Leiter experiences 'whirlwind of emotions' with MLB callup

April 17th, 2024

DETROIT -- There is a different kind of excitement attached to a Major League debut when it involves the pitcher who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 Draft. And, so, Rangers fans, team members and media are on the edge of their seats when it comes to 's first start Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.

Leiter, Texas' No. 8 prospect, spoke about the responses of others and the realization of his own dream coming true prior to Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Tigers. He seemed relaxed, sitting on the dugout bench with a few reporters, and made eye contact when answering their questions, often smiling.

Since he’s the son of , who won 162 games in 19 Major League seasons and currently is a studio analyst for MLB Network, the nephew of former big league pitcher and the cousin of Cubs pitcher , Jack has viewed making it here differently.

“As a kid, you don’t initially know the amount of work that’s going to go into getting here," Jack said. "As a really little kid, I just thought that’s what everybody did. My mom told me that in pre-school I asked one of my classmates what team his dad played for because I just thought everybody played baseball.

“So, for the five-year-old me, it was an expected thing. And then as I got older: a dream, then a goal, and then you start to visualize it. Then, it becomes a reality, and it’s special.”

He learned of the callup Tuesday morning in the office of Round Rock Express manager Doug Davis, and said the time since has “been a whirlwind with a lot emotions, a lot of awesome conversations and a lot of happy thoughts.”

The first phone call went to Dad.

What was his response to the big news?

“It was a long conversation,” said Jack Leiter, “and I was kind of blacked out. He said how proud he was, just reflecting on being a little kid in the backyard and all those special, special memories looking back of working hard from a young age. So, that was a special conversation, for sure.”

When asked about mentors along the way who helped pave his road to the Majors, Leiter said, “Coach [Tim] Corbin and [pitching] Coach [Scott] Brown at Vanderbilt were some of my first calls after family. Just part of the reflecting process -- wouldn’t be here today without them. The strength coach I’ve had since freshman year of high school, Mickey Brueckner back in New Jersey, among many others.

“It’s taken a lot of people in my corner, and it’s special. I’m appreciative of that.”

He said the amount of people coming to Comerica Park for the 1:10 p.m. ET game on Thursday is "at like 30."

The Tigers will be the best team he’s ever faced in a regular season game, but he said the preparation will be no different than what he was doing for the Triple-A Express.

“I have a pretty thorough mental, physical process and routine that’s adapted over the years,” said Leiter, “and kind of just recently developed even further, and I feel real good about it. So, it’s the same way I’ve prepared for starts in Round Rock.”

He was 1-1 with a 3.77 ERA in three games (two starts) at Triple-A. The exceptional strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 25-to-3 that he posted over 14 1/3 innings made his callup an easy decision for the Rangers, who have been strapped by injuries in their rotation to former Cy Young Award winners Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom as well as, most recently, Cody Bradford.

Leiter, whose 6-17 record and 5.25 ERA in 46 games in the Minors reflect his early struggles, said those rough starts helped get him to the Majors.

“I think it was really important because from that my whole new process and routine was kind of born,” said Leiter. “I don’t know if I would have adopted that until later on in my career if I hadn’t gone through those struggles.

“I really am grateful for it. And even when I was going through it, people were telling me, ‘It’s going to make you better. It’s going to make you better.’ ”

And they were right.

What was the biggest change in his preparation process?

“It all comes down to execution,” said Leiter. “That, versus focusing on just dominating the hitters, and wanting to throw a complete-game shutout, no-hitters and all that stuff. It was taking a step back, and understanding none of that happens if you’re focusing on those things versus just focusing on this pitch.”

Texas manager Bruce Bochy got a twinkle in his eyes when discussing Leiter’s debut.

“He came in and had af big smile,” Bochy said. “He’s just excited. He’s thankful for this opportunity. So, it’s good to see him. The way he was throwing the ball in Spring Training, I knew he’d be up at some point…He’s ready to help us, and I’m looking forward to watching him.”

Of his conversation Wednesday with Bochy, Leiter smiled and said, “I mean, it was great. When I got here, just to have the feeling, looking around in awe, a big league stadium. Obviously, I’ve been in them before as a fan, and with my dad when he was playing. But it’s a lot different as a player. So, it’s cool.”