As you may have heard, Matthew Festa, a former AquaSox player from the 2016 squad, made it up to the Big Leagues for a “cup of coffee” as they call it. He’s now on the 40 man roster and should hopefully be back with the big league squad for the Mariners come September. We here at Seattle Sports Union were able to chase him down for a quick chat to find out how his career is progressing.
Seattle Sports Union(SSU): Thank you again for taking the time to talk with Seattle Sports Union! I have to ask the question that I’m sure everyone has asked you? First, how are you? Congrats on your debut in the big show!! How did you hear about it? How did you feel when you walked into the Ms clubhouse in Colorado?
Matt: I’m very grateful for the opportunity. It was an indescribable experience. Skip pulled me in the office before Friday nights game and was talking to me about how important it is to execute good strikes, because an outing before I had gotten the save but it came with some loud outs. He asked me how I thought those loud outs might look in the big leagues and I said “ha they probably go over the fence” and then he told me well we’re gonna find out, you’re gonna meet the team in Colorado this weekend. And I just couldn’t stop smiling. Still haven’t stopped smiling.
Walking into the clubhouse I was nervous but excited. I had been with the team in big league spring training but this is a whole other beast. Everyone kind of heckled me a little being the rookie and all but once I made my debut they all made me feel like I belonged it was really cool. The group of guys we have on that roster is something really special.
SSU: You got me smiling, what a great feeling. Congrats again, can’t say that enough. So of course I studied you, where you played, etc…Disregarding the internet, tell me a little about your baseball career growing up. When did you start, have you always been a pitcher? Did you play in high school? Summer ball anywhere?
Matt: So my road has been a long one. Growing up I wasn’t the most talented. I always had a good arm but I wasn’t a very good hitter. I never made an all star team in little league, I was never asked to play travel ball. In HS I was cut from my team after tryouts in the fall at the time I was a SS/3B didn’t play much couldn’t hit well. So I got some pitching lessons and retried out next spring and made it as a pitcher. And thus began my PO life. Out of HS I was recruited to really go anyway I had one scholarship offer to go to Merrimack but my parents couldn’t afford the rest of the tuition. So I went to Dominican College had to try out for that team and after a year and half their I wanted to get to a more competitive school so I emailed the top 25 d2 schools in 2013. The southern schools told me to look north. Luckily Coach John Kochmansky at ESU answered my email. He never saw me pitch just heard me talk and took a shot on me. The rest was history. Summer ball wise I played 2 years on the Staten Island Tide under head coach Tommy Weber. Who coach’s in the Cape Cod league for Brewster and I spent one year in the Coastal Plains League where we on the championship and named the best college summer team by Perfect Game in 2015. A lot of my teammates from that team got drafted as well.
SSU: Thank you for sharing that. Well we are blessed that you became a pitcher. You have had some challenges and you met those challenges. Good for you. You never gave up. We are getting closer to game time so I will ask you the important ones. 2016 you had an amazing year. 6-2 record. 3.73 era. Struck out a 1000 batters. You were part of a Frog playoff run with a great group. How cool was it to play in Safeco field. A few thoughts about your 2016 team. Any thing stand out you want to share? That whole team played a huge role in getting to the finale, even with the Ms taking away half the team. You seem to have the knack on playing on playoff teams. IMO that is awesome.
Matt: That 2016 team was something special I remember after the first half in Everett we all sat down and told each other were better then this were gonna make the playoffs. It was at that point we all pulled together as a family and won more games then anyone. Pitching in Safeco was the icing on the cake to that magical run. I remember pitching well that game but what stood out to me the most from that whole experience was Eric Filia robbed a HR in I think the 2nd or 3rd inning. I hung a changeup to Seth Spivey and off the bat I knew it was gone. But Filia came in flying in to save the day. It’s been really special being able to develop with him at my side at every level. He’s one of the best players and teammates I’ve ever played with. Aside from clubhouse stuff I’d like to shout out my host family for making that season in Everett so special. The Shell’s (Dawn, Sid and Ryan) They helped me feel apart of their family and that really helps you during the season being away from your home for so long.
SSU: Nice. What was your first impression of Everett, Matt? I swore you were at the meet and greet in 2016 with all your other teammates when we met you on a cold and weary day? We felt bad that you had to be exposed to us after probably just getting off and airplane and driven up to the BBQ at Memorial Stadium. Were you there that day?
Matt: I actually wasn’t I was flown into Arizona for my physical so I joined the team a couple days after that. My first impression was dang the fences seem a little close haha. But other then that I loved the field it was definitely one of my favorite in the NWL.
SSU: Glad i asked then. Couldn’t remember. We did feel bad for the team. Last questions I will send over in 2 separate paragraphs. How was the transition from starter to relief pitcher to closer? Obviously it seems like it’s going well for you. Was it easy adjustment to the level of competition climbing the ladder in the Ms organization? AquaSox nation wants to know how many pitches in your arsenal as well.
Matt: The transition was a little tough at first. I enjoyed being able to just go 100% for an inning or two. But building a new routine to be able to throw everyday or every other day was the hardest part. It took me about a month into the 2017 season. To figure out a good routine that helped me feel ready everyday to pitch instead of every 5. The level of completion was a tough jump I got off to a hot start but quickly learned I can’t get by with little mistakes anymore. But each outing was a lesson and by mid may early June I had learned what I need to do on the mound to get hitters out. My arsenal was originally 4 Seam, 2 Seam, changeup, curve and slider. But as a grew into a reliever. I dropped the changeup. So I come out of the pen with a comfortable 4 pitch mix that I can throw in any count.
SSU: Last question. The year is 2019. It is game 7 of the AL pennant and the Ms are facing the Astros. Edwin Diaz has come down with the flu, so it’s all you. A. What is your walk up music out of the pen. B. Servais has called on Matt Festa to get the 3rd out. You are facing Jose Altuve with the bases loaded. The count is 3-2. What pitch are you going to throw to Jose Altuve and bring a pennant to Seattle?
Matt: Hahaa okay so my walkout is gonna be a little odd but I lost a bet in high A last year to use the Banana Boat Song as my walkout. Well after that change I started striking out more guys, throwing more shutout innings and throwing a little harder. So I’ve kept it ever since. So in the show I’m gonna be using the same song. Unless they tell me it’s not intense enough haha. As to what pitch I’m throwing it all depends on what pitches I threw to get to that 3-2 count but I’ll probably throw my slider.
SSU: Ha ha. That’s awesome and understand why you kept it. We will be waiting for that. Thanks Matt for taking the time to interview with us. Best of luck to you this season and moving forward. You don’t have to but if you want to you can, please tell all your current teammates that are former Frogs that the nation misses them. You have a great story. Any last words for Frog nation? Haha, I have to share that Filia was my favorite. My friends teased me that I had a man crush…was glad he came back from Tacoma for that game with the amazing catch.
SSU: Good luck tonight. Cant wait to see you on the roster in September, if not sooner.
Matt: Okay great thank you very much! Thank you for allowing me to tell my story.
Best of luck to you in the future, Matt! We wish you the best here from all of us at SSU!