The 2016 season didn’t start off the way righty pitcher Skylar Hunter had hoped it might. During spring training, it was announced that the 22-year-old had tested positive for an illegal drug and would miss the first 50 games of the season.
Last year after the Phillies drafted Hunter in the 12th round out of the Citadel, he posted a 3-3 record with a 3.38 ERA in 22 relief appearances for short-season A level Williamsport. This year, since being activated, he sports a 1-1 record with a 4.80 ERA in nine outings for Class A Lakewood.
This week I spoke with Skylar about the suspension, his season to date, recent news related to police shootings and plenty more. Read ahead for that full interview.
-With the disciplinary issues that you faced, can that be a big learning experience for you?
It definitely is. You get the consequence of your actions and you get a life lesson. I feel like it made me stronger and I feel like I’m ready to go.
-When that takes place, are you faced with a feeling like you let your teammates and the organization down?
Yeah, there’s definitely that kind of feeling. I think the worst part of it was just knowing that everyone was still playing and I was just at home, hanging out. So, that was probably- I had a lot of time to think about it and that was probably the worst part, knowing that everyone was out there, playing, winning games and I was just hanging out. So, I missed a month of spring training and then I went and got after it and I’m feeling pretty good and I’m ready to go.
-So you get sent home for a month. How did you spend that time?
You’re still working out. You’re still throwing every day. You’re still getting after it. I think I got after it a little harder that month that I was gone.
-Was there a level of surprise when the suspension news is brought to you?
Yeah, there was a level of surprise. A lot of disappointment, a lot of surprise. Like I said, I feel like it made me stronger and you learn from it. I’m ready to go now, so that’s all that matters.
-I was here for your first day joining the team last month and the team was very welcoming. What was that day like for you?
It was great. I show up and I’ve got this beautiful ballpark, I’ve never seen it before, and it’s a great place to be in. I played with almost all of these guys last year in Williamsport and they’re all great buddies of mine and they were excited for me and I was excited to see them and get going.
-How do you feel about your performance thus far? Are you all caught up to where you want to be?
I feel like started out with a little bit of bad luck, a couple earned runs here and there, there was some untimely hits for me, but I feel like I’ve hit a groove and I feel like I’m doing well right now. The past couple outings have been good and I feel like I’m going to keep it rolling.
-What feedback have you gotten from the coaching staff here?
Just compete and do what I’m doing. I’ve got good stuff and I know that. I’ve just got to compete with it and be smart. Most of it’s just how to pitch when they talk to you. It’s about how to get guys out in certain counts and things like that and they’ve been preaching that a good bit. It’s been helpful.
-Is there a standout leader among guys in the BlueClaws’ bullpen?
I think we’re all pretty good with that kind of stuff. I mean, I feel like we’re all pretty good. We all do our jobs and we kind of take pride in what we do. I feel like it kind of feeds off each other and everybody does good with that.
-Getting away from the game a bit, there was big news in the country, with more police involved shootings of black men and then retaliation when several white police officers are targeted by a shooter. How do you feel about what has been taking place?
Um, yeah. I mean, I’m sad for it. It’s something that doesn’t need to happen. I saw a tweet the other day that was a Martin Luther King quote. It said, “Hate can’t drive out hate. Only love can do that”. So, I think everybody just needs to come together and fight through this together. It’s a sad time, but I feel like it’ll make the country stronger if we get through it.
-If you had an opportunity to speak to some young baseball players, children who wanted to play baseball beyond high school, whether it’s college or the pros, what advice would you give them?
Yeah, I would say work hard every day because it’s really crazy how many people play this game and how many people move on. If you keep working hard and you keep learning new things every day, then you can do something special. So, I’d say keep going, keep pounding. I know you’re going to get down on yourself sometimes, but if you just keep rolling through it, you’ll be fine.
-Do you have any game day superstitions or good luck charms?
I like to listen to a lot of reggae music because I get a little hyped up on the mound. I get going a little bit and I feel like it kind of mellows me out a little bit and it lets me calm down and attack with a game plan rather than getting out there, getting all hyped up and chucking it.
-Does that hold true with your walk out music or is that something different?
No, that’s funny you said that. My walk out music is actually The Stroke by Billy Joel, so I guess it’s kind of upbeat and it’s kind of a rock song, but I think I’m changing it.