By BENJAMIN BAUGH
Familial influence played a large role in Michael Plassmeyer’s decision to pick up a baseball.
And being left-handed made his choice a bit easier, finding his place as a pitcher.
“I just kind of grew up around it,” said Plassmeyer. “It was just kind of whittling it down, it was baseball, basketball and baseball was kind of the final choice.”
His father played at Nicholls State, his grandfather in the Army and his heavier, older brother at Kansas State, a junior college in Missouri and then Bradley University.
He received only one scholarship offer but it was from a school renowned for placing an emphasis on developing pitchers, the alma mater of three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. Plassmeyer was going to be a Missouri Tiger.
“That definitely helped, being from St. Louis, when you grow up around Missouri, my mom went there, I had cousins go there and they offered me. I knew they were big on pitching, throwing strikes, so that obviously fit my repertoire very well. I figured it would be a good fit, and it would give me a chance to play right at the beginning, so that’s when I committed.”
Control and command were things that his father always stressed to he and and his brother as they were growing up, said Plassmeyer.
“Velocity will slowly come, but you’ll have to be able to throw strikes,” said Plassmeyer. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t throw 110, if you can’t put it over the plate, it doesn’t matter. He just kind of stressed that from day one.”
It’s his indefatigable work ethic, attention to detail, and willingness to experiment that has enabled Plassmeyer to succeed at every level he’s pitched, a process that’s suited him well as he climbs the ladder with the ultimate goal to reach the major leagues.
“I’m constantly working on mechanics being able to throw multiple pitches in the zone,” said Plassmeyer. “And keeping the hitters off balance, they don’t know what’s coming in the count. That’s kind of the way I’ve looked at pitching.”
Plassmeyer was a fourth-round selection of the Seattle Mariners in the June 2018 draft, his selection fulfilled a number of aspirations, realizing he would have the opportunity to turn professional.
“It was pretty cool, it was obviously a dream come true,” said Plassmeyer. “My pitching coach started working with the Mariners that year. That was cool how to see how my throwing program was carrying over. We were at home, me and my dad, my mom and my brother, just sitting in the living room, and we had the computer plugged into the TV.
“And when we finally got the call, it felt like everything was moving slowly, waiting for the call, and I honestly wasn’t supposed to go for a round or two. They were projecting five through eight. So getting the call earlier was really cool, and kind of a surprise. It was really exciting for sure.”
The left-hander started his career in Everett, Wash., in the Northwest League, and had to make a series of adjustments from pitching at the intercollegiate level to the professional ranks. The level of play ameliorated significantly with the talent being equally distributed through the batting order when facing a roster full of professionals.
“The biggest thing was going to the five-day rotation, rather than having a whole week where you can tweak, where you can long toss and stretch out your arm and stuff like that, cut down some bullpen pitches,” said Plassmeyer.
“I noticed a lot of guys, other than some leadoff and nine-hole hitters, everybody could do damage, everybody has a chance to leave the yard, which you have to execute a little bit better, keep that in the back of your head, rather than these guys who are 7-8-9, just fill up the strike zone. Maybe lead them off with fastballs every time. You just have to kind of trust yourself and learn how to pitch that way.”
However, life as a professional is subject to rapid change, and Plassmeyer found himself as part of the package the Mariners sent to the Rays for Mallex Smith, which also included Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia.
“I was in strength camp in Arizona in the spring training place for the Mariners at the time,” said Plassmeyer. “I got the call. It was probably 10 or 10:30 at night, sitting with my roommates watching TV, ‘Hey, you’re a Ray.’ You always hear about it, coming up and stuff, like when it finally happens to you, you’re like, ‘Oh man. It’s like a big shock and all that.”
A change in locations isn’t always a detriment because it meant Plassmeyer was going to a team with a deep history of developing pitchers.
“I loved it here so far, working with the different coaches and coordinators,” said Plassmeyer. “It’s been great, they’ve taught me a ton.”
It was evident during his time at Bowling Green, that the Rays culture places a high priority on pitching and greatly values the commodity. Everyone is motivated to do well, encouraging one another to perform at their optimal best, while trying to find that extra something to move ahead of the other pitchers on the depth chart, enjoying the challenges associated with the competitive environment.
And with the Stone Crabs, Plassmeyer has had the opportunity to to work with renowned pitching coach Steve “Doc” Watson, an experience he relishes with great enthusiasm.
“He’s really good, he’s a genius,” said Plassmeyer. “The thing that I like the most is that he makes the adjustments and your mechanics seem so simple. It’s like working on a left-on-left change. He stood in front of the plate, and said move your visual a little bit to the left, a little more than that, it looks like you’re trying to manipulate the ball too much. He steps on the plate, and then you get the action that you want for a left-on-left change. He’s able to see a lot of stuff and communicate it very well.”