His journey has been well-documented and yet you can’t help but feel that he’s only just begun.
Adam Macko was born in Slovakia and his family moved to Ireland before settling in Stony Plain, Alberta. Teaching himself to pitch by watching YouTube videos of Justin Verlander and David Price, the young man made the move to Southern Alberta to be a part of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball.
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He took another massive jump towards professional baseball when he was drafted in the seventh round of last summer’s Major League Baseball Draft by the Seattle Mariners.
Macko pitched in eight games for the Arizona League Mariners and one game with the Everett AquaSox, striking out 32 batters in just over 23 innings of work.
The 19-year-old southpaw is turning a lot of heads and he knows he will have to do more of it if he wants to achieve his goal of making it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
We caught up with him for the latest episode of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast, as he was continuing his offseason training in B.C.
Q: Last time we chatted with you, you have just been drafted. What was it like going through Seattle’s system over the last few months?
A: It was awesome! Everybody was super-welcoming. Everybody made sure I felt comfortable where I was and that everything was taken care of. When I got there, I was a little intimidated by everything, but soon enough I realized that it was just people loving what they do, loving the game. It was great to get to experience that on a different level and, again, with all the coaches and stuff, as I was struggling through some of my times in Arizona, they really helped me dig down deep and get through it. So it was good.
Q: What was the biggest surprise to you as you headed to Arizona and Everett?
A: Yeah, the biggest surprise to me was the people and players that were there. They were closer to the skill level that I was at when I was in high school. The difference was they were very raw. They knew how to hit the ball 120 miles an hour off the bat and to throw the ball at 95. It was just refining all that energy and, you know, that was probably the most surprising thing. People were either at a highly-insane level talent-wise but they were just trying to figure out who they were exactly as a baseball player.
The five most interesting backgrounds in the 2019 MLB Draft:
1. Yorvis Torrealba, Rockies
2. Jake Forrester, Indians
3. Luke Berryhill, Reds
4. Adam Macko, Mariners
5. Andre Lipcius. Tigershttps://t.co/MMyj2bpQb7
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) December 3, 2019
Q: Did you end up learning a little bit about yourself in the process as well?
A: Yeah, 100-percent. Being in a new environment, learning new ways that the coaches teach and learning new things about the game. I’ve changed a lot of things and look at a lot of things differently now. It’s helped me prepare for the spring training in a different way than I have before.
Q: I know that you’re used to moving around and not staying in one place for a long time. Do you think that helped you in dealing with things that others have problems with like homesickness?
A: Yeah, there were definitely some people that were homesick, that were kind of struggling with staying away from their family and friends. It’s always tough to be away from the people you love, but I got a little bit used to it. I’ve learned how to deal with it a little better than others. But when I go to Arizona, the heat always gets me. So maybe that part you can’t really can’t get used to.
Q: Not quite the same climate as you have here in Alberta, eh?
— OHMY (@OHMY_Apparel) January 6, 2020
Q: What has the winter been like for you as you’ve been training to get ready to make an impact in your first spring training?
A: Yeah, again, I’ve been introduced into a different thinking process. When I went to Arizona, I learned about how my mechanics work, how I should compete, everything basically. So I’ve been really trying to implement what the coaches have given me. We have player plans for the offseason: what we should be working on, what we should try to accomplish when we get to spring training. That was a huge thing and just staying consistent and staying honest with myself. Make sure I do the work, make sure I do the workouts every single day and make sure I do my throwing according to the plan. I trust the plan, I trust the coaches so I just gotta follow it.
Q: Do you find that plan focuses more on the physical side of the game or is there certain attention to the mental side to it?
A: Definitely mental. We had a mental strength coach when I was in the high-performance camp from October to November and he really touched on a lot of things. We did a lot of meditating and that kind of stuff on the mental side. Definitely some physical, too. But the mental side is the biggest thing I’m working on. It’s not trying to not overthink things you can’t really control. I’m trying to be in a positive mindset when I’m doing anything and definitely getting into the internal and external cues. We talk about that when you’re competing, you want to be in the external cues like “I want to throw the ball right there.” You don’t want to be thinking about opening up your hips and keeping your shoulders closed. So that’s one thing I’ve been working on and doing some meditating. I think it’s a separator from being good to being great or from being okay to being good. So the mental side is really important to me and I really try to work on that.
Happy Birthday my man! #AdamsJourney
— Vlad Macko (@macko_vlad) December 30, 2019
Q: A lot of attention here in Alberta has been on Mike Soroka and he doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he’s a thinking man’s pitcher. Is that a guy you look at and want to emulate, at least from a mindset perspective?
A: Yeah, definitely. Some of the things that I’ve been really learning and that my dad has been sending me. He sends me a lot of topics and things like that. I’ve been reading a lot about him. He’s very mature, he thinks through the game very strategically and that’s definitely something I want to do.
Q: When you look back on your minor league games, is there anything you would have wanted to change about what you did or the journey itself?
A: Yeah, there’s always something that could have gone smoother or could have turned out better. I think one thing that I would have changed is not be so intimidated at first by the hitters and giving them too much credit. People tend to give hitters too much credit. But it’s still a game where a hitter succeeds three out of ten times, they’re in the Hall of Fame, right? So, it’s still a very tough game for a hitter and you can’t give anyone too much credit because you should give yourself the most credit.
Q: You now go into your first spring training. What are you most excited for?
A: I’m excited to meet all the players from different leagues and different levels and try to pick their brains to see what I can learn from them. And definitely meeting up with my friends again and having a good time, learning together about how the spring training works and maybe find out where I end up.
— The Canadian Baseball Network (@CDNBaseballNet) August 23, 2019
Q: It will certainly be a good cross-section of experience when you head down there, from the young up-and-comers to the grizzled veterans. You almost have to become a sponge.
A: Yeah, I’m very excited for that. They’ve been playing the game for longer than I have, especially at the professional level. So anything they might have to offer, I’d definitely like to pick their brains and find out what it is. It’s a great environment with the Mariners. You can’t really tell who the older player is based on how everyone interacts with each other. Everyone interacts with each other the same, whether you’re a high school player or you’ve been in professional baseball for five or ten years. Everyone is really friendly, from the coaching staff to the rest of the staff to the players. It’s great.
Q: Do you have goals for yourself in 2020?
A: Yes, I do. They’re not really goals like having a 2.00 ERA or anything like that. They’re more internal like continuing to meditate and doing the small things like not slacking off when working out. It’s easy during the season when you’re feeling tired or feeling whatever to say “I’m not working out today.” I did that a couple times last year and I hated that about myself. One thing I want to do is go to the gym and do something small, even if I’m feeling tired or sore. Then to continue working on mechanics but not to change my mechanics because I’ve watched Jake Arrieta in an interview. He said he got good with the Cubs because he stopped changing his mechanics, stopped trying to be better. He found one type he liked and ran with it and perfected it. That’s something I want to do.
Q: Do you have a certain level in the pros you’d like to be at in 2020 or will you just, as you said, trust the systems and continue working at each level as it comes at you?
A: One big goal of mine in professional baseball is to not get caught up in the stats or the money or the rankings or stuff like that. I would love to just continue playing the game I love and enjoying it and not letting those things get in the way. They will always take care of themselves.
For the Seattle Mariners, pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 12. Position players will be in camp on February 17 and the first Cactus League game is scheduled for February 22.