Because baseball secrets are the best secrets.
The Major League Baseball season is officially underway and one of its best pitchers, Walker Buehler, came by The Carlos Watson Show to talk turkey about the upcoming season. So come and catch the All-Star and World Series champion as he dishes deep on all things MLB. You can find excerpts below or listen to the full interview on the show’s podcast feed.
Carlos Watson: I was watching a nice hometown thing with you where you went back to Lexington, and you were showing folks around Henry Clay High School. Has Henry Clay given us some other good athletes in addition to you?
Walker Buehler: Collin Cowgill played in the major leagues. We had a set of brothers, the Boyd brothers, Shane Boyd was a backup quarterback for a while.
Watson: Do you have any basketball game or no?
Buehler: No. I’m pretty terrible. I had a growth spurt. I was OK for a little bit. And then I had a growth spurt and lost all the coordination. So, I ended up being a really bad church league basketball player.
Watson: OK, I haven’t heard “church league” in a while. That is a good one. But when did you know you were going to make it? When did you know that you were a guy who was going to get to play professional baseball?
Buehler: The day you get drafted. You never really know. I remember everyone telling me, “Oh, you’re going to go in the first round.” Then I went 24th. And for 23 picks, I thought I was never going to get drafted. It’s kind of a weird emotional roller coaster.
Watson: I felt like you were always a hot prospect. Was there ever a moment where you were like, “I’m struggling here. I may be one of those guys who’s a career minor leaguer”?
Buehler: I had surgery right after I got drafted. I was drafted and then didn’t play for an entire year. But I remember my first AAA outing: I gave up four runs and didn’t get an out. And they pulled me out ’cause I had thrown too many pitches. That was a tough one.
Coming Into His Own
Watson: And any interesting things that you developed once you got to the majors?
Buehler: I think the biggest thing in terms of what I do is learning how to scalp was a huge thing from my rookie year, I did none of it on my own. I kind of listened to the pitching coaches and the catcher, and just went off of their instinct. Because in my head, they knew better. They had been there a lot longer.
How long you have been in the major leagues is in a lot of ways status, because it’s hard to stay there. And so when you stay there, people respect you. That’s what I did my whole rookie year … listen to the guys that have been there. Then my second year I kind of learned how to take a little bit of charge of that and learn what I wanted to do, what I was good at.
Watson: when you think about your opportunities right now, what’s it like when you go from small-town guy, everyone knows he’s a good baseball player, but now you’re a World Series champ, people know you, little famous. Has that changed your family dynamic? And how has that changed your friendship dynamic?
Buehler: Things at home are pretty similar for me. To be honest with you, I get bothered less at home than I do in LA. Los Angeles, and our fan base, is wild, and we love it.
Watson: And talk to me a little bit about your friends who didn’t make it.
Buehler: I don’t remember how many guys we had in my class that got drafted. I think it was six or seven. But, most of them are still playing, still trying to make it. We’ve got a couple of guys in the major leagues. Dansby Swanson, the shortstop for the Braves, was my grade, and Carson Fulmer, who’s spent some time in the big leagues with a few teams now. And then a lot of other guys are kind of on the cusp, or they’re at home and doing stuff outside of baseball. But I think that that was one of the biggest things about going to Vanderbilt for a lot of us, was if this doesn’t work out, I think most of us felt pretty confident in what we could do after the game with a Vanderbilt degree. So, some guys are doing some medical sales and things like that.
Life Beyond Baseball
Watson: Now, talk to me a little bit about what you do outside of baseball.
Buehler: We do our charity event, which is golf-based. So we work on that a fair amount. I do some duck hunting back home in Kentucky. When we get our off days, we hit the beach.
Watson: And what’s the clubhouse like? I mean, do you guys just horse around in there? Are you guys talking politics? Are guys talking Bitcoin?
Buehler: You have these little cliques. You got these certain guys that love Bitcoin, there’s some cards that are played. Last year was weird. A lot of the little routines that we have, like that playing cards before the game, and sitting and eating, and stuff like that, we couldn’t do. I’m interested to see if those kind of get pushed back into the fold. We usually have a big ping-pong tournament during spring training, and they took the table from us.