New England Roots: Steve Cishek

BOSTON -- It was a pleasant homecoming this week for Falmouth's own Steve Cishek, making his first appearance at Fenway Park as a professional baseball player, as a reliever for the Miami Marlins.

The Falmouth High alum was taken by the Marlins in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB Draft, out of Division 2 Carson-Newman College (Jefferson City, Tenn.), and rose quickly through the system. Cishek averaged nearly 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings with a unique three-quarter delivery and sinkerball makeup.

Cishek was first called up in September 2010, ironically as he was driving back to Cape Cod from Double-A Jacksonville, and his since found a permanent residence with the big club. Every Bay Stater's childhood dream of playing in Fenway came true for him on Wednesday night, making an inning of relief appearance in a 15-5 loss to the Red Sox.

Several hours before that appearance, Cishek sat in the visitors' dugout with ESPNBoston.com to talk about his journey from Cape Cod to Miami.

Q: What was it like just setting foot inside Fenway Park for the first time as a major leaguer?

A: "It was a dream come true. You always pretend when you're a kid, playing wiffle ball in the backyard with friends, playing at Fenway as your favorite player. For that to be a reality is pretty sweet."

Q: What was the first thing that came to mind when you walked out on the field?

A: "Actually, just how small it was. I came here once as a kid, when I was nine, and I thought it was the biggest place in the world. You see it on TV, and it's just surprising how low the seating is. It's just like Red Nation, seeing all those red seats everywhere was just cool."

Q: As far as the overall atmosphere, how did it compare to your first time coming here as a kid?

A: "I've only been here once, so I don't remember too much. But the atmosphere was excellent last night. 'Sweet Caroline', the place was electric."

Q: Did you watch much Cape League growing up?

A: "I did, but I was one of those kids that would watch maybe an inning or two [on television] then go out back and play pickle or something active like that. I couldn't sit still."

Q: You got a taste of the big show in September of 2010. But having a more permanent residence with the big club now, how is the experience?

A: "It was awesome, you get to know all the guys and get comfortable, establishing a relationship with all the guys in the bullpen. One of the coolest things was traveling to all of the different cities. All the perks you get up here are amazing. If you ever complain about the big leagues, then something's wrong with you (laughs). We get pampered up here. We don't have to worry about anything up here except playing baseball. It's just a lot of fun."

Q: Taking the ball in the late innings in a big environment, tell us about your first experience with that.

A: "It was the ultimate adrenaline rush. Running in from the bullpen, you know, you've got a job to do, your team is relying on you, everyone's watching you. There's a lot of pressure on you, and it teaches you quickly that you've got to let that all go and slow it down. It's like an instant learning experience."

Q: Since you first got called up in 2010 to now, what do you think are the biggest adjustments you've had to make?

A: "Like I said before, slowing the game down. Occasionally, I was a little inconsistent, I let things speed up on me and just throw the ball as hard as I could. Now, I'm just more concerned about staying down in the zone, shooting for the knees and trusting my stuff, instead of trying to throw to a spot too perfectly, I guess you could say. Just, try not to be so perfect."

Q: You've got a pretty unique makeup, with the sinker and slider, and the delivery. Obviously, they wouldn't bring you up if you didn't trust your stuff, but how long did it take you to get acclimated with your stuff against major league competition?

A: "It takes some time. I don't think anyone's fully adjusted until they're done, you know? There's always an adjustment you have to make. Every day is a new learning experience, and like I said, just getting to a comfort level where you know you can take a step back and slow the game down. That's one of the biggest things that I was able to do."

Q: You came from a Division 2 college, and every year there's a good crop of local kids from the Northeast-10 Conference that get drafted. Is there something about Division 2 kids that is appealing to the scouts, or is it just a function of the wide net cast by the length of the MLB Draft?

A: "It doesn't matter what level you're at. If you're having a good year, you're projectable, they're gonna come down and look at you. In my case, a couple people showed up, I had one day where a lot of scouts showed up and I threw my hardest and best game of the year. That opened up a lot of eyes. Any time you have someone on your team the scouts are looking at, or if they're there to see you, and you have a good outing, they're going to keep coming. I'm not sure if it matters what level you're at. Of course, there's more D1 guys that get taken, but there's scouts everywhere. Someone's always watching you."

