Q. What’s it like to play for the team you grew up watching?
A. I grew up just wanting to make the major leagues. But to get drafted by the Braves? It’s really unbelievable. My aunts and uncle all thought I chose to play for Atlanta. They said stuff like, “We’re so glad you chose the Braves and decided to stay at home.” They didn’t realize that it was just pure luck of the draw. I was just so lucky to be able to play. But to be able to step foot on the mound that I’ve gone to see games at since I was a kid, it’s incredible. And our coaches, like Terry Pendleton, are guys I grew up watching. [Former Braves pitchers] John Smoltz and Tom Glavine are now broadcasters for the games. It’s pretty cool to be able to part of all of it.
How tough has it been to get to where you are today?
It’s been a long road, but baseball has always been fun. When I was a kid it was fun. And in college it was a release to be able to have a couple of hours a day to just run around and play. It was awesome. The minor leagues I would say was the most difficult part - the different cities, the terrible hotels. Things get better and better as you move up, but the minor league life is not glamorous. It’s not the life that people imagine a professional athlete living. And at times it did become a job, playing 140 games in the minor leagues. [But while] that was probably the toughest part, I think once I got that call up to the majors, I think it made it all worth it.
When did you experience the most self-doubt and how did you overcome it?
Every year in the minor leagues I started off pretty terribly. I remember getting on the phone with my parents and asking them, “Look, is this even going to happen? Am I wasting years of my life that I could be making money working at a job my degree had set me up for?” The first few months of those seasons where I started off poorly were extremely difficult. There’s not much to boost your spirits when you’re doing poorly. But you live and you learn, and each year has been better for me.
What do you do to stay focused during a 162 game baseball season?
Yeah, it can get difficult at times. They [coaches] pretty much keep us on a routine, and I think they do it just because they know it can get difficult. I think the best word is monotonous. By the time you get to August, you’ve seen 120 games and you’ve still got another 40 to watch. But you kind of just get it in your head that you have to keep it going. They make sure you do [certain] lifts and that you get out there and throw.
What has surprised you the most about being a Major League pitcher?
I’d say the most unexpected thing has been how many people have been there to support me. For example, the day I got called up [to the major leagues], I had Facebook and text messages from middle and elementary school teachers, people who I hadn’t talked to in years, saying, “Hey I’m coming to the game”, “I wish you luck”, and that kind of thing. It was really cool to know that so many people were supporting me. It’s been by the far the most surprising, humbling, and warming thing that I’ve experienced.
Originally published May 19, 2014.
David Hale is a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves in Major League Baseball's NL East. As a rookie this year (2014), he has pitched both as a part of the starting lineup and as a reliever, with a 1-0 record, 19 strikeouts and a 1.59 ERA. Raised in Marietta, Georgia, he graduated from Princeton University in 2011 with a B.Sc. in Operations Research and Financial Engineering.