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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Interview Part 1: Alan Newman, Got There

The Metrodome in 2009. Alan Newman was drafted by the Twins and picked up his first major league win at the Metrodome for Tampa Bay. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Got There | Part 2: For Himself
Part 3: Worked Out | Part 4: Didn't Rest

Alan Newman's nerves showed themselves immediately.

The Tampa Bay Devil Ray came on in relief in this May 1999 game in Anaheim. The bases were loaded. It was also his major league debut held a few miles from where he grew up.

Staring in to Mo Vaughn, Newman started and stopped and started again. It was a balk and Newman had let a run score without throwing a major league pitch.

"I saw the umpire's eyes just get gigantic and I was like 'oh, no,'" Newman recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently.

Newman didn't end up having a great outing, but he collected himself and got through it. He got five outs, while giving up two hits.

"Just like any game anywhere else," Newman said of getting beyond those nerves and that opening balk, "'Let's get past that and move on.'"

By that point, Newman had gotten into plenty of games elsewhere. He finally got there, to the major leagues and Anaheim, his 12th professional season.
Alan Newman pitched in 18 games for Tampa Bay in 1999, including one game at the Metrodome. (G21D Photo)
After sticking with the game that long, Newman ended up seeing time in two major league seasons. He also saw three seasons in Japan.

Newman spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his home in California. Newman covered his career from its start on the mounds of La Habra, Ca., to the pro fields of the Minnesota Twins system after the club believed in him enough to take him in the second round of the 1988 draft.

Along Newman's path to that Angels Stadium mound, there were early frustrations, a three-season detour to independent ball and then a return to the minors that eventually got him that call to the bigs more than a decade after his pro career began.

By the time he threw his last professional pitch in 2006, Newman had appearances in two major league seasons, three seasons in Japan - one with a Japan Series title - all in a career that spanned nearly two decades.

Newman grew up between Anaheim and Los Angeles in La Habra. He grew up a die-hard Dodgers fan.

He recalled his father getting him into baseball at about the age of 6. He played Little League, later American Legion and high school ball.

He was good enough in high school to play on a scout team, a team consisting of pro players and high school prospects.
Dodger Stadium in 2012. Alan Newman grew up near Los Angeles a die-hard Dodger fan. (G21D Photo)
It was there, with the Astros scout team, that a scout saw the outfielder throwing throwing runners out and started pointing Newman to the mound.

That was around his junior year in high school. By his senior year, he was basically his team's closer.

"For me, it was kind of a relief," Newman said of his move to the mound. "I was a power hitter, I always hit well, but it was more fun striking guys out than actually getting struck out. I found that to be appealing to me."

He also ended up being one of the top high school pitchers in the county. He didn't have much experience, he recalled, but he threw hard and he was raw.

Come draft day in 1987, the high schooler was selected by the Padres in the 26th round. It was a draft-and-follow, the team wanted to see how he did at Fullerton College.

Of being drafted, Newman called it exciting.

"From the time I was probably 12 years old, I always thought that's what I wanted to do," Newman said. "play baseball."

At Fullerton, Newman excelled. He made second team all-conference as a freshman. On signing with the Padres, though, advice came that they were offering him too little. He didn't sign.

He ended up going back into the 1988 draft and the Twins thought enough of his Fullerton work to take him higher. They took Newman in the second round, 50th overall.
Simmons Field in Kenosha, Wisc., in 2014. Alan Newman played his second pro season and part of his third in Kenosha. (G21D Photo)
"I was kind of debating whether I should try to go for the first round if I went back (to Fullerton)," Newman said. "But I wanted to play. I was ready. I thought I was ready, anyway."

Newman was with his Legion at the time. He recalled they all had a little celebration for him. He was supposed to pitch the next day, but he ended up watching.

"It was an exciting time, for sure," Newman said.

Newman's first stop with the Twins was the rookie Appalachian League at Elizabethton. He struggled from the start. He recalled stating 0-8.

"It was kind of a whole learning process, trying to learn the pro game," Newman said.

He recalled being frustrated at first. He also set one of the first of his records - he seemed to set records good or bad wherever he went.

"I led the league in wild pitches - I think I still might even hold that record," Newman said. "But I threw hard and my ball moved like crazy. I was kind of patient with that and tried to harness it."

As that season closed, Newman recalled his teammates trying to will Newman to a win. "That 0 must go!" he recalled them chanting on the bus.

He ended up getting his first win late in the year, a seven-inning effort where he recalled getting 14 strikeouts. He then picked up a second win to end the year 2-8.

Newman was still 11 years away from the major leagues. (Part 2)

Part 1: Got There | Part 2: For Himself
Part 3: Worked Out | Part 4: Didn't Rest

Go to Part 2: Alan Newman, For Himself

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