When a pitcher gets drafted, major league teams can care less about the size of the school they came from, if they can throw hard. While reliever Victor Lara attended tiny Division III Keystone College in Towanda, Pennsylvania, his ability to throw his fastball as hard as 98 mph got him quickly noticed by professional talent evaluators. As a result, he was taken in the 34th round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The right-handed Lara struggled in his first professional season in 2010 with Missoula in the Rookie level Pioneer League, posting an 8.02 ERA. But his average of more than a strikeout per inning displayed the promise that had made him a draft pick. He was much better in 2011 playing again with Missoula. Lara dropped his ERA to 4.80 in 22 games, while picking up a save and striking out 40 hitters in 30 innings. He will be looked upon again to improve even further in 2012, and is a good bet to start his season in A-ball.
I recently had an opportunity to find out more about this intriguing pitching prospect.
Who was your favorite team and player growing up, and why?
I have always loved the Florida Marlins. I’m a Florida boy and I grew up going to the stadium and watching them play. Growing up I always liked Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux; Ryan because of his fastball and Maddux because of his pin-point control and his movement.
Can you run through what your draft experience was like?
Well, I always wanted to get drafted and play in the big leagues like any other kid that plays baseball, but it was rough. I jumped two colleges and it was hard for me. I ended up at Keystone and had my chance to compete there even though I had to battle a few obstacles. Waiting for my name to be called in the draft had to be one of the most nerve wracking situations I’ve been put in my life, but at the same time I was excited. When I saw my friends from my school that got drafted to the same team, it was an awesome feeling.
You played college baseball at Keystone College, a Division III school; did you anticipate having an opportunity to be drafted after you decided to attend there?
In a way I did because of my ability, but in the back of my mind I was like ‘what I’m I doing here in the middle of nowhere? No one will come see me here play.’ But little did I know scouts started to show up to our practices and our games, and I started to get letters and phone calls, and I said to myself ‘there’s a chance,’ and every time I stepped on the field I played 110% and gave it my all. My dad always told me that they will find me anywhere I would play, and that’s exactly how it happened.
What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?
I throw a fastball, which is my best pitch, a slider, and a split change. The slider is the pitch I will have to work on the most and try to make it better.
How difficult is it to adapt to the life and routines of a professional baseball player?
It was tough on my body and on my mind. Playing every day is hard and you have to be prepared to do it, and to perform every day and every time your name is called.
What is the best baseball park/stadium you have ever played in?
I will have to say Billings, Montana, in rookie ball for the Cincinnati Reds.
You are in the 2011 Topps Pro Debut card set; what is it like having your own baseball card?
Yes, I have my own card. I think it’s awesome when you have something that your fans can have and show you and send you fan mail, and return the card signed. It’s an unbelievable feeling for any athlete.
Be sure to check out Victor Lara’s 2011 Topps Pro Debut Baseball Card and you can also follow him on Twitter @viclara34, to monitor his progress this upcoming season.