After a year as the ace at the University of Tennessee, Garrett Stallings heard his name called as the fifth round selection of the Los Angeles Angels. The junior is well regarded for his array of four quality pitches and struck out 106 batters in 102 innings while pitching in arguably the best conference in the country.
Off the field, Stallings was the All-SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year in baseball and was honored as a member of the 2019 All-SEC Community Service Team.
In our chat he was thoughtful, humble, and excited about following his lifetime dream of playing in MLB. He called me while en route to the Angels practice facility in Tempe and here is a transcript of that call:
Thanks for the phone call, I really appreciate it.
“You’re welcome. Thanks for reaching out to me.”
Let’s talk about you signing with the Angels. When did you know you were on their radar?
“The draft is such an unpredictable process. I knew going into the draft there was definitely a handful or more teams interested in me. I was just sitting outside at a restaurant watching the draft with my two parents and I thought maybe I was getting picked up a little bit earlier by a few other teams but they kept passing.
Funny story, I was sitting there and I was watching the draft on my phone and I was actually getting congratulations texts on my phone before I actually knew my name was called. So it was kind of a cool feeling knowing that someone said ‘congratulations’ or ‘that’s awesome’ and then five seconds later my name was called by the Angels.
My agent sent me, a few picks before the Angels, saying they were in talks or they were interested. So it was a pretty cool moment and I’m very blessed to have this amazing opportunity by this great organization.”
You were actually drafted along with another guy in your rotation (Zach Linginfelter), which is incredibly rare. Were the Angels at a lot of your games on weekends and did you know who they were scouting? Or was it kind of a shock that you ended up together?
“You know, it is pretty amazing and it is pretty cool to have Zack along with me knowing the odds for that to happen are pretty rare.
We all, I mean all the teams pretty much came to our facility early on in the year before the season and we sat down and talked with a lot of the teams. At the end of the day every team is kind of an open door. And its a little different in college because you don’t have the option to pick where you’re going. It’s more you have to impress somebody else and then they call your name.
But I’m assuming they were at quite a few games during the season and they liked stuff about our delivery and the way we move and the way we compete. It just happened to all work out for the best.”
I have to imagine as a player you don’t know who is scouting for whom up in the stands, right? Some guys have radar guns, some don’t, and you just go out and play.
“Right, exactly. I think the difference between the high school and the college way for the draft is a lot easier because the scouts kind of keep their distance a little bit more than in high school.
In college you can just go out there and pitch and do your thing and as long as things keep going well and you stay healthy, you’re probably going to get picked up if you’re doing the right things.
In high school, you have a little bit more. You have home visits and there’s a little bit more communication with scouts.
So I think the college game does it pretty well with protecting players and just letting them focus on the game and letting the rest take care of itself.”
And why did you decide to go to college instead of jumping straight to the pro game?
“I had the opportunity to go out of high school. I always thought I was kind of a mature kid for my age, but it was always kind of a dream of mine to go to college. Not that I sold myself short or anything when I was a younger kid, I think every little kid’s dream is to play in the Major Leagues and have success there.
But I think one of my goals was to go play college baseball. It probably wasn’t up until 9th or 10th grade that I had the realization that I was pretty good at baseball and I was going to be able to probably have a chance to keep playing at the next levels.
I don’t regret going to college at all. I’ve had a great experience and met so many amazing people who have helped me along the way. And I feel like I’ve grown up a lot more in the last three years even though I feel like I was maybe a little more ready than others to guy straight out of high school.
I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything, though.”
Speaking of the people you met, how close were you and Zack as teammates. Are you going to be rooming together in Tempe?
“Zack and I, we actually lived together in the same apartment at school our sophomore and junior year. So we’re pretty close.
Out here in Tempe we’re actually not rooming together, but I don’t think that’s the worst thing. I’ve spent the last three years with him and gotten to know him really well and had some really good times with him and I think its been a good opportunity to meet some new people.
But at the end of the day its great having him around, too, because he’s someone who knows what shoes we’ve walked in. We can bounce ideas off each other and he’s been a great friend to me.”
There’s another set of great friends out there. Have you met Trent Deveaux yet?
“Trent is actually Zach’s roommate. He’s been able to talk to him a lot. Its pretty cool being friends with someone who speaks English and Spanish pretty well that you can kind of bounce some ideas or learn some words and be able to communicate with other people in the clubhouse.”
I’ve interviewed and met Trent, he has a pretty incredible story and roomed with his best friend last year, which is where that question came from.
“Oh, ok. Yeah, I’ve met him.”
What are the Angels having you work on in Tempe right now? Anything specific or more general conditioning, pitch selection type stuff?
“Right now I’m in a select group, I want to say there are 10 of us, in this onboarding program. We either threw a lot of innings in college or our arms could use a little bit of a rest. So right now we’re just throwing three times a week kind of gradually building our arms up for a few bullpens at the end of the summer.
Our main focus is just to get strong and as healthy as possible to build up for an amazing season next year and be able to withstand that wherever we end up.”
