On Monday October 13, I had some time to kill after arriving in Scottsdale for business and wandered over to Scottsdale Stadium, just a block from my hotel, where the Arizona Fall League was taking place. As luck had it, the Scottsdale Scorpions were playing and I was able to get press credentials. I conducted a number of interviews with some of the Phillies’ players and coaches who were in attendance. Come back each day to see the latest interview!
Ethan Stewart was the Phillies 47th round draft choice in 2010 out of New Mexico Junior College. The 6’7″ lefty native of British Columbia, Stewart and I talked about the importance of a good start, working with Ray Burris, and the difference in climates between British Columbia, Florida, and Arizona.
Ian Riccaboni, Phillies Nation: So, how does it feel to be in the Arizona Fall League with some of the top prospects in baseball?
Ethan Stewart: It’s pretty special. You get to pitch against and play with players who will be in the Major Leagues soon. It’s really special to be out here and it’s really fun.
IR: You’ve had six strikeouts through your first three-plus innings. How important was it for you to get off to a great start here in your first Arizona Fall League?
ES: I like to set a good impression. It’s nice to have that. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to start out struggling, you’d have to catch up and have to show yourself from there. Six strikeouts in three-plus innings is nice but I’m just trying to throw up zeroes.
IR: How cool is it to have Ray Burris here, the pitching coach at Lehigh Valley? (Burris is) someone in your system that you can almost pitch for and get advice from and work with.
ES: It’s neat. This is the first time I’ve been around him and the first time I’ve worked with him since I’ve been drafted. He’s got a lot of knowledge; if he sees something, he’ll tell me. It’s cool; hopefully I’ll get to play with him pretty soon.
IR: How do you anticipate transitioning to the next level? Was there any difference between Lakewood and Clearwater and what do you anticipate as your next hurdle?
ES: Hitters from Clearwater are more patient. In Lakewood, if you throw a ball in the dirt, the hitters might swing at it just because they don’t have enough experience or at-bats while in High-A, they’d swing occasionally but not as much as you’d want them to. Here, most of these players are Double-A and Triple-A who already have a really good idea of what they swing at and what they don’t swing at, what their mannerisms and patterns are and things. I think it’s going to be a big jump but being here will hopefully put me ahead at the next level.
IR: You’ve mentioned getting a step ahead. Is there any danger, and this is presuming this is your longest season or longest continued stretch of playing in your career, of exhaustion in the back of your head?
ES: Yeah, it gets on you for a little bit. That little break that I had at the end of the season was nice and there was no baseball happening so it brought me back to earth a little bit. And then the week we had before the season here started brought me back into a baseball mindset. Everyone here is tired (laughs); it’s a crazy-long season, we all start in January, February and play through now but it’s an honor to be here.
IR: Is there any comparison to a collegiate season? Playing fall ball, practicing in the winter, and then playing through the Spring?
ES: Well, I spent a year at New Mexico and we started about this time of year, played games, practiced through winter, and played in the Spring. But that only lasted for six months. This is about ten months and it’s pretty different.
IR: Are you originally from New Mexico?
ES: No, I’m from Vancouver Island, so way Northwest.
IR: Oh, Canada?
IR: How’s the climate for ya?
ES: Well, since I missed Summer at home, this is kind of like Summer weather. Florida weather is kind of too crazy during the Summer so I’m trying to catch up on the Summer while I’m down here.