This week’s interview was with flame throwing Mets prospect, and former Mizzou Tiger, Bryce Montes de Oca. On opening night when given the opportunity to see him pitch, he threw at least 5 pitches 100+ mph. Bryce also has a nasty breaking ball that clocks in at around 88 mph. Standing at 6’7” he is an imposing presence on the mound.
Ryan Ruffing: Did you play any other sports in High School?
Bryce Montes de Oca: I played basketball in my freshman and sophomore year.
RR: I kinda figured it was gonna be that or football.
BMdO: After 6th grade I quit football. I was just tired of being a lineman and wanted to run the ball and obviously with my size that wasn’t in the cards.
RR: What was your favorite SEC town or park to play in outside of Mizzou?
BMdO: I think my favorite was (Texas) A&M. It was probably the nicest field, I thought. Atmosphere wise it was pretty electric the entire weekend. When we played there it was when they were on their 20 something game win streak, and we were actually able to end it, so that was a pretty good weekend for us.
RR: Did A&M have the most hostile fans or was that another school?
BMdO: Hostile, no, they were good fans, I wouldn’t say they were hostile. Arkansas, they were pretty hostile,that’s for sure. They were very unforgiving on anything.
RR: Yeah, heard some things about Arkansas in the first two interviews. In fact that was both Jake Mangum and Parker Caracci’s favorite place to play.
BMdO: Yeah, it’s an interesting place, it’s nice, but they’ll let you have it. That’s for sure.
RR: How old were you when you first threw 100 mph?
BMdO: That’s a good question. I was told I threw it(100) when I was in high school, so I was probably 17 or 18. I didn’t see it for the first time, in person, on a gun thats not a stadium gun, until my junior year of college. That was the first confirmed one where I saw it, but I was told I hit it in high school. I didn’t see it though, so I can’t really say that was the first legit time.
RR: Do you think you were throwing faster after you had the Tommy John surgery?
BMdO: Definitely because I was 16 when I had it, and I had a lot of development that happened after that. The surgery, it is what it is, it definitely didn’t make me throw harder. It was the rehab and everything that goes into it, and the physical development I had over the next 8 years. Right now is probably the hardest I’ve thrown. Over the last two years are the hardest I’ve thrown in my life.
RR: Yeah, actually read an article where the number of pitches you threw over 100 mph was increasing every year
BMdO(chuckling): That’s a good thing, I’d rather not peak too early.
RR: What was the biggest adjustment moving from college to Minor League baseball(MiLB)?
BMdO: I would say just the number of games that we play now, it’s literally every day. In college it may feel like you play a lot, but the season is only 3-4 months if you don’t make the post season. Now it’s basically from spring training, to me that counts, we’re playing from January all the way to October-ish, and you’re doing it every day. It’s just a matter of consistency, getting routines, knowing when to push, when to brake, and all that stuff. It just takes some time to kind of maneuver through that. Once you get into the routine of it it’s pretty easy. Well not easy, but you have the ability to control what you can control to be consistent.
RR: Do you think you are a better player from having played the extra seasons at Mizzou in the SEC, more so than if you had signed with a team and gone to the minors (out of high school)?
BMdO: I wouldn’t change anything that I did on my journey to where I am right now. Everything happens for a reason. I can’t say what would have happened either way for better or for worse. The decisions I made, I live with, and I like. They got me here right now, and I love where I am right now and I love the decisions I made in the past.
RR: How often in the minors do you play against players you also played against in college?
BMdO: Pretty frequently now. Last week when we played Portland there were two SEC guys in the lineup, that I played against at Missouri. Then we played Bowie the week before, there was (Ryan)Watson from LSU. Then Hartford, did hartford have any?
RR: They have like five, I don’t know if you played against them though.
BMdO: I know they had a name I don’t remember who it was. They had a lot.
RR: Maybe it was Mitchell Kilkenny, he might have been on that A&M team you beat.
BMdO: Pitcher wise, I don’t remember. I barely remember the lineups at this point, but pitcher wise I couldn’t tell you. It’s been too long, too many years, I’m getting old.
RR: Which do you feel better prepared you, or how did they prepare you differently for pro ball, between the Cape Cod league or in the SEC?
BMdO: That’s a good question. I think being in the Cape Cod League you get to learn more about yourself because you don’t have a whole lot of organized staff around you. At Missouri you had all this staff, they had their system and their processes in place. When you go off to summer ball you keep that, but you also kind of get to figure out a little bit of stuff by yourself. You get more innings. You get really good experience against not just people from the SEC, but different conferences, and see how they play. I loved pitching in Falmouth in the Cape League. That was probably one of the best experiences and best summers of my life. I don’t know, they both have their learning experiences. The winning part in the SEC is pretty intense, and that’s huge in development. At the same time being on your own and figuring stuff out in summer ball is a huge thing. They both have their huge positives.
RR: What was your experience with going through Tommy John surgery at the young age that you did?
BMdO: It was rehab, it’s never fun. It was long, but it’s good I think. It gives you some perspective on what it takes. When you’re not playing you’ll be like “oh I wish I was playing” and then when you’re back in the field, you don’t take it for granted ever. You know that what you did was preparing you for what was ahead. It was definitely more of a mental grind than a physical grind just because you’re not playing and you get it taken away from you for no real reason. You just have to work back to it and it makes playing a little bit more special I think.
Now let’s do a couple fun ones:
RR: Who was your Favorite player or player you modeled your game after growing up?
I loved watching C.C. Sabathia, even throughout his career. He was just a big guy, threw really hard. I was a big guy, I threw hard. It was just kind of cool to watch that. He was one of the first guys to consistently be able to throw 100 all the time in his early days in Cleveland. He was definitely a guy that I was watching
RR: What is your Favorite baseball movie?
BMdO: I like The Rookie personally
RR: Which is a better feeling: blowing a fastball by a hitter or making them look silly on one of your off speed pitches?
BMdO: I mean, they’re both pretty great I’m not gonna lie. Honestly my favorite is breaking a bat. Strike outs are fine and they’re great, but I love breaking a bat. It’s a lot of fun for me.
RR: Who was your funniest college teammate?
BMdO: Probably my roommate Trey Harris. He’s with the Braves now in AA, he’s a right fielder. He’s one of the most eccentric, funny, interesting guy I’ve played with.
RR: Have you ever been on the wrong side of a bullpen prank or ever pulled a bullpen prank on one of your teammates?
BMdO: No, I’m not really much of a jokes like that (kind of guy), I’m a big chiller. I would say no I have not, I’ve seen many, but not been a part of any.
RR: That’s true. I don’t think anybody would want to mess with the 6’7” guy.
BMdO(Laughing): I’m a teddy bear it’s fine.