Taking to the mound in this inning of C’s Chat is 2019 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Mike Pascoe.
The 5-foot-10 right-hander from Arlington, New York saw his baseball career begin to take shape at Arlington High School where he did double duty as a position player and a pitcher.
“I was always actually a pretty good hitter in high school. I was a middle infielder, pretty quick, good bat. I was pretty fast but I didn’t really think I’d be a really good hitter at the next level in college.
I always had a pretty good arm off the mound so I kind of found myself becoming a pitcher like when I was a sophomore and junior in high school. I started really focusing it on when I got to college. That’s when I put down the bat and just really started focusing on pitching.”
The highlight of Pascoe’s pitching career at Arlington High was throwing a no-hitter in his senior season of 2016.
“I felt pretty good in the bullpen, I’ll never forget it. Before I pitched, our pitching coach told one of the guys that he thought I was going to throw a no-hitter that day but he obviously didn’t tell me that.
I go into the game and I feel great. The first couple of innings go by and they’re flying by. I’m not throwing a lot of pitches. I probably had like 30 pitches through like three or four innings, I was just flying through it. It was only like a 4-0 game so it wasn’t like too far away not to stop competing and I realized what was going on. Around the fifth and sixth, I’m like ‘Wow, I can really make this happen.’
When the seventh inning came along, it was just three quick outs and I couldn’t believe it. I was with friends that I grew up with and that was a special moment, especially to go out with a bang like that in my senior year of high school back in New York.”
From New York State to the Lone Star State
After going undrafted out of high school, Pascoe went the junior college route by heading to San Jacinto College in Houston.
“It was a great experience. I got down there, a bunch of southern boys. Man, big kids! I think it was huge for my development. I was surrounded by a lot of D1 transfers and guys who had played high-level baseball. It pushed me to be the best I could be. I wanted to get drafted so being around guys like that really helped push myself even more.
The staff there did so much for me, they believed in me and really helped me develop. I wouldn’t take that decision back any time. They did so much for me and I’m so glad I went there.”
Pascoe listed two people as his two biggest pitching influences, the first being his father Ken Pascoe.
“I think first of all, it was my Dad. He introduced baseball to me obviously. Once I started pitching, he was able to help me with the basics—balance points and all that stuff. That kind of helped me through high school. He did so much for me.
Once I went to college, Woody Williams—who was a 15-year major league pitcher for the Astros, the Padres and a couple of other teams. He helped me so much. He kind of honed in what I need to do to get to professional baseball. He saw potential me and I’m forever thankful for that. He really helped me prepare for this. “
2018 MLB Draft
As it turned out, the first major league team Williams pitched for would be the one to call Pascoe’s name at the 2018 draft. After striking out 12 batters in 12-2/3 innings in 2017 with the Gators, Pascoe rung up 27 hitters in 15 frames to go along with a 1-0 record and a 2.35 earned run average in 2018. That earned the attention of the Toronto Blue Jays who selected him in the 24th round last summer on the recommendation of scout Brian Johnston.
“I was back home in New York right after my sophomore year of college and I saw my name pop up on the draft board and I honestly couldn’t believe it. I got a call right after from the Blue Jays. Basically, dreams come true right there. I flew out to Dunedin two days later and that’s where my pro career started.”
Being taken by Toronto came out of the blue for Pascoe.
“I talked to them a couple of times but I really didn’t hear much from them going into the draft so I really didn’t expect them to pick me but once they did, I was very excited to play for Canada’s team. They’re a great organization. I’ve been here for a year now and I love it.”
The Blue Jays persuaded Pascoe to turn down a chance to attend St. John University with a $100,000 signing bonus.
“It was a very tough decision because the staff from St. John, that’s where I’m from in New York. It would’ve been great to go play there but I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play professional baseball. I felt like the time was right and this is what I wanted to do but it was definitely a tough decision though.”
Reporting to Bluefield after being drafted, Pascoe picked up his first professional win in just his third outing with 1-2/3 innings of one-hit ball with one strikeout June 26 against Princeton.
Pascoe’s ERA after five outings was at 2.45 but his next five outings did not go as planned with the low point being an eight-run appearance without getting an out against Danville July 14. The arrow began pointing up again after completing the season with six scoreless showings out of eight.
“Definitely a lot of ups and downs. I think it was really good for me because I was able to go home and realize what I had to work on because I think when I got drafted, I was a pretty raw talent.
Good velocity and good stuff but I really didn’t know how to pitch so they told me what I had to work on. Fastball command, keep my off-speed down so I came back into spring training and really improved on that stuff. I’m still am (working on it) to this day but it’s something that I’m way better since a year ago when I got drafted.
It may have not been the best year for the first year of pro ball but it definitely helped me put me in the right direction of getting better.”
The daily grind of pro ball was something Pascoe had to get used to.
