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Interview with former Jays Reliever Steve Delabar

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Former Blue Jay and MLB All-Star Steve Delabar took time to talk to me about his baseball career.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Delabar was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2003 and started his professional career in 2004. After several years in the minors he sustained a severe elbow injury which many thought was the end of his career. Delabar then got a job as a substitute teacher at a high school and worked with the baseball team's pitchers. There Delabar worked on an arm conditioning program where his velocity picked up and then played in independent ball. After a year in independent ball Delabar was signed by the Seattle Mariners and a year later traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. In Toronto his career took off and in 2013 was named an MLB All-Star. Following not so great years in 2014 and 2015 the Blue Jays released Delabar in 2016. Delabar then signed with Cincinnati, where he didn't last long and was released again. After that, Steve looked overseas and signed with Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

Interview

Cole Shelton: First off thank you for taking time out of your day to do this. Playing Independent Ball, did you ever think you were going to play in the Majors?

Steve Delabar: No problem. Everyone that plays the game dreams of getting to the Majors. As long as you compete there is always a chance to get the Majors.

CS: In 2009, you had a major elbow surgery, did you think your baseball career was over?

SD: At that point I knew it would be hard to compete at my best and any chance of pitching in the MLB was slim. Pitching professionally also highly unlikely. However I told my wife, "I may never play baseball again, but I won't say I'm retiring."

CS: Did you come up with the arm conditioning program?

SD: The Velocity Plus Arm Care program is NOT my creation. Tom House, a former MLB pitching coach, player and pitching guru came up with the idea. In effort to help players strengthen their shoulders to be healthier on the field. He has since turned the program over to Joe Newton of the Player Dugout for further improvements.

CS: What was it like when Seattle signed you, when just years before you thought your baseball career was over?

SD: Since I built my arm strength back up I felt prepared to play again. I was just grateful Seattle came along and gave me another opportunity.

CS: Seattle gave you the opportunity but the next season they traded yo to Toronto. What went through your head when you got traded?

SD: It was crazy! Being traded mid-season, I didn't have much time to think about it, I just had to pack up all my stuff and head north to join the Blue Jays!

CS: Joining Toronto definitely helped your career. In 2013, Jays fans rallied with 'Raise the Bar Vote Delabar' to send you to the 2013 MLB All-Star Game. What is it like to know you are an MLB All-Star?

SD: I can't thank each and everyone enough that took time to give me the votes that got me there. That being said, it's a true honor to have been selected and be apart of that game. It's something not many players can say they've done.

CS: It was a great campaign that got you to the game. In that All-Star game you pitched to 1 batter and striking out Buster Posey, what was that like?

SD: Mildly comical. It takes millions of votes just to get me to the game and then I'm pitching a high leverage situation against a former MVP. Definitely a high point in my career. I mean I wouldn't mind being able to do that again!

CS: In that same 2013 year, you pitched an immaculate inning (9 pitches, 3 strikeouts). Did you know you did it and what is it like to know you are only the 2nd Blue Jays pitcher to ever do so?

SD: I did. What's funny is Buehrle was pitching so well that game we(bullpen) all figured he was going to pitch a complete game. When the phone rang it caught everyone off guard. I got loose, went out there, and the rest is history. Whenever someone completes a feat like that they never know the significance it has until after the fact.

CS: Definitely a cool feat to have. After making the All-Star game in 2013, 2014 didn't start out to be your year, what went through your head when you got optioned?

SD: Prior to being optioned, I almost asked to be sent down because I wasn't getting the usual results I was accustomed to. I figured someone more deserving could take my place while I go down and fix some things and then return to do what I do.

CS: You went down and did what you had to do and got called up, however it ended up being a season of bouncing up and down between the MLB & AAA. To then not have your name on the September call-ups, were you disapointed or did you see it coming?

SD: I was surprised but understood the move. I did go down  and produced decent results, but they weren't necessarily "call-up worthy". So I focused on my next task preparing for the next season.

CS: The preparing looked like it worked, as you had an amazing 2015 spring training. However you were still optioned and yet again bounced back and forth from AAA to MLB, is that hard at all going back and forth?

SD: As a professional athlete you have to understand the business. Sometimes people make decisions based on gut feelings and the results of their decisions can have a positive and negative results.

CS: Unfortunately on March 29, 2016 the Toronto Blue Jays released you, did you think that was the end of your MLB career?

SD: I did not feel like my MLB career was over. I felt like I had a good spring training and threw the ball well and could still contribute on another MLB team, and pitch at this level.

CS: You spent part of 2016 with Cincinnati Reds to then get released to sign with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. What is it like to play overseas and not in the 'spotlight' of the MLB?

SD: It is a different world overseas. Sometimes not being in the spotlight can allow you to see things about the game of baseball more clearly.

CS: Finally, after going from Independent Ball to MLB to overseas where is Steve Delabar going to pitch in 2017?

SD: That is still to be determined. Its possible I continue to play in Japan. If not, I'll be in camp with another MLB team competing for a bullpen spot on an Opening Day roster. Whatever it is as long as I can play baseball and pitch I will be fine.

CS: Thank you Steve for doing this and good luck next season.

SD: You are very welcome and thank you Cole!