By Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak caught up with Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter to discuss starting vs. relieving, higher education and imitating dinosaurs. Suter, 27, was 0-1 with a 4.08 earned-run average in eight appearances with the Brewers this season heading into his start against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.
Q. You're making your second start of the season for the Brewers on Monday on short notice after pitching out of the bullpen. In the minor leagues, 92 of your 128 career appearances have come as a starter. Do you have a preference?
A. I definitely think it adds value to me, and they've told me that in meetings. Not having the high-powered stuff but having versatility lets me play a different role and be a valuable member of the pitching staff. Long-term, I guess I'd prefer starting just because you can really have a routine and keep your strength and your routine going throughout the year. But for right now, this is a role I really enjoy. One of the good things about pitching in this role is you can just go out and just leave it all out there, throw every pitch with conviction. Maybe the results aren't great, but you can rest assured that you gave it your all that day.
Q. You've been up and down from Class AAA Colorado Springs five times already this season. That might drive some players crazy, but you've always handled it well. How do you do it?
A. For me, there's no other choice than to have gratitude and a grateful outlook about it. I just kind of keep pinching myself that I'm in the big leagues, going back and forth between two of the highest levels of baseball in the world. Hopefully it's the right approach. I'm just taking it one day at a time and enjoying every moment I can.
Q. How has your wife, Erin, handled the uncertainty that comes with your job?
A. The first two months of the season she was still teaching in Cincinnati. Being a teacher (fifth-grade math) is great job to have with a professional ballplayer as a husband – couldn't work out better with the summers off. Then during the summer she goes where I go. Hopefully I'll stick up here, but she'll go back and forth now if I do.
Q. How did you guys meet?
A. We went to elementary school together. Met in second grade but never really hung out in the same groups. Then we re-connected early in college and just hit it off from there. Started texting and going out. Lot of years of long distance because I was up in Boston going to school and she was at Miami of Ohio. But it's been worth every bit of it.
A. I didn't have a lot of interest coming out of high school (Moeller in Cincinnati) because I wasn't a high-velocity guy. I was looking more Division III. Emory and MIT had some interest in me. I had some other Ivy League, and some mediocre interest from some Big Ten schools. But then Harvard came with some serious interest late in the fall of my senior year, and for me it was a no-brainer because I wanted to play baseball at a decent school. It turned out to be a great choice. I loved every minute of it. It was awesome.
Q. You don't hear of many ballplayers choosing between Harvard and MIT. What was your interest level in MIT?
A. Out of high school I had high hopes of going into environmental engineering. I majored in environmental science and public policy at Harvard. Being able to play baseball and doing classes would have turned into five to six classes a semester, which was a lot. I don't think I could have done that. But I'm glad I picked the major I did. I had a lot of interesting classes. MIT tends to be more the hard math and science base. They're wicked smart (laughs). Harvard has more of a mix, more literature and science.
Q. What do you do with a degree in environmental science and public policy?
A. I would love to do anything in the renewable energy realm, environmental consulting. Maybe be a private consultant for private companies and say, 'Hey, here's where we can save costs and eliminate waste at the same time.' I think that would be something I'd be good at and have an interest in. People from my major sometimes go to med school, sometimes go to law school and go into policy writing. So there's a lot of options, I guess. But I would go more the environmental-renewable energy route.
Q. General manager David Stearns also graduated from Harvard. Does that earn you some brownie points?
A. You'll have to ask him (laughs). But what's funny is the scout that drafted me (Steffan Wilson) was a Harvard guy. He played in the Brewers organization (drafted in the 28th round in 2007). It was his first year scouting and some other guys in my class were getting looks in pro ball and we kind of assumed he wasn't able to draft us because of the Harvard thing. I didn't even talk to him during the season but I had a good workout for him right before the draft. He ends up drafting me and our GM is a Harvard guy who calls me up last year. Surprising connections here.
Q. Being a student would be challenging enough at Harvard. What was it like balancing the books and baseball?
A. We'd have four classes a semester, and that's what I was doing. Falls were definitely more chill because we just had fall ball and then we got into conditioning and weightlifting. But spring could get challenging with having to leave Fridays for some weekend trips and being on the road all the time and having weekday games. It definitely taught you how to balance your time. You had to make sure you took advantage of every second you had work-wise. It was a good challenge.
Q. When did it start becoming a possibility that you could be drafted?
A. I had some serious interest after my sophomore summer. I had a good summer in the Great Lakes League and then junior year I had a lot of interest from scouts; I had a good pro day. Then I had a really bad junior season and went to the Cape Cod League and kind of rebounded a little bit, but the interest was still waning. So I was definitely going to job interviews and making sure I had a backup plan because baseball was 50-50. Then things just lined up at the end and I got picked up by the Brewers. It was awesome.
Q. What were your expectations?
A. As a 31st-round pick you have high hopes but you don't have expectations, necessarily. You just want to give it your all and your best shot. But if you don't make it you still got drafted. I was at the point when I got drafted where I was just grateful to be in pro ball, as anyone should, really. Getting paid to play a game was unreal. The gratitude was kicking into high gear. Then as I advanced it kind of became more realistic to start dreaming about the big leagues, I guess. Then last year when it happened, it was phenomenal.
Q. It says in your bio in the media guide that you enjoy playing the guitar, song writing, dancing and cooking. Would you call yourself a worldly guy?
A. I'd consider myself a musical guy. I really like playing guitar, making beats in the bullpen and what not. But worldly? I think I have a long ways to go to be called a renaissance man or anything like that. I've got some peculiar talents, I guess.
Q. Another one of your talents is your famous "raptor" run. Where did that come from?
A. Really, it started with Tim Dillard. I have a pretty slouched run, and so he kept on saying I ran like a raptor. Then every time I'd do sprints near the relievers where he'd be stretching, he'd just go, "Rawwwwwwwwwr!" Eventually he had me come in as a Dubsmash guest and do the raptor runs in the background, and I guess it just took off. Then last year Mike (Vassallo, Brewers senior director, media relations) asked me what I wanted my music to be and I was like, "I don't really care." He goes, " 'Jurassic Park' theme song all right?" And I was like, "OK." (laughs) That's how it happened, pretty much."
Q. You throw left-handed, obviously, but do you do everything else lefty as well?
A. Yep. Hit, golf, ping pong. I'm right-footed. That's the only thing.
Q. Lefties have a reputation for being quirky, shall we say. Do you resemble that remark?
A. Personally, yeah. I definitely fit the mold, for sure (laughs). But hopefully in a good way. More goofy and weird, I'd say. I'd consider myself a lefty that way, through and through.