do you think your Notre Dame coaches would say about you today?

David Phelps: I hope they would be proud. I was fortunate to play for some great men there. My work ethic was something that was always really important because I’ve never been a guy who could just dominant things on my own. I have always had to work hard and make sure my conditioning was up to par, and study my hitters. So I would say they would commend me for my preparation and work ethic. And also the kind of person I am. That’s something that often gets lost in professional sports.

BYB: In your post game interviews and such, like the one you gave in Kansas City when you said you were the worst kind of teammate, you get down on yourself for giving up runs or hits , or letting your teammates down- how do you rebound? I mean, how do you stay focused or can you stay focused in a game that seemingly is not going your way. How can you just remove the anxiety and just go pitch?

David Phelps: One of the toughest things in this game is consistency. And one of the hardest things is to go out there and find a way to get better. That’s the challenge for each of one of us players. You just can’t be satisfied with what you did today. You have to go out tomorrow and be better, even if it’s just one little thing. A bad outing makes you stronger. You mention the Kansas City game, and they went out there and put up three and I go back out and give up four. You have to go back out there and shut them out the next inning. That’s how you win ball games. 

BYB: What’s your mental preparation like before a game?

David Phelps: I talk to our mental strength coach a lot before games. I try to stay calm before games that I start. I do goof around with the guys before games until about an hour or so and then I start to get serious. I try not to make too much out of it. My faith is a big part of my life. I try and pray a rosary before I go out there to try and clear my head and get in the right mind frame.

BYB: What are three keys needed for a pitcher to win?

David Phelps: Minimizing damage and rebounding. Off the field, preparation, preparation, preparation to put yourself in a position to do your best. And first pitch strikes.

BYB: What is the connection like with your catchers? And how does a veteran catcher really contribute to you being on as a pitcher?

David Phelps: I think Brian went out of his way to learn more about our whole pitching staff in spring training this year. He would sit down and talk to us, not necessarily about pitching but just to get to know us. That’s something that goes a long way, because that comfort level when it comes down to playing, is now through the roof. What he has done for me is encourage me that my stuff is good enough. He’s caught so many successful pitchers and he has faith in me like that.

BYB: How does the presence of guys like Derek Jeter and last year Mariano Rivera provide the team with the positive mindset it needs?

David Phelps: It’s a calming presence more than anything else. Just knowing that Jeet’s out there at short stop. He’ll make comments like, ‘we got another one today guys’. You are talking about a guy who’s been through it all and he goes out of his way to make young guys feel welcome. He’s such an amazing role model for young guys in the game. And we should strive to be more like him. Same thing with Mo last year- they are just consistent and that’s all you can ask for.

BYB: Who on the team has provided you with the most mentoring?

David Phelps: Andy Pettitte. Baseball, family, faith just all aspects of life. I had great opportunity to get really close to him over the last few years and he’s a guy that really took me under his wing and he’s an incredible man and incredible player, in that order. Just such an amazing person.

BYB: Who were your idols growing up?

(In Photo: Matt Morris)
David Phelps: My parents definitely were. They went out of their way to work as hard as they could so that my brother and I could have all the success that we could possibly have. This is one thing I don’t take for granted. And every time I see them, I thank them. Baseball wise, I was a huge Cardinal fan growing up so Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, Mark McGwire, Ray Lankford, any Cardinal really, are guys I tried to be.

BYB: What advice would you give young people growing up today?

David Phelps: Find something you are passionate about whether it’s baseball or anything. Don’t let baseball define you- you are more than a baseball player or a basketball player or whatever you like. Have fun with it. Baseball is a game for a reason. 

BYB: Which do you prefer, if you had a choice, being a starter or working from the pen?

David Phelps: I’ve been a starter my whole career. But I found a love for the bullpen though too. I want to be a starter for sure but I have a greater appreciation for the bullpen because of my work there.

BYB: Do you read Bleeding Yankee Blue?

David Phelps: Yes. But my wife will read it a little bit more and let me know if there is something out there about me. I appreciate you guys doing your job. It’s important for you guys and sometimes you will see things that I didn’t see. 

David Phelps thanks his wife Maria and his two daughters, Adeline and Eloise, for making his life complete. David, we appreciate your time and candidness.

We at BYB enjoy watching you develop as a player and equally as a person.You're family is now part of the BYB family.  Thank you so much.

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer
Twitter: @suzieprof

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