Rookie David Hale Discusses Achieving His Dream of Pitching for His Hometown Team, the Atlanta Braves
David Hale is a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves in Major League Baseball’s
NL East. As a rookie this year (2014), he has pitched both as a part of the starting lineup and as a reliever, with a 1-0 record, 19 strikeouts and a 1.59 ERA. Raised in Marietta, Georgia, he graduated from Princeton University in 2011 with a B.Sc. in Operations Research and Financial Engineering.
Q. What’s it like to play for the team you grew up watching?
A. I grew up just wanting to make the major leagues. But to get drafted by the Braves? It’s really unbelievable. My aunts and uncle all thought I chose to play for Atlanta. They said stuff like, “We’re so glad you chose the Braves and decided to stay at home.” They didn’t realize that it was just pure luck of the draw. I was just so lucky to be able to play. But to be able to step foot on the mound that I’ve gone to see at games since I was a kid, it’s incredible. And our coaches, like Terry Pendleton, are guys I grew up watching. [Former Braves pitchers] John Smoltz and Tom Glavine are now broadcasters for the games. It’s pretty cool to be able to part of all of it.
How tough has it been to get to where you are today?
It’s been a long road, but baseball has always been fun. When I was a kid it was fun. And in college it was a release to be able to have a couple of hours a day to just run around and play. It was awesome. The Minor Leagues I would say was the most difficult part – the different cities, the terrible hotels. Things get better and better as you move up, but the Minor Leagues aren’t glamorous. It’s not the life that people imagine a professional athlete living. And at times it did become a job, playing 140 games in the Minor Leagues. [But while] that was probably the toughest part, once I got that call up to the Majors, it made the experience
worth the wait.
When did you experience the most self-doubt and how did you overcome it?
Every year in the minor leagues I started off pretty terribly. I remember getting on the phone with my parents and asking them, “Look, is this even going to happen? Am I wasting years of my life that I could be making money working at a job my degree had set me up for?” The first few months of those seasons where I started off poorly were extremely difficult. There’s not much to boost your spirits when you’re doing poorly. But you live and you learn, and each year has been better for me.
What do you do to stay focused during a 162 game baseball season?
Yeah, it can get difficult at times. They [the manager and coaches] pretty
much keep us on a regular routine, and I think they do it just because they
know it can get difficult. I think the best word is monotonous. By the time
you get to August, you’ve seen 120 games and you’ve still got another 40
to watch. But you kind of just get it in your head that you have to keep it
going. They make sure you do [certain] lifts and that you get out there and throw.
What has surprised you the most about being a Major League pitcher?
I’d say the most unexpected thing has been how many people have been there to support me. For example, the day I got called up [to the Major Leagues], I had Facebook and text messages from middle and elementary school teachers, people who I hadn’t talked to in years, saying, “Hey I’m coming to the game”, “I wish you luck”, and that kind of thing. It was really cool to know that so many people were supporting me. It’s been by the far the most surprising, humbling, and warming thing that I’ve experienced.
Interview conducted by Nick Antoine
About the Author
A business enthusiast and biography buff, Nick Antoine holds an A.B. in History from Princeton University and is currently a research associate for a financial firm in the Chicago area. He is the founder of graham + west, a blog that presents insights into American culture through highlights from interviews with leading authorities in business, art, science, sports, and politics. You can visit his site at http://www.grahamandwest.com/