Thu May 28 07:10pm EDT
Chris Volstad(notes) grew up in South Florida, was the 16th overall pick of the Marlins in 2005 and, after a quick rise through the farm system, is establishing himself as one of the league's tallest and best young right-handers.
Now that the Greater Miami area agreed to help finance a new stadium for the beloved Fish, thus encouraging financial stability for the club, Volstad might be a resident for life.
When the Marlins stopped by Wrigley Field earlier this month, Volstad submitted to the Answer Man treatment and gave some insight into what it's like being a big fish in the pond that is Major League Baseball.
Chris Volstad: Oh [laughs], maybe they got me with shoes on but I am actually 6-8. For the record, yes, 6-8.
DB: There's another pitcher in the Marlins' system named Sean West, who's 6-8 and might soon reach the majors. When and if he does, will it also put pressure on you to become 6-9 when the time comes?
CV: Nah [laughs]. We stand next to each other and we are exactly the same height. So no pressure at all. We'll be the same, 6-8, and be fine with that.
DB: The Marlins might have the best basketball team in the NL East next season.
CV: We could put together a pretty good basketball team with Sean, J.J. [Josh Johnson(notes)], Andrew Miller(notes), Burke Badenhop(notes) … although I've never seen him play basketball. Cam Maybin played in high school. He would run the point. I'd probably be a 3-4 [power forward]. I'm not really the post guy, but short-range jumpers. Maybe a turnaround jumper.
CV: I never could wear 'em to my shoes growing up because they couldn't make 'em that long. So now that I can, I've decided that I want to. I'm taking advantage.
DB: Do you think it makes you look even taller?
CV: Um, it might. I haven't had people tell me that.
DB: Josh Johnson, conversely, shows off big socks. Don't you think his lower legs get cold?
CV: No, but he's got the calves to show off, too. I don't, so I need to keep those pants down.
DB: Did you grow up playing other sports, too?
CV: I played basketball and volleyball a couple of years in middle school but mostly just baseball and basketball. High school basketball, I played my first three years and the team was average at best. We didn't really make the playoffs or anything, so, senior year I skipped basketball to focus on baseball.
DB: Your brother [Kyle] is a volleyball player in college?
CV: Yeah, he plays at a school that's kind of close to here — Quincy University. And he plays football, too.
DB: You grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Sounds like the nicest apartment complex ever, but it's really a whole town?
CV: Yeah, it is. I'm not sure how big it is, but it connects right to Jupiter (the town, not the planet) and it all kind of blends together. It's really nice; I'll probably end up staying there my whole life.
DB: Was it hard to have an all-time favorite Marlin growing up because he was inevitably traded in some kind of cost-cutting measure shortly after arriving?
CV: Honestly, I watched the Braves more growing up. Their pitching staff, you know? I was a pitcher, so I watched Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. Those are my three guys. I didn't really follow the Marlins as much.
DB: So, you liked the Braves … and the Gators?
CV: Sure, Florida Gators. I've got cousins who live in Gainesville. And I also watched the Cowboys a lot when I was younger. They were a dynasty growing up and a bunch of guys at school liked them, too. Gave us something to talk about.
DB: I've seen athletes quoted dozens of times about how they tune out a big crowd, to the point that it's hard for them to notice at all what goes on in the stands. Conversely, do you tune out Dolphin Stadium if there's only 1,000 people watching you guys?
CV: Uh, yeah [laughs]. We tune all that out. Once the game starts, it's all about the game. No matter what's going on in the stands, if it's a ton of people or no people at all.
We really can't wait for the new stadium. It's going to be awesome. I think all of South Florida is excited about that. It'll be a guaranteed game every day, no rain delay, it'll be air-conditioned — 70 or 75 degrees. It's going to be awesome.
DB: Were you really referred to as "Osprey" growing up?
CV: Yeah [sighs]. One of my high school coaches gave that to me for whatever … I guess because of my wingspan [stretching arms out] at first base. One day, he yelled it out and it stuck ever since then.
DB: Growing up in Illinois, I didn't really know what an osprey was.
CV: It's a preying bird that (usually) lives near the oceans. The nickname's just mostly among my high school buddies.
DB: "Osprey" just sounds like a "nice" bird. Aren't you more like a "Condor" Volstad?
CV: Maybe like a blue heron, maybe, I don't know. Ospreys are pretty fierce. People don't know that, but they really are.
DB: Part of the scouting report in Baseball America says about you: "Raised well by a dentist father and hygienist mother…" How many cavities do you have?
CV: None! Never had a cavity. My brother's had a few and he takes better care of his teeth than I do. I guess I'm just lucky, I don't know.
DB: Anybody's teeth on the Marlins really need work?
CV: In here? I don't know, I'm not the dentist. If my dad was here, he'd be able to tell you who needed help.
DB: So that wouldn't have been your calling had baseball not worked out?
CV: That's not really my thing. I was going to study engineering. I like the math that's involved and all that.
DB: Wrigley Field is the site of a bad moment in Chris Volstad history, after one of your fastballs got away and hit umpire Gerry Davis in the throat.
CV: It was here, yeah. The pitcher was up, trying to bunt, and the bat screened out our catcher's eyes and he couldn't see the ball coming. So he just guessed and the ball hit the umpire right [under] the mask. I mean, it was a bad situation.
DB: Did you think, "Oh, what have I done?"
CV: Yeah, a little bit. He had to come out of the game and they had to switch up the umpire rotation a little bit. Thankfully, umpires don't hold that against me.
DB: Dodgers star Andre Ethier(notes) has expressed concern about posing for photos with fans — even inside the stadium — because he fears his image might be twisted into something heinous. What is your policy if fans want to get a shot of you while out on the town?
CV: I try stay away from pictures out in public places, just to keep the record clean. I don't want anything misconstrued. At the ballpark, in uniform, you're all right. But you never know these days, with Photoshop, what people might do.
DB: Are you prepared to embrace the fame you'll receive as a baseball player?
CV: I think so but I don't have any fame yet, obviously.
DB: Just wait until this interview comes out!
CV: Yeah [laughs]. If it happens, as it grows, I'll get more and more used to it.
DB: Will anyone on the Marlins fall prey to the mini trend of ballplayers growing mustaches?
CV: I don't think so, because I don't think we have too many guys who would look good with a mustache. I'm not a big fan of the trend — maybe it's because I can't grow one. We have guys who would grow beards if they could. I think we'll stay away from the mustache. Badenhop has a pretty hairy face, but I don't know about mustaches. We're all pretty clean-shaven.
DB: How many fishermen do you suppose it took to catch Billy Marlin?
CV: Ha! Who knows? That's pretty funny, but he's a great mascot. Dangerous, too, with the bill, walking around. He's got to watch out when he's bending over. He'll poke you with that thing. He needs to look out.
DB: Hall of Famer Jim Palmer traded some golf lessons in exchange for tutoring some Little Leaguers in the art of pitching. You happened to be one of the players. Let's say someone approaches you someday to return the favor to some kids. What might you require in return?
CV: Golf lessons sound pretty good; I need 'em. Lessons would be something I'd look for. That would be pretty nice. The way I play, I don't worry about the sport too much. I'd probably hurt myself if I did.
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