BUSAN, South Korea – As the Lotte Giants are set to begin another season tomorrow, Lotte’s newest import pitcher, Shane Youman, brings a wealth of experience and talent to the club. A former big leaguer with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 32-year-old Youman’s journey to Busan has had stops in Taiwan and the Dominican in the past year.
Youman is expected to make his KBO debut next Tuesday versus the LG Twins at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. He was impressive in spring training, including four shutout innings against Hanwha, where he clocked in at 146 km/hr, while striking out five.
The Louisiana native opened up to Haps recently about his impressions of the club, his past, and what he thinks he can bring to the Giants this year.
What are your first impressions of Lotte and Busan?
My first impression about the team, as well as the coaching staff, has been a very good one. It has been an easy transition for me. Everyone welcomed me in with open arms from day one. All the guys seem to get along real well, have good personalities, and are also hard workers. As far as the city of Busan. I haven't been able to see much, because we haven't been here very long. However, I know the city is very big, and there's plenty to do. From the navigating I've done so far, I can say I will enjoy the city, and playing here a whole lot.
How's your health entering the season?
My health entering the 2012 season is very good. I felt that I met up with the team in Saipan in pretty good baseball shape. I played winter ball in the Dominican Republic until January 9th. I rested for about two weeks then started up with training again. Playing in the Dominican kept me fairly sharp, and I was able to stay on a routine with throwing, conditioning, and weight training. That opportunity helped me gain some of the weight back that I lost towards the end of the season in Taiwan from being sick.
What do you bring to the pitching staff?
What I feel that I bring to the Lotte pitching staff, is versatility, and aggressiveness. Throughout my career, I've been used as a starter, as well as a reliever. I've had seasons where I was strictly used as a reliever the entire time, but never a season where I was a full time starter. There has always been situations where teams used me in both roles. With that being said, I feel that no matter the role, I'm able to get myself ready to do what the team asks of me. And, when I speak about being aggressive., when I'm on the mound, I like to attack the strike zone, and make hitters swing the bat. I like to attack with my fastball, and pitch of that. Also, I believe that I bring a humorous, and laid back personality to the team.
Youman in spring training, sporting his new #97 jersey
How do you see yourself being used with the club this year? Starter or reliever? Which are you more comfortable with?
Despite being used as both a starter, and a reliever throughout my career. I see myself this season being a fulltime starter. Now, there may be situations during the season where some of the starters may be asked to eat up a few innings out of the pen on a given day. As long as I'm able to bounce back from games the way I normally do, I wouldn't have a problem with that. Just as long as it's not all the time. I really prefer being a starter, but it really doesn't matter which role I'm in as a pitcher as long as there isn't uncertainty from the guys that make those decisions.
What's been your career highlight so far?
The highlight of my career so far was when I was given the opportunity to be a fulltime starter a month, or so into the 2006 season. I was already off to a pretty good start that year out of the pen, but when the Pirates decided to make me a full time starter, it seemed like I just took off. I was able to have a set routine, and do things I wouldn't normally be able to do as a relief pitcher. Also, I had to really use my 3rd pitch which was my change-up. Being able to do that helped me get promoted to AAA, and then following a good five weeks there, I was in the majors for the first time. Even though I had been starting for the past four months or so, I never imagined I'd be a starting pitcher in the majors. When I was told my first big league game would be as a starter, that blew me away. Words can't describe how I felt, and what that meant to me.
Youman looks to bring versatility to the Lotte staff this season.
It's been about five years since you've been out of the majors. Do you still have the dream to make it back there? What's it like from a players perspective to be in the show?
It seems like it's been longer than about five years. Up until over the last year, or so it's been a tough go for me. Despite that, and despite not being in the bigs since 2007, I've never stopped believing that I'm a big league pitcher. I just allowed situations that were out of my control to get the best of me mentally which lead to me falling off course. With that being said, going through such a rough time has made me stronger, and prepared me to be able to handle my current, and future situations. Looking back at it, I wouldn't trade it for a thing. Now, being a major league ball player is like none other. You get the best of the best. Great uniforms, nice clubhouse, well lit, and manicured stadiums, chartered flights, good food, the best cities, etc. Any, and everything you feel you might need to be a successful ballplayer is at your disposal. The only thing that could mess with a player at that level is the business side of the game. As a minor leaguer, you may see some things from the business standpoint here, and there, but at the big league level, you're around it all the time. I believe it can make, or break a player. Right now, I'm a Lotte Giant with my mind set on helping this team win plenty ball games, and who still believes he's an MLB caliber type pitcher.