Q: That said, would it be fair to say kids like that may have a chip on their shoulder, especially coming from the Northeast?

A: "I don't know, I wouldn't say that necessarily. I'd just say it's a different attitude for kids up here. We don't get to play baseball year-round like kids in the south or in Cali or Florida, so there's always room for improvement with us becuase we haven't hit our peak yet. In high school, we played what, 20-something games a year? We don't get any sort of repetiton like the other guys do, so we have a lot more to prove."

Q: What's changed in your offseason training regimen?

A: "Whatever Eric Cressey puts on the paper, that's what I do. There's always some sort of variation we're doing. Every month, we're doing something new to confuse the body, just test ourselves, grind it out to get better and stronger. I wouldn't say much has changed. I stick to what's gotten me here."

Q: There's a couple of major leaguers that work out at your facillity in the offseason (Cressey Performance, in Hudson). How much do you guys bounce baseball knowledge off one another?

A: "Not as much as you'd think. When we're in the offseason, we talk so much baseball with so many people that we just kind of get burned out. We talk every now and then, you know, like how things are going in the Royals organization for Tim Collins, what he's experienced, stuff like that. But we don't talk about it all the time, you know?"

Q: Favorite city?

A: "San Diego. I love being here obviously, but San Diego is unbelievable. Everything is beautiful there, the stadium [Petco Park] is awesome, the weather is perfect every day. It's just incredible. As far as parks go -- it's not my favorite park as a pitcher, but just how it looks -- it's the Ballpark in Arlington. It had the old-school feel to it. I hadn't been here yet, so this is my favorite park now (laughs)."

Q: I'm sure you were familiar with Ozzie Guillen before he joined the Marlins, considering his high profile. What's he like as a manager?

A: "He's great. He keeps it light obviously, and he's not afraid to call out players, he's had a history with that, but that's just the way he is. If you're not performing or you're not playing as hard as you can, he's going to let you know, and that's the way it should be. He's great.

"A week ago, when the Celtics were playing the Heat in Game 6, I was pitching and I struggled, and he came out. As I walked off the mound, I was pissed off, and he grabbed my arm and goes, 'It's alright, the Celtics are winning'. He knew I was frustrated, and tried to make me laugh a little bit. I hadn't had that before, I'm used to coaches jumping on you and stuff like that. So it was pretty cool that he did that...And of course, the Celtics were losing by 20, too (laughs)."

Q: As a Cape kid, what's that like to be surrounded by all that baseball growing up?

A: "It was great. We played our high school games at the Falmouth Commodores' field, so it was like home to me. Any time we wanted to go to a game, it was right there for us. The only difference is as I was older I'd play summer ball or Legion, and I didn't get to see any more games. But growing up you get to see all those guys. I'm pretty sure I saw Nomar. So it's great for kids. They get to see college baseball at its highest level, and a lot of those kids get drafted and make it here.

"There's so many people I talk to that when I tell them where I'm from, they're like 'Oh yeah, I played in Bourne', or 'I played for Y-D', and so on. A lot of these guys played out there. It's the best summer league you can play in."

Q: On the high school level around here, pitch count has been a hot debate all spring. Do you recall your highest pitch count in high school? Do you have an opinion on this?

A: "I've thrown in the 130's range before, but I don't know if that was high school, Babe Ruth or what. But we weren't really that concerned with pitch count. I don't know, it's like, if you're throwing well you're just gonna keep getting run out there. I remember once a kid threw 13 innings, 150-something pitches -- the game ended up going 19 innings. Everyone was like, 'Wow, that's cool you did that', but now it's more like 'That's probably the reason why your elbow shot out your arm in college'. It's too bad. I understand the pitch count now, before people didn't worry about it but now they're getting more concerned and paying attention.

"It's good, because for young guys it will save their arm for the future, if they have the opportunity to play pro ball or at the collegiate level. I think it's important that coaches start becoming more aware."