Golden Valley baseball alum Doug Fister back in control

After struggling a season ago, Fister finds his groove at Triple-A Tacoma

July 31, 2009 

The scene has played out in Doug Fister's mind on more than one occasion. In that scene, the Seattle Mariners are playing the Detroit Tigers. Fister is on the mound for Seattle, peering in for the sign as Dusty Ryan steps to the plate for the Tigers.

Two boyhood friends squaring off on baseball's ultimate stage.

"We've talked about it a little bit," Fister said. "We wondered what it would be like if that happened one day.

"It would be a dream come true for both of us. We've always said we're going to play in the big leagues either together or against each other one day."

The dream may become a reality soon.

Ryan was called up to the Tigers in June.

Fister is doing everything he can to make it to Seattle.

"It would be pretty weird," said Ryan. "I remember playing on a travel team when we were kids. Then we played together at Golden Valley, with the Volunteers and at Merced College.

"I don't think I would be able to keep a straight face. It would be awesome though."

After struggling in Double-A last year, Fister is making it tough for the decision-makers in Seattle not to notice him this season.

The former Golden Valley and Merced College right-hander is 6-3 with a 3.98 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma.

Fister is just a phone call and a short half-hour drive away from the Mariners.

If Fister continues to pitch well, there's a good chance he could find himself in Seattle in September when Major League Baseball teams expand their rosters. If not sooner.

"I try not think about it a lot," Fister said. "In the back of my mind, I want it to happen more than anybody.

"But every time I think about the big picture, I lose track of the little things.

"That's what I need to focus on right now."

Last year was a bump in the road for Fister. He spent the season at Double-A West Tennessee tweaking his mechanics in an attempt to increase his velocity.

The result was a 6-14 record with a 5.43 ERA.

"I did struggle," Fister said. "That's obvious looking at the numbers. We tried some experiments to get my velocity up and those experiments didn't work too well.

"Some things happen for a reason. If I just tried to forget about last year, I would be taking a few steps backwards.

"I was able to mature through failure. I had to face adversity. It made me reassess what I do and how I do things."

Fister's focus this year has been controlling the baseball.

He raised his velocity to the 88-92 mph range while playing in the Arizona Fall League.

"Whether it was physical maturity or better mechanics, I couldn't tell you why," Fister said. "Having confidence is part of it. I spent a lot of time in the weight room getting stronger. Staying loaded on my backside through my delivery is a big part of it for me."

Fister's pinpoint control with the velocity has led to just 11 walks in 103 innings, to go along with 79 strikeouts.

"During fall ball, I asked our pitching coordinator what they want out of me and he said they want to see me command the ball in the strike zone," Fister said.

"I want to put the ball where I want it any time on any count with any pitch.

"That's been my focus. I want to be able to put the ball within a three-inch circle where ever the catcher puts his glove."

Fister started the season with Double-A West Tennessee where he made two appearances out of the bullpen before being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma.

"This is how humbling baseball can be," Fister said. "I leave Double-A. I felt I'm ready for Triple-A. I deserved to be there.

"I come out of the bullpen for my first Triple-A appearance. I come in with the bases loaded and two outs.

"I fall behind 2-0 on the first batter and he hits a line drive to center field. My center fielder makes a good effort for me. He dives for it, but he misses it and it rolls to the wall, which in Tacoma the wall is forever deep.

"The first hitter I face hits an inside-the-park grand slam. I've got to be one of the few pitchers to give up an inside-the-park grand slam to the first batter he faces in Triple-A.

"It was a humbling experience. But what I like is I got the next hitter out and didn't give up a run in the next three innings.

"It showed me I do belong."

Ryan doesn't think it will be long before his friend joins him in the show.

"It would be neat to see us both make it in the same year," Ryan said. "Right now, he's doing everything he can to get there.

"He's having a hell of a year."

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