Former Augie closer Bret Severtson has been pitching for the St. Paul Saints since late last year, and I’ve been waiting for the chance to talk to him about his new gig for quite awhile. I wasn’t scheduled to cover the game last night, but I felt like it was time to get out there and catch up with a guy I never really got around to talking to when he was pitching for Augie.
Bret has had a pretty eventful run in his short time in the minors, which you can read in the Q&A below, part of which ran in Thursday’s paper.
He closed out the Saints 11-4 win over the Birds on Wednesday night, and kudos to Saints skipper George Tsamis for giving Severtson the chance to finish off the game in front of a pretty enthusiastic personal cheering section. When I left the ballpark Bret was already in the stands signing autographs and meeting with well-wishers mere minutes after the game ended, and it was a pretty cool thing to see. You could tell the Flandreau native was very appreciative of the chance to pitch in front of his supporters. It’s a cool story.
Anyway, there was only room for so much of my conversation with Bret in today’s paper; here’s the complete version of my Q&A….
After a record-setting career as the most prolific relief pitcher in Augustana history, Flandreau native Bret Severtson has continued his baseball career at the professional level with arguably the most famous team in independent baseball.
Severtson, a 6-foot-6, 24-year-old, submarine right-hander, is beginning his first full season in the St. Paul Saints bullpen after jumping directly to the independent level upon finishing school with the Vikings last year.
Severtson was a three-time All-NSIC selection with the Vikings, setting school records for saves in a season (10) and career (24), while posting a sub-3.00 ERA in each of his last three seasons after Augie coach Tim Huber converted him to a closer.
It’s been an already eventful time in the minors for Severtson, who has thrown 2.1 scoreless innings in two appearances for the Saints on the young season, but he’s clearly relishing the opportunity.
Q: Last year before signing with the Saints you had a stint with the Lake County Fielders of the North American League, a team that was co-owned by Kevin Costner and had a highly-publicized falling out. What was that like?
A: Costner owned it but wasn’t that involved. It got crazy. There was no meal money, no paychecks – we had to take our paychecks to Walmart to get our money. It got ugly – they ended up playing an amateur all-star team and I left. It was a rough situation but it was still good because it gave me a place to get started.
Q: Did you think while pitching at Augie that you’d get the chance to play pro ball?
A: It’s always a goal, but you never know how realistic that is. As far as the draft goes I’d talked to a couple teams through some questionnaires, but I wasn’t banking on getting taken. I was hoping I’d get the chance at the independent level from someone and fortunately I did.
Q: When did you start throwing sidearm?
A: In fall ball my sophomore year.
Q: Was that injury-related, or just an idea to try to improve your game?
A: I had Tommy John surgery my junior year in high school and after that it always seemed that whether I threw 10 pitches or 100 it took me six or seven days to bounce back. It was easier on my arm and Coach Huber wanted a guy out of the pen that could give teams a different look.
Q: Did someone teach you how to do it or was there just a lot of trial and error by yourself?
A: To tell you the truth I would say that how I throw today is about 98 percent the same as how I threw the first day I tried it. My coaches at Augie did what they could to help, but I haven’t had specific coaching from a guy that had experience with it. It was mostly trial and error.
Q: Guys always throw sidearm just goofing around in warm-ups, or even try it for a pitch or two in a game, but being able to throw the breaking ball and secondary pitches would seem to be the hard part.
A: Right. The challenge is staying on top of the pitch even though you’re coming from underneath it. It was really tough to pick up throwing a slider from down there – you have to kind of get a Frisbee that floats up there and hopefully misses a bat.
Q: Normally with a D2 guy in Indy ball, you’d be tempted to think this level or something similar would be your ceiling, but maybe your sidearm style makes you a wildcard to move up.
A: I hope so. I just have to keep improving. Everyone in this dugout wants to get that chance, and you’re right, it does make me more unique in that I’m giving you a different look from down there. I’m not throwing 88-90 mph so maybe that separates me from other guys.
Q: You’ve done well at this level so far. Did you expect that? Were you nervous moving up?
A: I didn’t know what to expect. The radio guy in Lake County asked me how I looked so composed before my first game and I told him that if my pants hadn’t been so baggy he’d have been able to see my knees shaking I was so nervous.
Q: Didn’t you give up a homer to Jose Canseco in your first game at Lake County?
A: Yes, that was my debut, the first batter I ever faced in pro ball and he hit a homer off me. That was quite the welcome to pro baseball, and it was the only time in my life I watched a home run the whole way. I figured at that point I should enjoy the experience.
Q: What’s it like being a hometown kid playing in this league?
A: It’s fun. My parents have followed me around forever, and having games in Sioux Falls and Sioux City and St. Paul they can just hop in the car to see a game. I had about 60-70 people here last night supporting me. That’s pretty neat.
Q: You’re just a rookie and (Saints manager) George Tsamis is a veteran, but at some point you’ve got to go to him and say, ‘Hey, skip, my whole hometown is here you have to get me into a game this series’, right?
A: There is absolutely no chance you will hear that come out of my mouth. I have to put up quite a few more zeros before I can start making requests like that.