I just spoke with Collin Balester, the now former Nationals right-hander who’s joined the bullpen of the Detroit Tigers. It’s been a crazy afternoon for Balester, who’s wife Ashley is expecting the couple’s first child and is due today. He was out shopping for a Christmas tree and had left his phone at home when the trade went down. Ashley began receiving phone calls and texts asking about the news and that’s when the two learned they’d be taking their soon-to-be-growing family to Detroit next summer, just 45 minutes north of Ashley’s home town of Perrysburg, Ohio.
Here’s what Balester had to say about leaving the only organization he’s known as a professional:
On going to Detroit and what waits for him there:
For me, right now, going to a new team — a good team with a great starting pitching staff, good bullpen, good offense — right now I’m willing to do anything at this point. I’m willing to do anything to help the team win. Anything they need me to do. Long man, multi-inning guy. I don’t think I’ll be closing too many games. I’ll do anything they really need me to do. I’m excited for the new teammates and a new city. I’ve heard great things and I’m just excited for the whole new adventure.
“(My wife, Ashley’s) brother and his wife and niece live there and a whole bunch of other family live right in that same vicinity. It’s going to be cool for them to see me play a lot more. Her brother is very excited about this whole thing. He said he’s going to save $350 on the MLB package because it’s going to be on local TV.
“It’s an exciting time. They’re all Detroit fans and growing up, you have those teams you want to play for in your mind — which for me was all California teams and west coast teams — and you get drafted and you enjoy wherever you go. But as you’re playing you see the cities you’d like to play in and Detroit was one of them for me. It’s a little bit sad to know you won’t be with those same teammates, but it’s baseball.”
On leaving behind the Nationals:
“Those guys are good guys and I wish them all the best. Everyone knows the Nats are going to be good and a team to reckon with. It’s exciting. I’m going to miss all those guys but it’s going to be a lot of fun being able to watch them.
“Obviously it’s a tough situation. I’ve been with the Nats for eight years and I made a lot of good friendships with my teammates, coaches, (pitching coach) Steve McCatty, all the managers, minor league coaches, players. That’s the tough part, all that… I’m excited to go to Detroit and start all over. I’m a fun loving guy and I feel like I’m going to gain a whole bunch of new friends.
“I’m excited to have new teammates. It’s going to be like the first day of school going to camp with a new team. I’ve never been with another team in my life. It’s going to be weird being in the other dugout seeing all the guys but, it’s baseball. I’m embracing it.”
On what happened when he got the news:
“Ashley… was so overwhelmed and excited. She grew up loving the Tigers and her whole family did. It’s kind of a crazy time. Then I get home and I had 20 texts, 20 voice mails — everyone was worried Ashley would go into labor. It’s been a crazy couple of hours.”