Many athletes don’t have the privilege to play in front of true hometown fans. The Baltimore Orioles Triple-A affiliate the Norfolk Tides currently have a left-handed pitcher in Clay Rapada, a homegrown player who was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on their roster.
The 33-year-old is a graduate of Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake and is in his thirteenth season as a pro.
Camden Chat’s Ted Warren talked with Clay before a Saturday night contest against the Rochester Red Wings, the top affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
C.C.: What can you tell readers about playing baseball in Portsmouth, VA?
C.R.: I played Little League in Cradock. It had a history of good ball players, but it was in a part of the town where it was a little bit lower class. I still had a great childhood and I still have friends there I keep in touch with. It was a good time.
C.C.: This area is rich with MLB talent. Did you play with anyone who is from this area who is in the MLB now?
C.R.: I played with David Wright and B. J. Upton in high school, when our Legion teams combined. I played against Mike Cuddyer with him being from Great Bridge (Deep Creek's rival). I played against Ryan Zimmerman in summer leauge. So I've got my fair taste against Major League hitters in this area.
C.C.: When did you start pitching full-time?
C.R.: I played both ways, first base and pitcher in college (Virginia Union). After my freshman year, I kind of knew if there was going to be a future it would be as a pitcher.
C.C.: What can you tell readers about signing your first contract with the Chicago Cubs?
C.R.: I was in the middle of transferring to ODU when the Chicago Cubs came to me. They were my team as a child so it was hard to turn them down. I got to live out two dreams: signing with them and making my debut with them.
C.C.: What pitches do you currently throw?
C.R.: Fastball, Changeup and a little Cutter.
C.C. Which is your go-to pitch?
C.R.: I'd say my curveball. It's the one pitch against lefties I can throw anytime and I locate it pretty well.
C.C.: How does it feel to play in front of hometown fans?
C.R.: It always nice. At any point in the season there is going to be a handful of people watching and supporting me so it's always nice to have friends and family here.
C.C.: How do you limit distractions being so close to home?
C.R.: This is my thirteenth year so I've gotten into a routine. I have priorities and then I have my work priorities, so I've been able to filter them.
C.C.: Can you name some mentors you had along the way?
C.R.: Darren Oliver was one of my mentors when I was with Texas. He made things a lot easier for me with him being left-handed and playing for twenty years. The knowledge he had of the game was very valuable.
C.C.: What season sticks out in your mind after thirteen years?
C.R.: 2012 with the Yankees, because it was my first full season. I always had four or five months here and there with other teams, but to be on the opening day squad and to make the playoffs with the team I started with clearly in my mind is the highlight of my career.
Follow Ted on Twitter @Bauerhockeydude