Throughout the offseason, Chicago Dogs broadcaster Sam Brief will catch up with members of the 2019 Dogs to revisit memorable moments, check on what they’re up to during the offseason and talk baseball.
Next up is a 6-foot-8 behemoth of a pitcher who stood (quite) tall as the Dogs’ closer in 2019. 26-year-old righthander Kyle Halbohn made 36 appearances for Chicago, notching 14 saves in 15 opportunities. He posted a 1.98 ERA and walked just 12 batters, striking out 46, in 41 innings of work.
Halbohn wrapped up the season as the Dogs’ ERA champion, spearheading a pitching staff which led the American Association in strikeouts.
Prior to his stint with the Dogs, Halbohn made stops at four different colleges to play baseball: San Jacinto (TX), Spartanburg Methodist (SC), Kansas State and, finally, Belmont Abbey (NC). He signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees right out of college, then spent two years in the Los Angeles Angels farm system. He also earned an invite to Cincinnati Reds training camp before the 2019 season.
Right before coming to Chicago, Halbohn pitched a bit for the Atlantic League’s High Point Rockers, a team he returned to mere hours after the Dogs’ season ended. Next summer, he plans to play professionally in Japan.
OK, let’s get to the good stuff. Here’s today’s chat with Kyle Halbohn:
Sam Brief: So the season ended on September 2. What did the next couple of days look like for you?
Kyle Halbohn: After the last game, I cleaned out my locker, said goodbye to everybody, then I drove down to High Point, North Carolina, because the next day I needed to be activated in the trade between Chicago and High Point. And for the next month, we had games.
SB: What was the exact timeline?
KH: So I left September 2 around 6:00 p.m. and got into Chillicothe, Ohio around 1:00 a.m. The next morning, I left at 8:00 a.m. and got into High Point around 3:30 p.m. By four, I was outside for batting practice.
SB: Quick turnaround!
KH: Yeah, I literally signed the papers and then put on my old BP top and went out to shag fly balls.
SB: I know you love shagging.
KH: Yeah, I hate shagging. Hate it. It’s so boring.
SB: What’s the worst part about shagging?
KH: I get lost in my thoughts, which you’d think would kill time, but it just makes me think of all the other things I’d rather be doing than shagging fly balls for the ungrateful hitters that never thank us.
SB: The hitters should get the pitchers a shagging thank-you gift after the season.
KH: Well, the pitchers always tip the bullpen catcher. The hitters should tip all of the pitchers for shagging.
SB: …but then who’s going to tip the hitters?
KH: They’re on their own.
SB: Anyway, what was it like for you to go from playing in High Point to playing for the Dogs and then back to High Point again?
KH: It was obviously a bit different. I also was under the impression the whole time I was in Chicago that I’d be going back to High Point after the season. So it was kind of weird playing for one team and wanting to win with that team, while also checking in with another team that I knew would have five more weeks to their season. So I wanted both teams to win and go to the playoffs. I basically felt like I was a part of two teams all year.
SB: That’s a funky little situation you were in. What was the reception from the guys when you got back to the High Point clubhouse?
KH: It was kind of exciting, because I didn’t see them for three months and it almost felt like it was the start of a new season, but they were on the back end of the season and all tired, too. Essentially, the pitchers looked at me as a fresh bullpen arm, even though I wasn’t too fresh, either.
SB: I know it was important to you to finish with a sub-two ERA this summer. In Chicago, you got to a 1.98 ERA, with a 1.89 in High Point. Well done. How’d you feel about your performance?
KH: The last outing of the year in High Point, I got a strikeout. As soon as I struck him out, I was pretty excited. I knew it was my last outing, and I knew I accomplished a very difficult goal of having a sub-two ERA in 60 innings. I’m still excited about it. Every time I look at the stats, I’m like, “It’s in the books!”
SB: There aren’t many guys who can pitch that many innings across two different leagues and put up numbers like that.
KH: I’m pretty proud of that. In baseball, your stats are your résumé. This year was successful and contributes towards my résumé, which hopefully translates.
SB: What’s the next step for you? I understand you’re headed way out East.
