WASHINGTON - Georgetown University baseball alum Simon Mathews (C'17) recently completed his first summer of professional baseball, playing in the minor league system of the Los Angeles Angels. GUHoyas.com was able to catch up with him for a Q&A as he begins his offseason workouts back home in Connecticut.
Mathews signed a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels on June 21. In his rookie season, he compiled a 7-1 record to go along with a 3.00 ERA and 55 strikeouts while pitching at three different levels. He was 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 14 innings in the Arizona League before being promoted to the Angels' short-season team. In 10 appearances with Orem (Utah), Mathews went 3-1 with 34 strikeouts. He was called up to Double-A Mobile for one appearance on August 2, picking up the win with three innings of one-run relief with three strikeouts.
You went undrafted, but signed a free agent deal with the Angels. How did the process come about?
It was kind of a whirlwind process. The draft, I knew intellectually, that it wasn't going to work out, but I held up hope. Coach Wilk was wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, doing what he does, but it just didn't work out. I made a decision with myself and my family that, whatever it took, I was going to make a run at this thing whether that meant independent ball or signing as a free agent. I kept throwing, I kept lifting and stayed in shape. Father's Day morning I got a call from a scout with the Angels who had seen me throw a couple of times at Georgetown. He liked that I threw strikes and asked if I would like to come pitch for them. It's been my dream ever since I knew it was a real thing to play professional baseball.
Two days later, I was in Arizona. It felt like a blink of an eye. I showed up and the organization sent a van to the airport, just like the ones we took to and from Povich at Georgetown. It was filled with new draftees and other free agent signings. We took our physicals and signed our contracts and they put us up in our little apartment complex that they have for us in Tempe. The next day, we started playing ball.
What was it like to share that moment with your family?
It was awesome. The look on their faces when I told them is something I will never forget. Just the amount of support I have gotten from them has been absolutely incredible. The fact that they were as happy as they were for me when it finally happened the way that it did, it was really a special family moment and something that I will never forget.
You put up great numbers in Arizona. What was clicking? Was it a difficult transition coming out of the bullpen?
That spark that I got when I got the opportunity, when I got that phone call, really changed my whole outlook on baseball. The season at Georgetown didn't go the way we wanted it to, both as a team and personally, and all of a sudden I was seeing my baseball mortality. That kind of new lease on life, it was magical. Being able to get back out on the mound that first time in pro ball, I don't know, I've never had so much fun. Guys who have played with me or coached me know I run on a bit of a fire. All season at Georgetown, I felt like that wasn't the real pitcher that I was and I felt that I had something to prove. I felt that I was playing with a chip on my shoulder.
I learned to really enjoy the bullpen my sophomore year at Georgetown. I think that was something that was really helpful for me in being able to flip that switch back into a bullpen role. And I just really wanted to pitch. I feel that I just embraced the opportunity and the challenge of coming out of the pen and it happened to click for me. I felt comfortable as if I was in a role I was accustomed to, harkening back to my sophomore year. It was just a lot of fun, standing on the bullpen mound watching the game, heart pounding and waiting to get in.
Which role do you prefer -- bullpen or starting rotation?
I'll tell you what I told you what I told one of our front office guys. He asked me after a four-inning outing in the Arizona League if I wanted to be a starter. I told him, `honestly, I want to pitch in the big leagues. I really don't care if it is as a starter or out of the bullpen. Whatever is going to keep me hanging around, whatever the organization needs, I'm happy to do and happy to adjust to whatever role needs to be filled.' Hopefully I can keep filling roles and getting outs all the way to Angels Stadium.
You earned a one-game call-up to Double-A Mobile. What was that experience like?
Yeah, that was incredible. That was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. All I was told when I left Utah was that I was going to Mobile and they didn't know how long it would be for, but my flight left the next morning at 6 a.m. I had an idea that I was coming back, but I didn't know if it was going to be 24 hours or three days.
So I show up there on almost no sleep. You can't just be told that you are going to play double-A baseball from rookie ball and calm down and go to sleep. After flying from Salt Lake City to Atlanta to Mobile, I get to the stadium 45 minutes before stretch. I met with the manager who tells me I am going to pitch that night. I was gassed and running on pure adrenaline at that point. I didn't understand that the short staff situation they were working with meant that the starter that day was going a scheduled three or four innings. I thought I was scheduled to come into the game in the seventh in a game that had already been decided at that point, but it turns out that I go in in the sixth inning of a close game. There is also a pitch clock in double-A that I had never seen before. It wasn't a problem for me, I've always worked fast, but I felt like a quarterback under center because all of a sudden I've got this number flashing in the corner of my eye. I don't even know how, but I managed to pitch pretty well and we won the game. Before I had my jersey off, I had my plane ticket back to Utah.
How would you summarize your first professional season?
It was a blast. I like to think that, with some of the opportunities that I've had in baseball -- from playing in the Cape Cod League, to going to the BIG EAST Championship with Georgetown for the first time in so long to now this -- I would like to think that I've gotten good at not taking baseball for granted. Looking back, I had an outrageous amount of fun. I worked my butt off and I'm going to continue to do that because part of the thing about having fun is that you want to have more fun. I want to stick around in this as long as I can. I think I had a successful year, especially given the expectations of being an undrafted free agent, but by no means am I ready to tie a ribbon on it. Tim Adleman proved with what he went through, getting released by the Orioles, then playing independent ball for a couple of years, Georgetown baseball creates and puts out some tough players.
Every year, I need to come back improved while being able to continue to showcase the things that allow me to have success. Tim Adleman actually lives about 35 minutes from me and I've been in touch with him a little bit and we are going to set something up soon to start working out to prepare for next season.
How did your three years at Georgetown help prepare you for your first summer in pro ball?
One of the biggest things that I will never forget about my time at Georgetown is really who I was coming in and the opportunity that Coach Wilk gave me coming out of Temple. It is really the first example I have of the confidence boost instilled in me that I think happened again in pro ball. Somebody thinks I can do this. I better prove them right. I think that is the biggest help to me. I was on the verge of not playing college baseball, but Coach Wilk saw something in me, or believed in me from his conversations with my Temple coach, but he gave me a shot.
And then, after that, there is something about being a Georgetown player that is a lot like being a free agent signing in pro ball. The kids who had the most success as Georgetown baseball players were the guys who embraced that hard work, who loved that grind, who loved that struggle. Who loved the fact that when you get in the vans to go to Povich, that is your respite from being a student at one of the most rigorous academic universities in the country. When I got this chance in pro ball, that attitude that I developed at Georgetown was unbelievably helpful to me. And the way I attacked things everyday was definitely something I learned in my time on the Hilltop.
Mathews played three seasons for the Blue & Gray, graduating in Georgetown's top 10 for career wins (14), ERA (3.72) and strikeouts (186). He started 14 games as a senior, finishing with four wins and a 5.12 ERA and leading the pitching staff with 91.1 innings pitched and a program-record 85 strikeouts. As a junior, Mathews was an All-BIG EAST First Team selection when he went 5-4, tying for the team lead in wins, and ranked second with 59 strikeouts. He fired 95.1 innings, tied for the third most in GU history, and had five complete games.
He is one of four Hoya alums currently playing in professional organized baseball, joining former teammates Matt Smith (B'16) and David Ellingson, who are in the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners systems, respectively, as well as Tim Adleman (N'10), who is currently pitching for the Cincinnati Reds.