August 24, 2019

Nick Hagadone: Baseball, Coffee and Hard Work

August 4, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

It takes a great deal of confidence for a professional baseball player to succeed. There are few things that can better help tap into potential. Throughout his career, pitcher Nick Hagadone bet on himself and his talent and has seen it pay off again and again.

Growing up in the suburbs of Seattle, Hagadone loved the Mariners and quickly developed as a player. Coming out of high school, the left-handed hurler was good enough to be selected in the 36th round by his hometown team in 2004. The temptation to sign with them and live out his childhood dreams must have been overwhelming, but he elected to go to college; ending up at the University of Washington.

The decision to hone his game in college was a wise one. He became a dominant closer; teaming up with dominant teammate Tim Lincecum. The pair even combined for a no-hitter in 2006.

Hagadone went 6-1 with a 2.77 ERA and 11 saves in 25 appearances in 2007. His success propelled him into the conversation as one of the top prospects in the country. The Boston Red Sox pounced on him in the first round (55th overall selection) of that year’s draft.

Although injuries prevented him for fully showcasing himself, he steadily progressed and didn’t post an ERA above 2.52 in his first three seasons. However, mid-way through the 2009 season, he was a key piece in a package that saw him get shipped to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Victor Martinez.

Cleveland obviously had big plans for him, and he debuted in the big leagues in 2011. He spent parts of the next five seasons pitching for the Indians. Injuries continued to pump the breaks on his progress, but he established himself as a valuable reliever. His best season was in 2014, when he posted a 2.70 ERA in 35 appearances while striking out better than a batter per inning.

He left via free agency and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. He never pitched for them at the big-league level and moved on to the Mariners in 2017, bringing his career full circle to its initial starting point. He pitched well for them at Triple-A, but never got the call and called it a career at the end of the season.

In his five major league seasons he was a combined 3-2 with a 4.72 ERA in 143 relief appearances. He also recorded a save and struck out 122 batters in 118.1 innings.

Post playing career, Hagadone has doubled down on himself yet again. He still maintains ties to baseball and is involved in new and exciting business ventures. Keep reading for more from the lefty.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up my favorite player was Ken Griffey Jr. I lived about an hour away from Seattle and was a huge Mariners fan. As a kid, I always tried to mimic his hitting style and loved to watch him play.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 1st round by the Red Sox in 2007?: Draft day 2007 was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was the day that my childhood dreams became reality and also the day I knew that my life was going to change forever.

I remember sitting in my college apartment with my entire family around me. This was before the draft was televised, so we were all huddled around the computer waiting for my name to pop up. I’d heard that I could go anywhere from pick  number 31-on, but I also knew that the draft is unpredictable, and that anything could happen.

As each pick went by, I found myself getting more and more anxious. Was I going to get picked? Would I slide way down due to some factor that was outside of my control?

At first, I had my hopes up that Seattle would pick me. They had the 52nd pick that year and I’d talked to them a few times during the season. But they ended up passing and I had to accept the fact that I’d most likely be leaving home to pursue my career.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, the Red Sox drafted me 55th overall. When my name popped up next to the Red Sox logo I jumped up and hugged both my parents and my girlfriend (who’s now my wife). Tears came to my eyes; all of the anxiousness left and was replaced with an ecstatic feeling.

That night I did an interview with some of the Boston media and reality set in. I was going to be part of one of the most storied organizations in baseball and I was going to have the opportunity to earn my way to the big leagues. From then, I knew that I would work as hard as possible to make that a reality.

How receptive were you to converting to relief from starting?: I was converted to relief during the middle of the 2010 season when I was in Akron. It was my first stint in Double-A and at the time I was struggling to throw strikes consistently. After Tommy John surgery in 2008 my mechanics had gotten severely out of whack and I was battling to return to my pre-surgery form.

I was actually the one who suggested the move from starting because I knew that being a reliever was a faster track to the big leagues. On the other hand, I also knew that I could get away with only having two pitches and that I didn’t have to have exceptional command. Most people would have looked at it as a demotion, but I framed it as an opportunity to take on a role that suited me better.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Oakland Athletics?: The feeling of running onto a big-league field for the first time is something that I will never forget. As I made my way from our center field bullpen I couldn’t feel my body, it was almost like I was floating. My mind was calm, but I had so much adrenaline that the feel was gone.

