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The huddle

March 29, 2019 Emma McCarthy

Pittsburgh Pirates Drew Fischer | Drafted Junior Year

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After Drew Fischer’s junior year, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 35thround of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft. Drew is a right-handed pitcher and is amongst 17 other baseball players from Amherst College to be selected in the MLB Draft. What makes Drew a stand out from that group is he is only one of three to be chosen after his junior year.

LRT Sports: At what age did you begin playing baseball? Was pitching always your position of choice?

Drew Fischer: I can’t ever remember life without baseball, I’ve been playing for so long.  I started playing catch with my dad and sister as a little kid and fell in love immediately.  I pitched growing up, but primarily was a switch-hitting catcher until the end of my sophomore year in high school.  I was recovering from an ATV accident that permanently crippled my left arm, making it difficult to frame pitches and hit.  I honestly thought it was the end of my career because I had spent my entire life training to be a switch-hitting catcher. In retrospect, it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. In one of my first starts as a pitcher I threw a no-hitter. After that I decided to give pitching my full attention.  

LRT Sports: Did you participate in any other sports competitively?

Drew Fischer: I played everything growing up: basketball, soccer, golf, hockey, rowing, speedskating, and baseball, of course.  I played hockey and baseball the most seriously and loved both equally.  I left hockey after dealing with a compression fractured back and a concussion before high school started. Then I started focusing fully on baseball. However, my athletic peak may have occurred on the speed skating track at 11.  I was the US national champion in the 444 meter  after being edged out by a Canadian at the yearly North American meet. Full disclosure: everyone else fell or got disqualified in that final race, but a win is a win, I guess.  

LRT Sports: What made you continue playing baseball in college?

Drew Fischer: I know it’s cliché, but for the love of the game and my teammates. I couldn’t imagine life without baseball (I still can’t), and didn’t think about going somewhere I couldn’t play baseball.  I also love being a part of a team and the character attributes that baseball rewards and cultivates: grit, passion, discipline, teamwork. I want more out of baseball than just being able to throw a rock hard. Playing college ball gave me some of my most treasured memories and some of the best friends I’ve ever had, while allowing me to get closer to developing into the person I want to become.

LRT Sports: What makes baseball so fulfilling for you?

Drew Fischer: Being in the moment. Baseball, and especially pitching, pulls me into the present moment unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. Nothing else matters when I’m out there.  I chase that clarity of mind off the field, but have yet to find something that gives me goosebumps the way that baseball still continuously does. I have a tendency to overthink things: school, relationships, deadlines, etc., and my training and pursuit of excellence on the baseball field gives me a singular focus.  It’s meditative when I get in the zone during training and competition.

LRT Sports: Now that you are playing professionally – how much time a day do you dedicate to your performance?

Drew Fischer: The majority of my day revolves around baseball. Chasing your athletic potential, and the opportunity to play baseball at the world’s highest stage, is a big commitment.  It would be difficult for me to give a time frame for how often I prepare because every decision I make is based on maximizing performance. What I eat, when I sleep, how I recover, how I prepare, how I think, and even my relationships I have outside of baseball are all under constant evaluation for what’s going to make me better and push the needle. Most people view that as sacrificing a lot, but I really don’t.  This is exactly what I want to be doing.

LRT Sports: What was your recruiting process like? Did you only look at D3 schools?

Drew Fischer: I’m still a little bitter about my recruiting process.  I really wanted to go to Harvard or Princeton and they both told me I didn’t throw hard enough, which really got under my skin.  I turned to schools like Amherst and Williams and fell in love with Amherst on my recruiting trip.  While not being recruited by Division I schools still causes me to play with a chip on my shoulder, I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities and friendships I’ve had at Amherst.  Going there was by far the best decision I’ve ever made. I could go on forever on why Amherst was the perfect fit, but for the sake of brevity I can definitively say it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

LRT Sports: What advice can you offer to athletes who are looking to play at the nest level?

Drew Fischer: Understand what you want from your sport.  Some people like playing their sport and want to use it to get into a good school for opportunities outside of the sport.  Some want a chance to play professionally or at the highest level possible. Some want to be a part of a special team. Being honest with what you want out of your sport, on and off the field, will help you find the right fit.  I’ve seen bench players at Amherst get more out of baseball and their athletic careers than perennial all conference players. Knowing who you are and what you want to do with your sport is crucial to your experience as a student-athlete.

LRT Sports: Was making the decision to leave Amherst after your junior year tough or did you know this was your chance to go pro?

Drew Fischer: It was a no-brainer.  I had a feeling I was going to have the opportunity based on the interest I was getting from MLB teams my junior year, and sat down with my future agents to talk about logistics.  While I hated having to do it, we had to put a dollar amount on leaving Amherst. That decision wasn’t motivated by ego or finances, but by wanting to play for a team that was genuinely invested in me as a player. The greatest way to quantify that investment is money.  I wanted to play for a team who thought I had a chance of developing into a major league player and was fully prepared to head back to Amherst if I didn’t receive the right offer. I was incredibly fortunate to have received the right offer from the Pirates and didn’t think twice about the decision to turn professional.

LRT Sports: Now that you are playing professionally, do you see a difference in the pressure you experience compared to when you played at Amherst?

Drew Fischer: I think I feel less pressure now than I did at Amherst.  At Amherst, I felt like I needed to make every inning count.  When MLB scouts started showing up to games, sending questionnaires, getting coffee with me, and measuring the circumference of my ankles and length of my forearms (yes, one team actually did that) I started feeling the pressure. I’ve become more comfortable with the ambiguity of pro ball and feel more comfortable out on the mound.  I control what I can control and try not to worry about anything else. I think that’s mostly part of the maturation process any athlete goes through. I just think I went through it, and am still going through it, later than most. I’ve always been my toughest critic and put too much pressure on myself. I’ve learned to relax more, but am still looking for ways to get better in that regard.

LRT Sports: Do you have any superstitions you have carried with you since your high school or college days?

Drew Fischer: Not really.  I used to be into superstitions but now I’m all about routine and refining my routine.  My routine is dynamic; I try anything and everything out there.  If it works and I like it, it stays. If it isn’t pushing the needle, I get rid of it.  I don’t really ever do things just for the sake of doing things, and evaluate everything I’m doing to see the benefits I’m getting from it. I guess one unwritten baseball rule that stuck is never stepping on the chalk line when coming on or off the field. I don’t know why, but that one stuck.

LRTS Sports: Do you have any pre-game rituals or ways to get you mentally ready for a game?

Drew Fischer: Breathing.  I moved from the starting rotation in college to the bullpen in pro ball and struggled with the mental change that move entailed. In college, I knew exactly when I was throwing and could prepare well in advance.  My teammates would rip me for some of my fanatical warmups and routines. Now, I have to be ready to enter the game with little warning and get warm in a hurry. I have a breathing routine when I think I’m getting hot and then one as I’m entering the game.  The life of a reliever is chaotic and so many factors lie out of our control. Even if I can’t control my warm-up the way that I want to, I can control my breathing. It helps me flip the switch and dive into the present moment.

Fun fact – baseball is the oldest sport at Amherst  

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