Continuing my interview series with right-handed pitching prospect Gentry Fortuno dating back to when he was drafted by the Brewers in the 18th round in 2015, I recently chatted with the 20 year old after he received some rather devastating news this spring:
Kyle Lesniewski: You recently completed your 2nd offseason and reported to spring training with the Brewers at the beginning of March. Did you do anything different last winter than you did from your first offseason as a pro? What do you focus on while training, what types of exercises do you perform? How often do you throw during the winter? Did you work a regular job as well?
Gentry Fortuno: The only thing that really changed was my mentality. I really began to understand that baseball is the best craft I have might, so I might as well become the best. I focused a lot on my leg and core strength, running not so much because I'm there to pitch not win triathlons. I threw during the winter about 5 to 6 times a week, 3 of those being bullpens. I did work for a month at a Zumiez in a mall near home (in Florida). It's like a skateboard clothing store, but it became too much with training.
KL: How were your first few weeks of spring training?
GF: You know they went well, I thought. Running sucked like always but I thought the way things were going it was going to be a great year for me to see better opportunities.
KL: You were - somewhat surprisingly, in my mind - released by the Brewers last week (along with Steve Peterson, David Lucroy, Clint Terry, Malik Collymore, Chris McFarland, and Santos Saldivar). Can you talk about what that process was like and how they broke the news to you? What factors do you think lead to the decision?
GF: It was the same as every morning, I went down to field but then our farm assistant director told me to come with him. I didn't think anything of it, but when we sat down he said “look,” that was it, I already knew what he was going to say. I was in disbelief that it was happening, shook everyone’s hands and walked out trying to cope with my emotions of anger and that shit feeling like, “oh man did that just happen?” I don't think they gave me a fair shot like others, I believe that I was the best pitcher in the camp but there is no way to prove it when you are a high school guy and barely have say in most things. If they would have given my fair share opportunity I think I would have made the Brewers very happy and I couldn't even use my best arsenal because of a dumb rule.
KL: You can't throw two-seamers in rookie ball, right?
GF: Yeah, two-seams or my sinker, which are my best pitches. And I still threw more than 70% of strikes every outing.
KL: So they essentially took away your best weapon, and then decided to let you go. Did the club tell you specifically what lead to the decision? Who is your support system during a trying time like this?
GF: They said that there were not many available spots, which I believe is kind of a crap excuse for them to pull. Of course there are spots, it's still spring training! My support system has been myself through this, I like doing things by myself don't like talking to people. I'm my own escape. Really, I’m just frustrated because I can pitch and the Brewers didn't give me an opportunity to pitch like I know how to. Rookie ball bullcrap, that's not baseball. Then they have us playing high school kids (the traveling Langley Blaze during a spring exhibition) what does that do for our competition? I can compete with anyone, hopefully another team picks me up and I show just that. I just don't believe the Brewers saw my full potential, and then they flaked out on me.
KL: What’s next for you? Do you have an agent; have you heard any interest from other teams? How do you get your name out there? Would you play in the independent leagues?
GF: Hopefully more baseball is next. I don’t have an agent and haven't gotten contacted yet with any interest, no. The Brewers contacted the rest of major league teams and contacted all the Indy ball leagues to see if anyone wants to pick me up. I was told anything that happens would likely be after spring training is over.
KL: So at least the Brewers did you the courtesy of trying to get your name out there once they decided to let you go.
GF: Yes. It sucks, but I know I'm going to help another team more than I will the Brewers, but I thank them for drafting me and my opportunity. I know as long as I get picked up by someone and still am able to play toward the bigs that I'm going make it, and I'm not going to let things ending with the Brewers stop me from achieving that. I would absolutely go an play independent ball, too.
KL: Who are you going to miss being around most from the Brewers’ organization? Player, coach that you were close with? Best memory from your time with Milwaukee?
GF: Just all of the guys in the locker room. Everyone was great company, times like that will never be replaced. There were lots of memories, from the first time I put red hot on my ‘man area’ before pitching, and when I waved goodbye at my first home run allowed. I love doing my business but you have to make baseball fun.
KL: What'll you do now to stay in shape until that next big phone call comes?
GF: I'm doing a lot of late nights at the gym, running, hitting the weights here and there. But lots of band work, core work things I've learned from the Brewers.
KL: How is your approach to training different now from when you graduated high school and were drafted by the Brewers?
GF: High school was just baseball. Didn’t have any worries, always had something to fall back on. The game was just fun back then, and now it's everything. I can't live without it. Training is similar in the exercise and throwing I do, I just know now how to care of my body compared to high school. What you eat, the times you eat, stretching, getting enough sleep, eating enough of the right foods, drinking fluids, and most importantly, surrounding yourself with positive outlooks.
KL: Given what happened, have you thought at all about life after baseball? How long do you keep chasing your pro dreams and when will you know it’s time to hang up your cleats?
GF: Right now, no, I’m not thinking about anything else but baseball. There is no real ‘how long’ in my mind, when the time is right to walk away, I'll just know.
KL: Would the Brewers help you with college at all? What would you study in college, or if not school, what type of job do you think you’d like to pursue?
GF: Yes the Brewers would help with school, but if baseball doesn’t work out I want to become a part of the Secret Service.
KL: I don't know man, you might have to do some of that running you hate so much if you're going to be chasing down some bad guys that are trying to get the president.
GF: Bullets travel faster than I do, so I'm not worried!
KL: Well Gentry, I really appreciate you taking the time to open up over the last few years. Good luck finding a new club, hopefully in the near future. We’ll still be following your career with interest at Brew Crew Ball and you and I will talk again soon.
GF: Hopefully, thank you Kyle.