It took a bit of a direct approach from his pitching coach to get Kraigen Rasalla and his career on track. Here’s more from our Athlete of the Week conversation, including some thoughts on his favorite player, former Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, and what his near no-hitter had in common with his idol.
What’s the best advice a baseball or pitching coach has ever given you? My pitching coach in the offseason, Brian Minich, a few years ago he told me to man-up. I was actually headed into my junior season tryout because I was cut as a sophomore. The day before the tryouts he got to work with me and I had a poor performance in the workout. He said, “Look, you’ve got to man-up.” I took that personal. I really took it to heart, I’d say.
When there’s a no-hitter going on, pitchers are “ignored” by teammates on the bench. Did that happen during the game? It’s pretty funny because I walked a kid in the fifth inning after a long at bat, probably an 11-pitch at bat, The next play, there was an error. I knew the perfect game was over after the walk and the kids were talking about it in the dugout. I said, “Look, I still have a no-hitter.” Just my luck, two outs in the seventh, I still have it. There’s a pinch hitter coming up. I’m up 0-2 in the count and I give up a hit up the middle. It’s kind of funny, my third baseman, Tom Maldonato, whispers to me, “That’s why you idolize Mike Mussina, I guess.” I admire him as an athlete and I met him throughout the years through his fan club. I kind of felt bad in a way that I jinxed myself, but it was a pretty funny comment from my third baseman.
That refers to Mussina losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth at Fenway Park in 2001. But I guess he’s an athlete you’d like to emulate? There would be meet-and-greets with him from 2006 to 2008 when he retired, and it was pretty cool because the people he worked with and himself, they got to know us and the one time, he remembered my name and I was 10 years old. He’s definitely someone I admire. He mixes pitches, he had great command and that’s something I like about him. I feel like I pitch like him in a way. Location. I’m not really boasting a 90-mile-per-hour fastball.
Been to National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? Once.
What’s your favorite exhibit? The day I went, it was pretty cool. Marty Appel, New York Yankees public relations guy, he had written a book about Thurman Munson and he was there presenting his book, talking about it for an hour. I thought that was pretty cool. He was one of the few guys who knew Thurman Munson very personally. Munson is not really well know to my generation, so it was pretty cool to get some more knowledge on him. It was kind of personalized.