With a fastball clocking in at over 95 mph and a nasty slider that makes some batters look like little leaguers, sophomore pitcher Dillon Tate has established himself this season as one of the best closers in the nation. If his 0.71 ERA and perfect 10-for-10 save record is not enough proof, Tate has also been added as a nominee for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s Stopper of the Year Award, an honor handed to the nation’s best relief pitcher.
Earlier this week, I sat down with Tate to gain some insight into everything about school, his love for the Red Sox and Rick Ross (ruugh).
Q: How do you balance your school work, social life and then baseball?
A: That’s pretty tough because we’re in school for a long time throughout the day and week, and we’re also on the field throughout the week as well. But I’d say the calendars we have set up on the computer help me a lot to get organized and just being really cautious of my time and trying to manage. That is what helps me.
Q: So what are some of the things you like to do to relax?
A: I enjoy going to the beach in my spare time. I don’t really get much spare time, but on my off days I like to go down to the beach after class with all my teammates, and we’ll play catch on the beach, which is pretty nice.
Q: When you want that cheap meal, what’s your favorite place in I.V. to hit up?
A: There’s a number of different places in I.V. that I can go to for some cheap meals. The Habit is a pretty good place to go for a cheap meal or Kaptain’s Barbeque is a place I enjoy going to. And if I’m not in I.V. or one of those places, I will probably go to In-N-Out.
Q: Before every game what music do you play to get you pumped up?
A: That’s a good question. I always try to listen to some of the same songs on my phone when I’m in the clubhouse before the game. Just rap, I would say. I listen to Rick Ross before a game. That’s something I’ve done continuously before every game — just that same [Rick Ross] song right before I go out on the field.
Q: Which song is it?
A: It’s called “9 Piece.”
Q: You’ve been playing baseball for such a long time. Do you ever get tired of the sport?
A: I would say no. The only thing I would get tired with sometimes is practice because it’s kind of the same old routine in that it gets tedious, but I’m not really tired of it. The only reason I would probably get tired of the sport I feel like is when I’m out in the field and I don’t have anything to eat, and I get hungry. Because then I get kind of cranky.
Q: Do you ever take some of that crankiness out on your teammates? Can they tell?
A: Maybe some of them can, like some of the other pitchers because we have the same rotation together sometimes. So when we share these rotations together I feel like some of them might see that like, “Oh, Dillon is getting pretty cranky” or “Dillon must be hungry.”
Q: Which baseball team do you root for?
A: I really like the Red Sox, not because they won the World Series this past year, but I’ve been a fan of them since 2003 when they lost in the ALCS to the Yankees. That’s kind of odd how a loss in the playoffs was something that attracted to me to another team. But it wasn’t so much a loss, but just the way they played, that I was attracted to.
Q: So I’m guessing you really hate Aaron Boone then?
A: Not a fan.
Q: What about Derek Jeter? Are you sad he’s retiring?
A: Not really sad, but even though he’s on the Yankees and everything, that’s someone that I feel everyone in baseball looks up to … I feel like people in Boston don’t loathe him or anything, but they respect him for what he’s done and how he’s been in the game so long.
Q: Any animosity toward Jacoby Ellsbury?
A: Ahhh! That’s just a tough situation. He was a really big part of [the Red Sox] and it really sucks to lose someone like that, but I mean you got to think the individual player has to do what’s best for them. I think that’s what he did; he just did something that was best for him and so he went to the Yankees. It sucks to see him go, but you got to respect it.
Q: What about you personally? Any game that you had a big role in that stands out to you?
A: There haven’t been any games that stand out to me personally, but I’d say close games we win are highlights for me. Any game we win where I’m pitching or not pitching is always good.
Q: What’s been your most embarrassing moment on the field while playing for UCSB?
A: I don’t really have one. I really haven’t [had] one that embarrassing yet, so I will keep my fingers crossed.
Q: Did anything embarrassing in high school happen to you?
A: Oh high school, definitely. I was at third base once, and this guy hit a swinging bunt. We were playing our rival school and I went up to get the swinging bunt, and I missed it under my glove. And I tried to turn around really fast to go get it, and my foot just came out from under me, and I just fell on my back. That was pretty bad — people were laughing at me and everything.
Q: What’s one thing you can’t live without?
A: Probably my music is one thing I couldn’t live without. That’s something I need every day; I wake up, and I play my music and I ride my bike to class.
Q: Baseball players are pretty famous for having these insane pregame rituals. Do you have one?
A: I wouldn’t even call it a ritual; I would call it more of a routine. As far as my routine goes, I come to the field with my headphones on and after we’re done taking batting practice — well, I got to back up a little bit — I stretch the same person out every day, even in practice. After we’re done with batting practice I go into the clubhouse, I eat my sandwich and I always listen to music, and I listen to that same song right before I take the field. So that would be something that’s part of my routine.
Q: So you bump that same Rick Ross song every single time?
A: Yeah. I might listen to a couple different songs before, while I’m relaxing watching TV, but it’s primarily music that gets me game ready and focused. And I always end the playlist with that Rick Ross song.
Q: I have to check that song out. His last album was pretty good.
A: Yeah, I enjoyed it.
Q: Yeah, “Sanctified” is my favorite song on the album.
A: I’d say the second song is my favorite on the album.
Q: Is that “The Devil is a Lie” with Jay-Z ?
A: No, it’s “Rich is Gangsta.”
Q: What’s one team you hate losing to the most?
A: I wouldn’t say there’s one team in particular I hate losing to, but it’d probably be just any team we lose to. I don’t like it. Especially home losses. Home losses are one thing I really can’t stand because I just don’t like it when another team takes the mound after you lose, and they walk on your mound … I feel we should beat everyone we play because I think the guys on the team are that good.
Q: Now finish this sentence for me. UCSB will make it to Omaha if…
A: … the Gauchos continue to play well.
Q: Simple as that?
A: It’s as simple as that. If we continue to play well, we will make it to Omaha.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of April 30, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.