Which player or person inspired you to play pro ball?
As far as inspiration to play pro ball from a specific person, or player, there was no one that inspired me to do that. Growing up there were many players I watched, and tried to do things like. I've been playing ball since age five, and had been a fairly good player since then. I just stayed consistent with playing throughout the years, threw the ball around, and swung the bat in the streets, and in a few backyards. As I got older, different people helped me realize that being left-handed, and playing baseball was something special, and somewhat of a rarity. I really didn't pick up on what that really meant until around my junior year in high school. During my highschool years I was a basketball player also, and wouldn't get to baseball until about a month into the season. However, my junior year in my 1st start after basketball, we were playing in a tough tournament. I got the ball for the first game which was against probably the best team in Louisiana at the time. Anyways, I had no knowledge of it while playing, but there were a few pro scouts as well as college coaches in attendance. Looking back at it, I really didn't think I did anything special, but I was able to keep us in the game until late. We ended up losing, but after the game I was approached by someone with the MLB scouting bureau. I was given a questionnaire to fill out, but the thought of me playing pro ball didn't register. Needless to say, I continued to do well that year all the way throughout the summer. Repeated that my senior year, and found myself getting drafted by the Dodgers. Though it was late. That was the first time I imagined myself being a pro baseball player. However, I put that on hold to attend Louisiana State University (LSU).
Any differences between the Taiwanese league and here so far?
So far, there is a difference in the Taiwanese Baseball League (CPBL), and the Korean Baseball League (KBO). First, here in Korea, there are twice as many teams. I feel that helps with the potential boredom of playing the same three teams over a 120, or so game schedule. Also, the atmosphere seems a little more loose, and fun. Speaking strictly from my experiences. I strongly believe the coaches, and players here with Lotte are not all business all the time. Everyone knows when it's time for fun, and knows when it's time to focus, work hard, and take care of business. That mixture helps makes it easier for guys to play ball, and motivates us to do well. It just seemed as if too many guys were uptight in Taiwan which made most of us a little nervous, or timid, and afraid to make a mistake. Knowing that it possibly won't be that way here gives me somewhat of a comfort level, and confidence to do what I need to do to be successful.
Youman, along with teammate Ryan Sadowski, visiting the local U.S. troops
Have you had any embarrassing incidents on the field in your career?
As far as an embarrassing moment goes, there is one that stands out. It was in 2006 during my second game pitching in the majors. We were playing the Mets at home. It was a game where I was used as a reliever. Let me remind you that the bat boys are in charge of getting all the equipment for the hitters including pitchers that may get at bats in a game. Well, I was in the game around the 4th inning. I pitched that inning, and was due up to lead off the bottom half. Here I am, looking for my stuff (helmet, bat, batting gloves). Nothing is out for me. So, one of the bat boys, and I go into the equipment room looking for my things. Found my bat, but the closet where my helmet, and batting gloves were was locked, and we had no key. Now, we're scrambling around looking for stuff for me to use for my at bat. At this time, the pitcher is almost done with his warm ups, and I hear the manager yelling at me to get out there, and the umpire doing the same. Last thing I heard before finally finding a helmet (no batting gloves), was my manager telling the umpire after he yelled at me "man, he's new, and doesn't know anything." As he said that, I'm walking up to the plate with my head down ashamed, cause I held up the game, because I had nothing to go up to bat with. Well, I step in the box, and took the 1st pitch as instructed to. It was a strike. 2nd pitch was a strike also in which I whiffed, and missed. With that swing, my bat flew out of my hands about five rows into the stands over the Mets dugout. Really embarrassing. I did not look towards the Mets dugout, or into the stands to see where my bat was. I just slowly walked towards our bat boy with my head down to get another bat. Didn't look in our dugout either. Now I'm in the whole 0-2. Needless to say, on the next pitch I got a broken bat single up the middle for my first MLB hit. That erased any embarrassment. What's funny is, I did this with the guy who started for us bat, and helmet. He was a lefty also who had more big league time than me, but had yet to get a hit. My stay on the bases was short though, cause I got doubled up while on 1st base not being able to freeze on a line drive.
What do you like to do away from the field?
I tend to do numerous things with my time away from the field. Shopping is something that I like to do from time to time. I love sneakers. I'm also into movies, and try to catch one whenever there's time. A few other things I enjoy are traveling, the internet, watching cartoons, listening to music, and mentoring. I also cook from time to time.
Shane Youman By the Numbers
Hometown: New Iberia, Lousiana
Major League Record
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