And speaking of summer, you’ve never had a summer like summer in Phoenix, Arizona have you?
“[Laughs]. I haven’t. I’ve been out to Arizona before and played at one of the local team’s complexes for a couple days. It was a quick turnaround. You know, actually, I kind of liked it when I was out here. My mom drove me out a few years ago.
She asked me, ‘Garrett, of all the places you’ve traveled playing baseball where are some of the places you’d like to end up?’
I said North Carolina, Arizona, or California. So its kind of funny I get the best of both worlds with Arizona and California, hopefully.”
There’s plenty of stuff to do around Tempe away from the field, too. Mill Avenue, hiking trails, golf. Speaking of which, we know very little about you other than you pitched well for Tennessee and got drafted by the Angels. What do you like to do away from the field?
“I feel that’s always a funny question we ask athletes because we do spend so much time focusing on our craft, but I do like being outdoors. We have quite a bit of time on our hands in the morning and late at night and I’ve been getting up early every morning, I’m kind of an early bird, and walking around and taking in the sights.
I have a lake house in Lake Gaston and I enjoy just spending time in the quiet and fishing and bringing some friends up there and hanging out.
I’m a sports lover, my brother played volleyball in college at Long Beach State and I actually played volleyball in high school with him. I just like being active and competing and just being a fun every day guy when I’m not on the field.”
Do you think there’s anything from playing volleyball that helps you in baseball?
“Absolutely. I think one reason that I happen to be so successful in the sport is that I always took the Fall off, baseball wise. Growing up, through high school, and even when I was younger in middle school.
Volleyball was in the Fall and I know I was still using my arm in kind of an overhead motion but I think it took some stress off my arm not throwing year round. And it kept me athletic, it kept me in shape, and just out there having fun.”
I am 100% with you. I live in Orange County and kids here start playing year round baseball at like 10 years old. Its ridiculous. My son will definitely do something different in the Fall.
“It’s fun. Our parents always encouraged us to play as many sports as we could and just have fun with it.
My brother was one of the best swimmers in the country at 12 or 13 and he just decided it wasn’t for him. His heart wasn’t fully in it and he just tried out for volleyball.
It keeps you young, it keeps you having fun playing all kinds of sports growing up. You never know what you’re going to be really good at so the more opportunities you have the better you’re going to be.”
Definitely. Are you going to be assigned to a minor league club this year or will they hold you in Tempe?
“I’m not going to compete off the mound this season at all. I’m just going to just work on my fitness and try to get strong and start getting under some of the philosophies that the Angels teach.
Then I will just come back for instructs and Spring Training before they send me off someplace else.”
That’s the same thing they did with Griffin Canning and several other college pitcher lately. I love that strategy, by the way. Are you aware that the Angels promote really quickly? That is you’re doing well they’re going to move you up?
“That’s what you want. It’s good to get drafted by an organization that teaches their philosophy but also allows you to do your own things and being able to move up quickly is what you want.
Especially being a college pitcher and being, having a little more experience than some high school guys, I think its in our best interest.”
And I have one last question before I let you go. We ask everybody this question, and it started with Cam Bedrosian years ago. I have to assume Virginia boy you’ve eaten at Five Guys with Fries, right?
You’ve been out to the West Coast a few times. Have you had the opportunity to eat at an In-N-Out Burger?
“I have eaten at an In-N-Out Burger.”
Which one is better?
“I think they’re both pretty special for themselves. I think, like if I had the option to choose between the two like ‘hey, where are we going to dinner tonight?’ I think I’m probably picking Five Guys. But I think for the convenience aspect, In-N-Out is in its own bracket for the service and how quick as well as the quality for how quick it is.
I definitely like In-N-Out a whole lot because its something that I don’t get to have all the time. Now being on the West Coast its a little more available.
I haven’t been yet since I’ve been here but I know some of the other guys have. It’s always cool taking someone there for the first time and seeing what their reaction is.”
Nice. That’s pretty much a regional thing with East Coast guys liking Five Guys and West Coast guys going In-N-Out.
“[Chuckles] I can see that.”
Before I let you go, is there any one thing about you you’d like people to know as we follow you along this journey through the minors and hopefully up to the Major League?
“Not to talk too much about myself, but I just think that if you really just try to do everything the right way and be a nice person, treat people the right way, I think it really does reward you in the end.
Going through high school, college, I always took the time to never blow anybody off and always took the time to help as many people as I could and I think in the end it kind of helped me out.
I think the more relationships you can hold on to, the more people you can help, they’ll be there to help you out in the end and I think that’s something that has helped me reach as far as I have.”
Perfect. That’s a perfect way to wrap up this interview. Thanks again for the time, I appreciate it and know our readers will too.
“Thanks for having me.”
There we have it. Another great guy in the system. I’d like to add that Garrett was the first member of the Angels draft class to respond to my interview request, even before he’d signed his contract.
Please leave questions and comments below. Garrett will get a link and is interested in doing follow up interviews as he climbs the ranks. So, if I missed something or you just want to drop him a quick hello, please do so below.