I came into the game with bases loaded and nobody out. Our ace at the time, Roberto Hernandez, had struggled and I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t cash in 3 more of his runs to make the day worse.

I faced Coco Crisp, Hideki Matsui and Brandon Allen and made it out of the inning only giving up a sacrifice fly. I also recorded my first strikeout on the last hitter, he swung at a fastball that was nowhere near where I wanted it to be and I walked off the field feeling like I was there to stay.

Which one hitter intimidated you more than any other, and why?: I can honestly say that I have never been intimidated facing any hitter. When I would face the bigger named guys, I would default to being more aggressive because I knew that if I made mistakes they would capitalize on them and I’d get hurt.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My favorite moment from my baseball career came in 2015 when we were in Seattle playing the Mariners. I came into a close game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded to face Kyle Seager who was one of their better hitters at the time. We knew that he was probably sitting on a fastball, so we started him off with a first pitch cutter for strike one. Then I threw him a fastball that he fouled off and a curve ball that he swung and missed at for strike three.

The thing that made this my favorite moment wasn’t necessarily that I’d struck someone out with the bases loaded, it was the fact that I was in my hometown playing against the team I’d watched since I was a young kid. I had my whole family at the game and there were a bunch of other people that I knew growing up who’d decided to come and watch.

Being able to have a moment like that, in front of friends and family is something that I will never forget. Thinking back, I can replay the images from that almost as vividly as I could right after they happened.

What was your reaction to being traded to the Cleveland Indians from Boston?: Getting traded to the Indians was a bit of a shock for me because I’d only been healthy for about a month. I was coming off of Tommy John surgery and not quite at full strength. But, I decided to look at it as an opportunity to succeed in a new setting. I was part of the package that the Indians had gained in exchange for Victor Martinez, so I knew that they valued my potential as a pitcher.

If anything, it was more motivation for me to continue working hard and developing my skills. I wanted to prove them right in taking a risk to acquire me.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?:
Terry Francona was far and away my favorite manager for a couple of reasons:

First, he’s very good at putting his players in situations where they are likely to succeed. This was especially true for how he utilized the bullpen; he was always bringing us into games where there was a favorable matchup and we knew that he trusted us to get the job done.

Second, and more importantly, he’s a world class leader and knows how to get the best out of his players. He was definitely a player’s manager, but there were expectations set from the beginning and we all did our best to exceed them. I appreciated the fact that we knew he had our backs at all times and that he had our best interests in mind.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Looking back, I can truly say that I wouldn’t have done anything differently throughout my career. I gave everything I had every day that I showed up to the ballpark and for that reason I live with no regrets.

Sure, I wish I threw more strikes, gave up less home runs and had a longer injury free career, but those things just weren’t in the cards for me. However, I can say that during my 10-year pro career I never skipped a rep, went half speed on a drill or took even one day for granted. I sleep well at night knowing that I did everything possible to put myself in the best position to succeed.

It wasn’t easy for me, but I look at the struggles that I endured throughout my career as lessons learned that can now be applied in my everyday life.

What are you up to these days?: These days I’m enjoying more time at home with my wife and two children, who are six and four. I love spending quality time with my family and watching them grow up.

Career wise, I’m doing a bunch of different things:

  • Recently my wife and I started an online coffee company called Launch Coffee Company (com and @launchcoffeeco on Instagram & Facebook). We’re both passionate about good coffee so we decided to build a company that’s focused on delivering it to both households and businesses around the country.
  • I work for a company called E|L1 (Elysian One) who’s mission is to change youth sports for the better. We have several baseball facilities in Washington and California and I work on the baseball side of our operation.
  • I also have a real estate business that I formed with my good friend and a former ballplayer, Troy Martin. We do both traditional realty and own investment properties.

Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew or on Facebook.

He has also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on baseball that are available on Amazon

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