“Big” is a word that is constantly associated with Oakland Athletics 2017 eighth-round pick Brian Howard. At 6’9”, he is literally a big man on the mound. But his “bigness” extends beyond his tall frame. As the leader of the TCU pitching staff, Howard earned the nickname “Big Game Howie” for his firey personality and his ability to pitch well in important situations.
Howard had an opportunity to turn pro after the 2016 season when he was selected in the 17th round by the Houston Astros. He elected to return to the Horned Frogs for another chance to make the College World Series. Howard achieved that goal and moved up nine rounds in the draft. He finished his TCU career with a 3.46 ERA and 266 strike-outs in 263 innings.
After signing with the A’s, Howard joined the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters’ roster. He has been outstanding in his pro debut. Although pitching on an innings limit after a long college season, Howard has made his presence felt when on the mound. In 22.1 innings, he has a 1.61 ERA and a 22:1 K:BB. Opposing batters are hitting .244 against him.
Donald Moore spoke with Howard about his first season as a professional pitcher.
Donald Moore: Hi Brian, how is everything going for you so far this season?
Brian Howard: Really well, enjoying my time here in Vermont with the Lake Monsters.
DM: What are your goals for this year?
BH: Just trying to get better everyday. Learn how to pitch as a professional, especially after coming out of college baseball, and just trying to enjoy the time I’m having here with the guys and try to improve my craft.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a ball player?
BH: Probably my experience coming out of college and throwing a lot of innings as a starting pitcher in college. I feel as some of those things can translate into professional baseball and having pitched on big stages throughout my college career in the College World Series and that kind of thing, just being able to draw from those experiences and use what I learned there.
DM: What would you’d like to improve on?
BH: The touch and feel of some of my pitches. Being able to throw my change up more consistently and just overall as a competitor being more accustomed to professional baseball and learning how to get professional hitters out.
DM: How are you adjusting to pro ball?
BH: Pretty good so far I think. I’ve learned a lot since I have been here and I think I have continued to improve everyday and I’m trying to get better.
DM: What do you like best about being a professional athlete?
BH: Meeting new guys is pretty cool and I like seeing and hearing all their stories and learning about different people. I think that is my favorite part so far.
DM: Any pregame routine?
BH: I kind of try to do the same thing everyday. Eat the same meal the night before I start and wake up at the same time and eat the same breakfast and just kind of visualize having success on the mound and then the same throwing program and stretching all that kind of thing. So pretty much basic stuff.
DM: Any hobbies?
BH: I like to play video games. I’m not a big golfer, so I like shooting hoops. That’s pretty much it.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
BH: St. Louis Cardinals.
DM: Where are you originally from?
BH: St. Louis, Missouri.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
BH: [Former Oakland A’s starter and current TCU pitching coach] Kirk Saarloos. He actually pitched for the A’s. He was my pitching coach in college and was an incredible help to me and I owe pretty much everything I have to him, so definitely coach Loos.
DM: Craziest thing you have ever seen on a baseball diamond?
BH: Probably in 2015. My team was down 8 to 1 in an elimination game against NC State in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and we came back and won!
DM: Any off-season plans?
BH: Just lift and throw in Fort Worth, Texas.
DM: I want to thank you for your time and it was a pleasure to meet you and the best of luck to you as well.
BH: Thank you.
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