June 4, 2014
It might feel like déjà vu, but the Lansing Lugnuts again kicked off their season with the piggyback system – ensuring all of their young caliber arms were being used. The system consists of two starters; one who starts the game and throws three to four innings and the second pitcher will come in from the bullpen to throw their innings.
Right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong was one such pitcher and split his time in the piggyback system with Adonys Cardona.
“The piggyback system is just another way to get innings,” explained De Jong. “I totally understand why we did it. There’s a lot of prospects at this level and only so many innings. You can’t have a seven-man rotation and be on a weekly routine. In pro ball we stick to a five day set and it was a fun experience and I enjoyed working with Cardona. We ran the same system in Bluefield, so we understood what it involved.”
It didn’t take long for Lansing to make an impression on De Jong. He really enjoys the rich automotive history Lansing has to offer, as the city was the birthplace of Oldsmobile. De Jong has a strong interest in the American automobile industry and enjoys the atmosphere Lansing offers.
“I’m a big American made car guy,” De Jong explained. “I drive a Dodge Challenger and I’m all about American made cars, so it’s really cool to see the car plants here. It’s not motor city, but there’s a lot of history in Lansing.”
Another aspect De Jong is looking forward to in Lansing is working with pitching coach Vince Horsman. The two have worked together in the instructional league and De Jong is enjoying having the former Major Leaguer as his pitching coach.
“Vince is great,” stated De Jong. “I have been working with Vince since my first instructional league. I’ve been nothing but a sponge taking in all the knowledge that man has. Vince is the kind of guy that will forget more about pitching than I’ll ever know. I plan on using him as a resource all year. I pride myself on being a student of the game. Anything he says that I feel will help me, you better believe I’ll do it and fit it in my repertoire.”
Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman feels De Jong is poised for a great season. He’s impressed with De Jong’s maturity and his progress in adapting to life at this level of development.
“Chase is doing a really nice job,” stated Horsman, “He struggled a little bit out of the gate, but he’s making positive steps forward and figuring out how to pitch at this level. I really like the way he goes after the hitters. I think he’s going to have a good year here.”
Prior to 2014, De Jong found success in the Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, and the Northwest League. Joining the Vancouver Canadians for their 2013 playoff run has been the highlight of his professional career, as he was a member of the Canadians championship squad.
“Playing in Vancouver is what minor league baseball should be like,” stated De Jong. “Great city, great atmosphere, and winning the championship was great. I have been blessed to play on some championship caliber teams in my life and it never gets old. The dog pile on the field; witnessing the final out. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB draft, De Jong’s draft experience was exciting and somewhat unexpected. He had no idea what team was going to select him after he received interest from all 30 MLB franchises.
“My draft process was very hectic,” De Jong recalls. “I had a lot of people saying were I was supposed to go, but once the Blue Jays picked me it was a huge burden off my shoulders. The first thing I did was hug my mom. I will never forget that moment.”
“I was contacted by all 30 teams and 27 of them visited me at my house,” stated De Jong. “It definitely made my senior year of high school fun and not everybody gets to experience something like that.”
The attention De Jong received in high school comes as little surprise as he features three excellent pitches. De Jong features a fastball, changeup, and curveball.
“I’m a big 12-6 curveball guy,” explained De Jong. “My fastball is usually in the low 90’s. It might go up a little bit if the adrenaline is pumping, but my game is to keep the ball down.”
With a bunch of baseball accolades, De Jong’s favorite moment was winning a gold medal for Team USA in the 2011 U18 tournament in Columbia.
“Playing for Team USA is an experience like no other,” explained De Jong. “A lot of players get drafted, but only a select few ever get the shot to play for their country. It was a blessing and it was fun because Tom Robson played for Team Canada, so we played against one another.”
“Winning the gold medal for Team USA was my greatest baseball moment to date. It’ll be at the top of my list for a long time.”