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Ep. 9: ‘Exactly What I Want’

The following is an excerpt from the script to Episode 9. Click on the embed above to listen to the full episode, or you can subscribe to Razed Sports on your favorite podcast app.


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As the Down East Wood Ducks were working their way toward the playoffs, Cole Uvila continued to not only pitch well, but he seemed to be actually getting stronger. Since that 4-walk game on July 15, an outing Cole had called “embarrassing,” he had been virtually unhittable. In fact, over the course of seven outings, from July 20 to August 15, Cole faced 42 batters — 26 of those, or 62 percent, had struck out. On top of that only seven of them reached base – two of the 42 managed to get hits and two were hit by pitches. Only three drew walks.

This dominance was in part due to the mechanical fix he made in July. He tightened his delivery and felt more efficient to the plate, more in control. That boosted his confidence. The other big thing was his curveball continued to develop. It was becoming a real weapon, and a weapon he could control, which allowed him to use it more often. That, in turn, made his fastball even tougher.

So things were going great. Cole was doing well, and also really enjoying life with his teammates in the clubhouse. This is something he’d done at certain points throughout the season. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re so focused on advancing, but Cole wanted more than that. He knew how unique this whole experience was, and he wanted to make sure to take it all in. So he made it a point to occasionally step back, take a broader view, and make sure he was enjoying his teammates, the clubhouse, and life in general in the minor leagues.

Baseball clubhouses are interesting places, perhaps more than the other major American sports simply because of the diversity, and especially in the minor leagues. You’ve got some players drafted out of high school and others who played college ball, players from all over the country and from all sorts of backgrounds. And that’s just the Americans. In major league baseball, about a third of players come from Latin America, and that percentage jumps to about 50 percent in the minors.

The Down East Wood Ducks alone have players from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Curacao and Venezuela, including one of Cole’s catchers, Yohel Pozo.

With so many different cultures sharing the same space, day after day, over a long season, you’d think maybe there would be the potential for misunderstandings, for conflict. But Cole says it’s not like that. The Latin American players, and the American players are connected by one culture, the culture of baseball.

COLE: “They give us a hard time for certain things, we give them a hard time for certain things. Obviously like one day whoever gets into the clubhouse first, maybe it’ll be all Latin music and then the next day it’s going to be all American music. And there’s some bickering around that, some jokes around that. It’s a pretty tight-knit group here and I would say … A lot of jokes, a lot of messing around, some pranks thrown in. Yeah I mean it’s loud. It’s loud, it’s a high energy group for the most part. I mean people pick their spots. It’s not a bunch of clowns by any means, but we like to have fun and when you’re around these guys every day, I mean even on my off day I’m spending, even at the field with them, we’re about to have a fantasy draft together. They become your best friends that’s really what it is.”

Matt Present, the broadcaster for the Wood Ducks, whose radio calls you’ve heard throughout this podcast, echoed the statement. Matt is 25 years old, around the same age as many of the players. But he started broadcasting in high school, so he’s been around a lot of teams, and he said this group is louder and lighter than most that he’s covered.

MATT: “Corey Ragsdale our manager, whenever he was asked about the chemistry or the vibe or whatever he would note kind of how unique of a group it was, like how kinda silly and outrageous guys were at times, but how it was awesome to watch them be, just, carefree and having fun but then when they left that clubhouse and went on the field, their ability to compete and lock in, and kind of having both sides of it. But I think it was one of the more lively clubhouses. Lot of music, lot of trying to get under each others’ skin at times, but in a fun, loving way.”

And within the culture of the clubhouse, is a sub-culture all its own. Cole’s group. The bullpen. This group is a little bit different from the rest of the team, something that’s possible simply because of location. While the bulk of the team is in the dugout or on the field, the relievers sit by themselves, down in the pen, almost an afterthought, usually waiting several innings before any of them can get into the game. So because of this, they kind of create their own little world down there. And the relievers kind of made it cool to be in the bullpen. To the point that even former relievers wanted to be considered part of the group.

MATT: “Alex Eubanks began the season in the bullpen and was inserted into the starting rotation, pitched really well as a starter, but for pride sake wanted to be considered still a member of the bullpen. And there was this kind of ‘who is going to embrace him?’ Cuz the starters didn’t want him cuz he was a bullpen guy, and the bullpen was like ‘no you abandoned us, you’re a starter now.’ And he insisted he was an extended opener, you know the new term for relievers that start games before handing them off to starting pitchers, but those guys are supposed to go an inning or two and Eubanks is going you know six consistently, but it was just this ‘I wanted to stay a part of the bullpen fraternity if you will.’”

Cole acknowledges that it’s a desirable place to be, because the relievers made it so. And they became known amongst the team as … a little bit different.

COLE: “I think the bullpen it definitely has a little bit of a reputation at this point …”

MATT: “It’s not that they’re not focused on the game or care about the game, but you know when you’re in the bullpen the first five innings you’re probably not going to pitch and for most guys you’re going to pitch every two or three days.”