KH: Right now, my agent is in contact with three Japanese big-league teams, and I’ll be headed out there in late November to meet with all three. We’ll see where it goes from there.
SB: They really pack those stadiums in Japan. It’s got to feel good to garner some interest from those franchises, yeah?
KH: I hope it works out, because it’s big-league money. We pay our superstars better here in the United States, but their minimum wage is actually higher than the minimum wage in the majors here. So that makes it easier, but it also makes it easier to get picked up by a major league team and go right to Triple-A.
It’s easier to bypass a lot of stuff, kind of what Miles Mikolas did, who’s a starter for the [St. Louis] Cardinals. He played in Japan for a few years and then signed with the Cardinals.
It’s the highest level of competition outside of Major League Baseball in the United States. And it’s another stepping stone towards fulfilling a dream.
SB: Have you ever been outside of North America?
KH: I have not. Japan is gonna be different.
SB: That’s a big step.
KH: I’m pretty excited. I’m gonna meet with my agent, who’s been there numerous times, to go over the dos and don’ts of their culture. I’m more just relaxed, since it’s the offseason right now. It was a long year, so I’m just happy and relaxed. I’m not worried about anything else, even though it’s six weeks away.
SB: Do you like sushi?
KH: I do. I actually had it today. I gotta figure out what else they have, though. I can’t eat sushi all day every day.
SB: You mentioned to me a while back something about custom suits in Asia. What’s the deal with that?
KH: Yeah, I’m flying to Hong Kong first, because they make some of the best suits in the world. I’m gonna grab three suits and a tuxedo before I head to Japan.
SB: Do they have big-and-tall stores there?
KH: Well, it’s all custom suits, head-to-toe. There’s three fittings. It’s called bespoke suits, which means it’s completely customized for you, and no one else. So I’ll go there and have my three fittings, then go to Tokyo for about a week, go back to Hong Kong to pick my suits up, then fly back to the United States.
SB: You’re in the offseason flow. What’s the biggest difference between in-season Kyle and off-season Kyle?
KH: Mentally, the biggest difference is that I just feel free. I don’t have to answer to anybody. I do what I want, when I want. I lift, eat and sleep all day. It’s the most relaxing life you can imagine.
Physically, I’m still hurting a bit from the season, since it only ended a few weeks ago. Now is the time that I’m starting to recover. It’s nice to say, “You know what, I’m gonna lay on the couch for four hours,” as opposed to, “I’m gonna go out and shag and stand for an hour and a half, then sit in a locker room with 30 guys around me.”
SB: I know you’re a big eater. Do you eat as much in the offseason as I saw you eat during the season?
KH: I eat more in the offseason.
SB: Why’s that?
KH: I have more time.
SB: How many calories a day?
KH: If I had to guess, I would say about 6,000.
SB: Holy moly.
KH: Yeah, my biggest job in the offseason is cooking. No matter how much I eat, I always get hungry again like an hour and a half later. It’s just constant cooking, lifting and eating. That’s it.
SB: A lot of us normal humans who are normally-sized and not professional athletes don’t know what 6,000 calories even looks like, so can you take me through your eating day yesterday, from breakfast to sleep?
KH: If I can remember it all, I woke up and had five slices of bacon, eight eggs, two bananas and a glass of whole milk, because I love milk. I worked out for a few hours then went to Chipotle, where I got double rice and double meat. Then an hour and a half later, I had steak, rice and broccoli. I had salmon, rice and broccoli another hour and a half after that. Then I had a snack, which was five eggs and steak. Those three meals also had milk with it. Then, I had sushi and a banana as another snack. And then before I went to bed, I had spaghetti and chicken. They’re all big portions, too, so it adds up.
SB: Wow. That’s triple what a normal person eats.
KH: Yeah, and it gets expensive. That’s the worst part. It’s very expensive to eat like that.
SB: You have to triple the food budget.
KH: I have to cut back on everything else, so it all goes towards food.
SB: How much milk do you drink per day?
KH: Right now, it’s about three-quarters of a gallon.
SB: Whole milk?
KH: Whole milk.