Previously posted at Dodgers Nation.
A lot of Dodgers prospects made excellent progress in 2019. We are reaching out to some players over the next few weeks with some questions about their 2019 season. The first one to respond with his answers was John Rooney and we want to thank him upfront. This is not the first time that Dodgers Nation reached out to John for his time. Last year Daniel Preciado had a phone interview with John, which set this article up well.
Tim Rogers: How was it like in your first spring training in 2019?
John Rooney: Spring training lived up to its hype as a real grind mentally and physically especially in the AZ heat. It was an extremely competitive experience, having the best in the world all try and make a team.
TR: When did your finger injury happen? Were there any issues with it after it healed?
JR: My finger injury happened the last two weeks of ST. I really don’t know and forget exactly what it was, but I do know it hurt like hell for weeks and only hurt when I threw my changeup. But eventually it went away and it’s not even a thought in my head anymore.
TR: Once you got started with Great Lakes what was that experience like? Had you ever been in Michigan before? Did you have a host family?
JR: It was my first time in Michigan when I went to the Loons and was with an awesome host family Kathy and Tony for two seasons. If you’re reading this, hi! There wasn’t much to do outside of baseball but when you’re with the team and host family you made the most of it. Very small city. But great people and I’ll never forget my time there. However, the baseball stadium was amazing and the staff was top notch. Loved being at the field.
TR: Was it a surprise to get promoted? Who told you about the promotion to RC?
JR: I was honestly itching to get promoted because I was on a good stretch. And finally, John Shoemaker called me up on an off day and told me to pack my bags because I was heading out the next day. It was my first promotion, and I’ll never forget that feeling especially when you’re being told by such a legend.
TR: As the season went on, what went well in terms of improvements?
JR: When I got to Rancho I thought I really hit the ground running and finished strong, honestly finding more success and consistency there. My strikeouts to walk ratio got a lot better and numbers-wise I was a much better pitcher. That had a lot to do with finding my changeup from my finger injury and most of all developing a hell of a slider in California with (Connor) McGuiness.
NOTE: Connor McGuiness was promoted to the Major League coaching staff as the Assistant Pitching Coach after the 2019 season.
TR: There seemed to be quite a group of Loons that ended up on the Quakes during the season. What was it like for all you guys to be in that group?
JR: It was a hell of a feeling hugging it out with the Loons I played within California when I saw them on the other side. You always talk about it in Midland “man I can’t wait to be there in Rancho“ and when you finally meet up there together you can’t help but smile. It’s a small feeling of success, then back to work. Because eventually, it becomes ‘man I can’t wait to be in Tulsa’.
TR: What was it like going from Michigan to Southern California (especially during the summertime)?
JR: There was definitely a lot more to do in California and options, but the diehard fans and packed stadiums weren’t there like they were in Michigan. I guess that’s because of how much was going on in Cali.
TR: Did you notice a difference in pitching in the atmosphere between the two places as the California League is known as a hitter’s league?
JR: There definitely was a little more noise in Michigan from the fans and liveliness but when you get on the mound and dial in it’s hard to really notice any outside distractions and the inner competitor takes over. However, the ball FLEW in California in certain parks. Routine flys became home runs.
TR: How would you rate your pitches right now? Are you still working on a 4th pitch?
JR: To rank my pitches, I always think of them at their best. And at its’ best my changeup is my best weapon, but I absolutely love a back-foot slider to righties. I try to think of every pitch as nasty, that way I don’t get too predictable to a hitter and pick favorites.
TR: Overall, what were your thoughts on your 2019 season?
JR: I loved the way I went about my 2019 season. It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. And I was stuck in extended with an injury, but once I was cleared, I had tunnel vision all season and put up some good numbers and helped give our team some W’s.
TR: I had read that you’ve done quite a bit to work on your conditioning. Were you able to maintain your physical goals during the season and through the off-season?
JR: This off-season I spent most of my time in California at Dodger Stadium in the weight room and field to improve my velo and it really showed this second spring training with a good 2 mph difference. Hopefully, I can find that again when I’m back.
TR: What are your goals for 2020 (or whenever the heck you all play)?
JR: My goals for 2020 right now, in New York, is to stay hot, expect the unexpected, and be in the best possible position physically and mentally because who knows what opportunities are on the table this year. The most I can do right now is work my tail off.
TR: How was your 2020 Spring Training going?
JR: My 2020 ST was going great and I’m doing what I can at home to stay on that high note
Some off-topic questions:
TR: Do you plan on finishing your degree in Marketing?
JR: I do plan on finishing my degree but right now I have all my eggs in the baseball basket.
TR: How did you learn to play guitar? Who are some artists that inspire you? Do you play in any bands or have you done so recently?
JR: I took guitar lessons for 3-4 years at the age of 12 and it was a huge passion of mine. I had a high school band and we did a lot of song covers. I’ve always loved classic rock, love me some Led Zeppelin. Definitely want to recruit some minor leaguers for a band and play!
TR: Other than inventing the sock throwing drill, what have you been able to do while the season is on pause?
Quarantined? 30 degrees in NY? Crying yourself to sleep ? Try this throwing program with just three easy steps pic.twitter.com/XXFUh48COr
— John Rooney (@jroons04) March 31, 2020
JR: The sock drill is actually a somewhat known thing in the northeast for cold weather ballplayers. But I haven’t seen it done in a very long time so I said hey, why not. While doing it I was kind of laughing at myself, going from throwing at Dodger stadium to throwing in my room with a sock in my hand when it was 15 degrees and snowing in early March. I figured twitter needed to see it.
Some Final Thoughts
Again, I want to thank John Rooney for his great response to my questions. I highly suggest you follow him on social media. He can be found on Instagram (@ jroons04) and Twitter (@ jroons04). It was on Instagram where I saw him playing some Led Zeppelin on his IG story. He’s really good.