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Q&A with Helena Brewers Pitcher Gentry Fortuno

The youngster opens up about his tough 2016 season and the life of a minor league baseball player.

After an outstanding debut season in the Arizona Rookie League last year, 2015 18th round pick Gentry Fortuno got bumped up to the Pioneer League for his sophomore season. There the right handed pitcher ran into the first bit of adversity in his young career, finishing with an 8.16 ERA in 46.1 innings and 35 strikeouts against 15 walks. He did pitch the entire season at just age 19, however, roughly two and a half years younger than the median age in the league.

Continuing my interview series with the young Brewers’ prospect, we caught up about his struggles this season and more:

Kyle Lesniewski: How does it feel to be finished up with your second professional season?

Gentry Fortuno: Man, I feel old! Second season already done in the blink of an eye, I’m already going to be in my second spring training, time is absolutely flying by. But I'm enjoying every minute of it; meeting great people, playing the game I love, having a bunch of new fans, it's all pretty great but I can't believe I have finished two seasons already.

KL: On the surface, you had some tough times this season. How do you and your coaches feel like you actually performed, regardless of ERA?

GF: You know this year was seriously tough for me, I’ve never done that bad and didn't know how to deal with a lot of situations. I was frustrated, mad at myself, but continued to work harder every day to do better than the last.

But my coaches were tremendous, I wouldn't give up on them and neither they did with me. They always were on my ass and kept pushing me in the best direction possible because I wasn’t always in the best frame of mind this season, but they never gave up on me and kept pushing me forward. That really helped me to really get through this year.

KL: How do you feel you dealt with the adversity?

GF: I honestly tried to keep my head up and think about Roger Clemens and David Price, guys like that have really bad games and they were and still are some of the best pitchers in the game. I kept telling myself that I'm not the only one that struggles, and that I will keep getting better every day if I keep pushing myself to my limits to achieve more.

KL: What sorts of things did they have you working on this season?

GF: This past season they had me work on keeping the ball low and no ‘casting’ my curveball, or in other words don't baby it up to the plate. I’m taking that into instructs (instructional league starts this week for all 30 teams), working on my curveball to get to a good enough foundation where I can throw it consistently for strikes.

KL: What were the biggest differences between pitching in the Arizona League last year and the Pioneer league now?

GF: In Arizona the pitches that you miss and leave over the plate are swung and missed at a lot, if not most of the time. In the Pioneer League you have to make quality pitches all the time or you’ll get burned. Also last year in Arizona I had all the confidence in the world coming into the pro ranks, but in Helena my confidence wavered during the season as I struggled, though I felt good about how I finished up at the end of the year and started feeling better again.

KL: What are your biggest takeaways from your experiences on the diamond this season?

GF: Definitely to keep your frustration to a limit. Don't let people know your mad out there. Also control the controllable, like I can’t control the umpires and their calls, I can only control where I locate my pitches.

KL: You're from Florida - how'd you like it Montana? What were your living arrangements like, what kind of stuff did you do when you weren't at work?

GF: Montana honestly was boring, you have to be a real outdoors type of person to enjoy it out here. I like hunting and fishing and that kind of stuff, but it just got boring after a while. We stayed with a host family, I was there with two new draft picks Ronnie (Gideon) and Dalton (Brown) along with one guy from my same draft class, Nash (Walters).

KL: Which one of your teammates was the most fun/impressive to watch this year?

GF: Ronnie Gideon. It was fun trying to watch him smack balls as far as he could and when he was tied and beat the kid with Ogden for the home run lead, it was awesome to watch that.

KL: What're your plans for the winter, once instructs are over?

GF: I’m looking forward to being able to see my family again, but no trips or anything exciting planned. I probably will get another job to be able to save up some money for next season (Fortuno worked stocking shelves in a retail store last winter), but I don’t know where or what I want to look for yet. I’ll be training hard, too; I’m going to have to come back a totally different animal next season to be successful. My mindset has gotten so much stronger after this year, and I'm ready to tear it up, conquer the world and every batter I face.

KL: Thanks a lot for catching up with me, congratulations on another season in the books and good luck at instructs this fall!

GF: Thanks for the opportunity!

You can follow Gentry at @FortunoGentry on Twitter and read the rest of this interview series here:

July 2015
September 2015
February 2016

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs