This is the second in a series of interviews conducted by Steve Potter.
Minor League Spotlight : Will Hibbs
Will Hibbs was the Phillies 19th round draft choice in the 2016 amateur draft from Lamar University. Hibbs was 17-7 with a 4.21 ERA in 60 games ( 231 IP) with 199 K during his four year career at Lamar. He was 9-3 in 17 games ( 15 starts) during his senior season with a 3.27 ERA in 96.1 IP with 97 K. He was twice named first team All-Southland Conference during his career and earned the Louisville Slugger national player of the week for a 14 strikeout game over McNeese State and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association chose him as the Pitcher of the Month for April during his senior year as he posted a 5-0 record with a 1.75 ERA. Will also excelled in the classroom at Lamar winning the Southland Conference’s McDonald Award which is given to the conference’s top academic graduates. One other unique experience Will experienced was playing in the prestigious Alaska Baseball League during the summer of 2015 where he posted a 3-0 record with a 0.46 ERA in 39 innings with 31 K in 10 games for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. He also made the all-star team.
Hibbs attended Friendswood High School in Friendswood, Texas where he was a 2012 pre-season All American. He posted a 5-2 record with a sparkling 0.18 ERA and three saves during his senior year. He earned all district honors in both his junior and senior seasons and also played basketball at Friendswood earning all district honors in that sport as well.
Will’s first pro season was spent at short season Williamsport where he posted a 3-4 record with a stellar 1.44 ERA in 19 games ( 31.1 IP) with 27 strikeouts. He also recorded 4 saves. Hibbs posted a 0.86 WHIP and opposing batters hit just .162 against him. It was an excellent first pro season. Hibbs features a plus fastball that sits at around 95 mph and can reach the upper 90’s on occasion.
Recently I had the chance to correspond with Will, here are some questions I asked him and his responses.
What was your reaction to being drafted? Who contacted you ? What was your favorite team growing up?
” I had a few emotions once I was drafted. Honestly, it was mainly relief/elation to finally hear my name called. I heard from an area scout to make sure I was interested in signing with the Phillies (to which I said, absolutely) about 30 minutes prior to being drafted. Being from Texas, born and raised, the Astros and Rangers were my “teams”, but I all of a sudden had a new found love for Philadelphia!”
Coming from Texas what have you heard about fans in Philly?
“I have not had any exposure to the fans in Philly, but I heard they’re hardcore. I’m excited to experience that in the future.”
What were your impressions of Williamsport? The ballpark is historic, did you enjoy playing there?
“Williamsport was outstanding. It has an iconic feel, as the stands are very close to the field and you can hear anything and everything throughout the ballpark (the mascot driving the 4-wheeler is a nice touch, too.)”
Talk about playing and growing up in Friendswood? Small town? Tell us a little about your high school days, accomplishments in baseball, academics or other sports please, things that stood out?
” Friendswood is a smaller town with a huge focus on the high school. I was fortunate enough to play baseball and basketball there, while keeping a solid GPA (had to keep momma happy), ultimately earning a scholarship to Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.”
Talk a bit about the experience of playing in Alaska, what was that like? Did you have any chances to explore the countryside there a little?
” I always tell anyone to go to Alaska if they have the chance. Being an outdoors man, I had a blast living and touring “The Last Frontier”. From fishing for trout during the Rush, to seeing Moose almost daily, there was never a dull moment. The sun being up for 21 hours a day did take some getting used to, though. Besides the state itself, the baseball was extremely competitive and I truly think that the Alaskan Baseball League prepared me for future baseball success.”
This is your first spring training. There is a lot of opportunity for fan interaction, is that something you enjoy?
” My first spring training is off to a great start. I am thoroughly enjoying my “profession” of playing a game every day. I love being able to interact with the fans, given that I was in their position not too long ago. I am looking forward to a lot of competition during these next three weeks.”
What is your goal this season?
” Not to be cliche, but my goal this season is to be the best pitcher I can be: execute pitches, collect outs, and help the team win.”
Tell us about your brief experience as a pro ball player, where do you stay, how much of your day is at the ballpark?
“This past season in Williamsport, I stayed with a host family (they were great!). A typical day for a home game was getting to the field by noon-ish for lunch, followed by stretching and throwing, then batting practice, then opponent’s batting practice, with the game starting at 7. We usually spend about 10 hours at the field per day.”
How about some thoughts on minor league life as compared to high school and college, what stands out the most? Did you play little league also, when did you realize that you had the ability to play pro ball?
“The biggest difference between high school, college, and pro ball is the time. With high school and college, you play 2-4 games a week and practice on the “off” days. In pro ball, games are being played every night and are preceded by practice regiments. I started playing baseball when I was 5 years old and never stopped. I liked basketball equally, but realized my love for baseball when I started to see improvements in my game.”
The Phillies Minor League system is loaded with talent at each level, winning records have been consistent the last few seasons, how does it feel to be part of such a successful program?
“It is an absolute honor to be a part of the Phillies organization. The coaches are outstanding, and I can’t wait to get to the complex every day to learn more and more information about the art of pitching.”
Who has been the biggest influence on you in baseball so far? How did they influence you?
“Again with the cliches, but my father has undoubtedly the most influential person in my life, as well as my baseball career. He has been there every step of the way to support, coach, and cheer for me.”
The stress of the game is often referred to as part of the grind, how do you stay both mentally and physically fresh?
“Professional baseball is absolutely a grind. For me, the key to staying physically and mentally prepared is to get enough sleep. I utilize any chance I get to take a nap. I also try to keep a short memory about my pitching. Whether my previous outings were good or bad, they’re in the past, and I try to focus on the task at hand.”
Will is yet another of the very talented young pitchers in the Phillies system, I look forward to watching how he advances up the ladder and wish him well this summer.