“It was really cool. Definitely a big transition going from college playing like four games a week and usually on the weekends. Now you’re playing everyday so it was a big transition for me but I feel I prepared myself. Growing up, you know, just having a routine and trying to be professional. Becoming one, I was like, ‘Alright, all I have to do is just keep working and keep the same routine I have that got me here.’ Transitioning to that was a lot but this is what I want to do. I’m enjoying it. It’s definitely a grind but it’s going great.
To help Pascoe prepare for the grind, he continued his off-season training of hitting the weights and throwing weighted baseballs to increase his velocity.
“I started throwing the Driveline weighted balls when I just graduated high school and that was about three years ago. That helped a lot. I also put on a lot of weight. When I was in high school, I was about 160 pounds and now I weigh in around 190 to 195. I got a lot stronger.
That’s what a big part of about what going to San Jacinto was a lot of kids were way bigger than me, way stronger so I was able to spot myself up with them, get in the weight room with them and it helped me so much. I’ve always had a really quick arm so adding that strength, that size really helped me throw a lot harder.
I always had a good arm so I’m just kind of honing it. Even now, I’m getting closer and closer everyday so I’m just going to keep working on it. The Jays are pretty confident in me and I’m very confident in myself too and I’m going to keep working and get a lot better.”
Though conventional wisdom suggests relief pitchers need just two pitches, Pascoe has three in his arsenal.
“I’m a fastball, changeup, slider guy. I think it’s a really good three-pitch mix for me. Especially coming out of the bullpen, most guys are just fastball and a breaking ball but I have three. I think that helps me a lot. Even when I get into trouble, I’m able to go to a couple of other pitches.”
Pascoe says he throws just one type of fastball.
“I just throw a two-seamer. I can’t throw a four-seamer even if I tried. It comes out like that. It’s just like a natural run so it’s actually a good thing but sometimes it’s harder to control so that’s I think what I keep working on everyday. It’s kind of trying to really get a good feel for it.”
The breaking pitch Pascoe has now is not the one he has now.
“It actually used to be a curveball and once I started throwing harder, it got a little shorter and harder so I think it started getting that kind of break. Once my pitching coach at college, Woody Williams, saw that, he was like, ‘Alright. We’ll just try to make it break a little less and later.’ Once I got that down, it’s been a really good pitch for me.”
Lansing & Vancouver
The 2019 season saw Pascoe make the leap from short-season ball to full-season ball with the Lansing Lugnuts. He collected his first Midwest League win against Fort Wayne April 7 but he battled consistency issues over his three-month stay with Lansing. Multiple-run outings over a five-game stretch in May was the low point but he rebounded with five straight scoreless outings to end the month of June.
“It was definitely a big jump but I was really excited for it. It was definitely a good experience for the time I was there for the whole first half. It’s definitely a really cool league. A lot of good ballplayers up there. That’s when it really starts getting real serious. A lot of guys were clean-cut baseball players. It was definitely a really good experience for me and I’m definitely glad I was able to break camp and go there for a couple of months.”
Though Pascoe was sent to Vancouver at the beginning of July, he feels like he is reliving the excitement of his rookie season in 2018.
“It’s kind of in the middle obviously of the Appy League and Midwest League but it’s definitely a really good league. A lot of talent. You see a lot of guys that just got drafted that are coming off big college seasons. They’re really pumped that they just got drafted. They’re kind of on the high of being a pro baseball player.
It’s a lot of fun to get around that again, especially my teammates too. I remember that feeling. It’s a great feeling. It’s a lot of fun to be around and I think this team is really turning the corner here and it’s a lot of fun to be around. I’m definitely glad I’m here and Vancouver is a great place to play.”
A professional first for Pascoe came July 20 when he collected the save by striking out the side against Tri-City at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“That was a great feeling. It was a packed house, it was a fireworks night. Definitely a big situation. I’ve been struggling a couple of times that I pitched here and that was a big step up for me to get that save and it was a great feeling definitely in front of this crowd.”
Pascoe was assigned number 32 with Vancouver but he switched to number three after infielder Davis Schneider was assigned to Bluefield. With his twitter handle being @Mpascoe8, Pascoe was hoping to regain the number he started with.
“I was always 8 growing up, it was just kind of like my number. I like single digits usually because the uniform is a little smaller but I always think, you know, it looks better. I just like single digits. I’m usually 8 but they actually didn’t have that here. I usually like single digits. It kind of reminds me of when I was a position player.”
Speaking of position players and single digits, Pascoe says his favourite player was a certain New York Yankees shortstop.
“When I was growing up, I was obviously a huge Yankees fan being in New York. I used to love watching Derek Jeter. I grew up watching him. I actually was fortunate enough to go watch his last game at Yankee Stadium. It was easily probably one of the best games I had ever seen in my life.
It was a great opportunity to watch the Yankees growing up and all those great guys go through. I kind of idolized them so I think that’s where I found my love for the game watching them.”
Thanks again to Mike Pascoe for participating in this edition of C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham for setting up the interview.