This week I interviewed Frisco RoughRiders pitcher Kea Kometani. Kea was drafted by the Rangers in 2005 and spent that year as a starter with Spokane and Clinton. He started 2006 in Bakersfield and was called up to Frisco after 10 starts. He started the 2007 season in Frisco as a starter but was converted to a reliever early in the season. Since then he’s had 28 relief appearances with 8 saves.
I got to know Kea last summer when he got called up to Frisco. He’s always friendly and happy to talk and volunteers to sign autographs for kids a lot. He agreed to let me interview him and spoke with me this weekend from Wichita.
1. Which achievement from last year are you most proud of: tying for 1st in wins in all the Rangers minor leagues, coming in 5th for strikeouts, or being 6th in ERA?
Kea said that he hadn’t thought about it too much but that it was probably the wins. He lost his first five starts in double-A and didn’t have much confidence after that. He was proud that he came back from that rough start.
2. What was the key to your success during your last year at Pepperdine, when you went 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA after going 11-9 with a 4.59 ERA your first three years?
Kea said that it was mostly having more experience and using those experiences. He was also more confident starting. He became a starter for the first time in his junior year.
3. What were your 1st thoughts when you broke Pepperdine’s school record with 32 appearances in a year?
“It was cool.” Kea thought it was cool to be able to accomplish something that others before him didn’t. It showed durability and allowed him to help his team.
4. What was the key to being named your conference’s best control pitcher?
Pitching is a lot about repetition. It showed that his practice and workouts were paying off and showing on the field.
5. Who are your three favorite teammates since you joined the Rangers organization and why?
- Doug Mathis because he lives with him and has played with him all three years in the organization.
- Michael Schlact because they lived together in Clinton and they’ve played on a lot of teams together.
- Emerson Frostad because he’s played with him all three years and they hung out last winter in the winter league.
6. Can you please rate the ballparks in the Rangers organization that you’ve played in from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) and explain your ratings?
- Spokane: 6 or 7 – it’s older but there are a lot of fans and it has a good atmosphere.
- Clinton: 4 – it’s old. He said that they’ve redone the stadium recently and he’s heard it’s nicer.
7. Who are the toughest hitters you’ve faced and why?
- Billy Butler because he’s a great hitter and had tough at-bats against him.
- Alex Gordon: “He was successful against me.”
He mentioned that both of them were tough because they were consistent.
8. What is the worst injury you’ve had to deal with and why?
“Luckily I’ve been pretty healthy.” In college he had a shoulder injury where it hurt to warm up but he only missed one game.
9. What’s the biggest difference between college and minor league hitting?
Kea said it was the talent level. You have to work on location a lot more in the minors. You can get guys out on bad pitches in college.
10. What are the biggest differences between starting and closing?
Starting is definitely different. You will face each batter three of four times. You only face each batter once when closing. As a starter, giving up a run or two in an inning is no big deal as long as you recover. But as a reliever, you aim for no runs. One mistake as a reliever can ruin your whole outing. Relieving is tough because every pitch is a big deal. You have to be locked in from the beginning. If you’re brought in for three outs and strike out the first two guys and then give up a homer to the third guy, you didn’t do your job.
11. What do you think has been your best professional game and why?
During a start last year Kea gave up five runs in the first inning. But he came back and got through eight innings with no more runs and the team won.
12. Did you notice a difference between single-A and double-A hitters and, if so, what is it?
“Plate discipline.” Guys in double-A won’t chase pitches as much so you have to get it over the plate. Plus there are more guys with power in the lineup.
13. What is the toughest thing about minor league life and why?
Being on the road and being away from family.
14. Do you see yourself using your economics degree from Pepperdine someday and, if so, how?
Kea said that if he weren’t in baseball he’d want to be in business. He worked at Morgan Stanley in the offseason as a financial advisor. He would also be interested in real estate. Kea had a 3.8 GPA in college.
15. What are the three biggest differences between living in Hawaii and living in the continental US?
- There’s not much ocean in Texas. You only see the ocean in Corpus Christi in the Texas League.
- The weather’s cold early in the season and then gets really hot. In Hawaii it’s 75-90 degrees all of the time.
- There are no mountains in Texas.
16. What was your favorite team growing up?
The Braves. They won the division every year and he liked watching Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine.
17. What sports did you play growing up and which were you best at?
Kea played football for one year as a freshman in high school but was too skinny. He’s played baseball since he was 7. He was a first baseman until his junior year in high school. He played volleyball in high school. He said he was actually better at volleyball than baseball.
18. What are your hobbies?
Going to the ocean, fishing, hanging out at the beach and playing Xbox.
I would like to thank Kea for taking time out from his road trip to do this interview.
Results of last week’s poll:
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington – 31%
AT&T Park - 17%
Fenway Park - 14%
Wrigley Field – 14%
Camden Yards – 6%
Miller Park – 6%
Other – 6%
PNC Park – 6%
Yankee Stadium – 3%
All others – 0%
Come back next week for part 3 of the Doug Melvin trade analysis.