An Interview With Brisbane Bandits (ABL) and Red Sox Prospect Pitcher, Justin Erasmus

Photo taken from Google Images

Maturity and success aren’t always aligned with years on the diamond; just ask Australian sensation Justin ErasmusThe Boston Red Sox know this, having snapped Erasmus up as a free agent at just 17.  This now 21-year-old right handed pitcher is carving his name around the globe in baseball.

Currently on the Brisbane Bandits roster, Erasmus is a star player in his second season with the newly revived Australian Baseball League.  Here are some insights into his quirky superstitions, how he keeps his money-maker in check, the Sox and what really goes on in the bullpen…

Sox Prospects describes your pitch as “Smooth, over-the-top and deliberate”, can you elaborate?

I think they’ve got it spot on – I try to be as sound as I can with my mechanics.  I’ll go with pretty much exactly what they said.

How do you keep your arm in check?

I do a shoulder program around three times a week, but every day I’ll do Thera-Band work and pretty much just throwing and lots of stretching.  Every time at the field I’ll do internal and external rotations, more stretching, then recovery – involves loads of ice.

General fitness – what do you do to maintain your performance level?

It is pretty difficult; I’m on a Red Sox Training Program and a gym routine. Right now it’s five days a week and it’s tough because I’ve got training and then pitching on the weekend.  So I go – Monday I’ll do legs, Tuesday upper body, Wednesday legs again, Thursday upper body, Friday is a light kind of mellow recovery day and weekends I’m running around playing baseball.

Which aspects of your pitching game are you currently working on and aiming to improve?

Throwing strikes, trying to throw a Cutter right now which is pretty much a fastball but a little different.  Throwing a Cutter is my focus, more change ups, pretty much pitching in general, just trying to do something different than just straight.  It’s all about finger pressure and how you release the ball.

Considering your high pressure role, are you always tense during games?

When I’m there, this might sound really weird, but I don’t pay much attention to the actual game, I try to mellow out, have some fun in the bullpen and then when they call ‘Erasmus do you want to get ready?’ I go through my pregame routine; before I go out there I give everyone a fist pump thing, pump myself up a little bit and once I get to the mound, I know my job is to get that guy out any way, shape or form.

How do you relax and then go straight in to playing mode?

It’s turning it on.  If you’re 100% ready to go every single game and you don’t throw the first three games, by the fourth you are mentally drained.  When you finally go on to pitch, you won’t be as good as you should be.  I’ve learnt how to turn it on and turn it off, so most of the time I’m off and then, when my name gets called, I just mentally flip, I don’t talk too much, I do what I need to do to get warm.  When I run out there it’s all adrenaline and then I slow down. When the first hitter steps in, I’m ready and then it’s just trying to get him out – any way.

How do you pass the time in the bullpen?

You chill out, you have fun.  Obviously you watch a bit of the game, you’ve got to note what some hitters do but you’re not 100% on the game.  You’ve got to be able to zone out and a change back really quickly, like snap back into it.

Once on the mound, what do you end up saying to yourself?

Before I get to there, I’ve got a lot of pregame/prepitch superstitions so that’s pretty much the switch – saying “Alright, you’ve got to go to work” and I just tell myself “Hey, stay back, throw the ball down, throw a strike” – that’s pretty much it.  Hit a spot, I’m confident in everything I throw so I just make sure I hit that spot.

A lot of people have asked me to find out what the ball-behind-the-head routine is about.  Can you explain it?

What it is, is a tap the back of my right foot and touch my hat and it’s like a signal – right, go to work.  It’s a switch, you’ve just thrown your first pitch and that’s over and done with and now you’ve got to do it all over again, start again.  So if I miss and throw a ball, I’ll do that and prepare myself for the next pitch, hopefully a better one.

Pitchers in particular are known to be superstitious players, I guess only you can really understand it…

I have a lot of rituals, superstitions, and that works so I’m not going to go changing it.  If you could get a video of these superstitions that would be pretty funny but there are also a lot of behind the scenes superstitions no one really knows about.

Fair to say you’re quite a controlled player…

Yes, I am focused, I’m over analytical, I think a lot which makes me aggressive on the mound.  I know my job, I know what I’ve got to do and I’ll do anything to get that job done.

Obviously you understand it’s not just harnessing your skill in one way…

Baseball is 90% mental – once you’re happy with yourself and have developed your own strategies, it makes it a whole lot easier.  I learnt that from Phil Jauncey (Australia’s foremost Performance Psychologist), he gives you a test that defines your approach to life and getting ahead and you go from there.  I am a ‘Mozzie’ thinker which means I talk a lot, I’ve got a lot of energy and when it comes down to it, I like to analyze things and make sure I’ve got it all sorted out properly.

Finally – why Bandits, why a second time around?

Pretty much working with KJ (Kevin Jordon, Bandits Manger and former Philadelphia Phillies infielder) again.  I spoke to him a lot last season, he is a great guy who knows so much about baseball. He knows my situation; he knows what I’ve got to do.  KJs been in the big leagues – I respect him a lot.  Right now, I’m back living at home with my family which is great because I spend 9 to 10 months out of the country, being around them when I can is really important.

Erasmus was one of just two Brisbane Bandits handpicked to play for Team Australia in the Australian Baseball League All-Stars game in Perth on December 21st which aired on the MLB Network.

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