COLE: “You know if the position players play and then the starting pitchers are all in the dugout with all the coaches. So we kind of have free rein out here.”

MATT: “So there’s kind of a lot of fun to be had down there in-game, which again, being in the radio booth and on the air I’m not directly privy to, but I’m aware that it goes on.”

COLE: “We’ll talk politics, we’ll talk about the team, we’ll tell stories, we’ll make jokes, we’ll play pranks like I said. It’s a pretty light group.”


One such prank was pretty elaborate and occurred right after Cole had been promoted to Down East from Hickory in April. The crime? Somebody had come to the park one day and found that his jersey had been rendered … shall we say, unwearable? Cole explains …

COLE: “There’s a freezer in the clubhouse. You just dip the jersey in water and just soak his jersey in water and then throw it in the freezer overnight and when you come to the field it’s just (laughs) frozen solid. … I wasn’t involved in that one.”

Because Cole was new to the team, had nothing to do with it, and was theoretically unbiased, he was appointed judge over the case.

COLE: “We held like a court proceeding where we called like every bullpen member to the stand and they were cross-examined and asked questions and basically tried to get to the bottom of it. And there was a little bit of back-stabbing and stuff like that that was involved. That was one that really sticks out that’s pretty funny.”

There were two teammates involved, the mastermind of the crime, and an accomplice. Judge Uvila found them guilty. Justice was swift, and brutal.

COLE: “I think one of them I banished, they were banished from the bullpen for five innings. So they just had to go sit in the corner of the bullpen. And then the other one who was also involved but not to the same degree, had to just apologize and buy the victim some coffee for the next game.”

Cole Exactly what I want.pngCole Exactly what I want.png


Amongst all of the fun and games, the Wood Ducks continued to march toward the playoffs. And Cole continued to pitch well through the middle of August. As outlined earlier, he was getting a ton of strikeouts and wasn’t allowing hardly any baserunners at all, let alone walks. This efficiency of his was leading to longer outings, too.

On Aug. 10 at Frederick, Cole struck out five of the six batters he faced in two perfect innings. On the 15th at Fayetteville, he pitched three innings, striking out a career-high six batters.

And you know how we talked about how work begets work? Well, the Rangers were noticing how dominant Cole had been. And they were ready to throw yet another challenge his way.

It was Aug. 24. The Wood Ducks were in Wilmington, with a little more than a week left in the regular season. Cole and his teammates were starting to think about the winter break and what they might be doing to prepare for next season.

COLE: “It’s kind of the end of the year so a lot of people are finding out about where they’re going, whether they’re going to instructional league, or going home or maybe they’re setting up like winter ball plans to go to Venezuela, Australia, something like that, and that’s kind of been the buzz around the locker room, just like ‘oh I wonder where I’m going.’”

Cole was in the clubhouse, playing cards with fellow reliever Josh Advocate. And manager Corey Ragsdale came by and called them into his office. He asked them if they had any plans for the offseason.

COLE: “And we were just like ‘nope,’ and he’s like alright well we want to send you guys to the Arizona Fall League. We think you guys had a pretty good year and this is just a good opportunity for you guys.’ It was a pretty quick conversation and some hand shakes and some hugs and that was it.”

In case you didn’t know, and if you’re not a huge baseball fan, you might not, the Arizona Fall League is a huge deal. How it works is, every major league team picks just seven players to send to Arizona. Six teams are formed to compete in basically, what amounts to a month of minor league All-Star games.

To give you an idea of how big a deal it is, many Fall Leaguers end up playing in the big leagues, some even end up being stars. Mike Trout played in the Arizona Fall League. So did Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge. Even Derek Jeter. In fact, some of this year’s top big league rookies, including National League Rookie of the Year Peter Alonso – played in the AFL just last year.

So this was a huge honor for Cole and he viewed it as a great sign. He had grabbed the attention of the Rangers. They had recognized how good his season had gone, and wanted to see how he could do against lineups stacked with some of the sport’s top prospects.

COLE: “Yeah I know like I said the Rangers their philosophy sending guys there is a little bit different than most orgs. I know most orgs just send their, pretty much their top guys. The Rangers like I said they tend to send like bullpen guys and, they just have a different philosophy in how they view it. But yeah I know that for sure there’s going to be some studs there. I kinda heard like a few names tossed around, they’re like top top prospects in the minor leagues are gonna be there. 

But yeah it’s really exciting and I, this is exactly what I want. I want to be tested because I want to know. I want to know if I can hang with those guys and I obviously believe I can and again it’s just another opportunity to prove myself.”

*** *** ***


Written and produced by Bob Harkins.


Theme song: “Rip My Jeans” —

Broke For Free — “If

Kevin MacLeod — “Too Cool”, “Modern Jazz Samba

BOPD — “Ain’t No Thing

Cheese N Pot-C — “Bloc Party (Instrumental)

(All music edited for time purposes)


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