‘It feels pretty special’: Pro pitcher Josh Roenicke back on the bump for UniLions
Since joining the UniLions of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 2018, Josh Roenicke shined on the bump. Through his first two seasons with the UniLions, the 6-foot, 3-inch hurler already has an ERA title, a Gold Glove and an All-Star appearance to his credit. He was back in the states for a bit to welcome his fourth child into the world, but is now back at work in Taiwan. I caught up with the 2001 Nevada Union grad to see how things are going as he enters his third season in the CPBL, which is one of the only professional sports leagues in the world currently playing games.
FORD: The CPBL is one of the only pro sports leagues playing games right now. How does it feel to be among the few pro athletes in the world currently competing?
ROENICKE: It feels pretty special. Myself and my two other American teammates have been getting a lot of interview requests, which allows this league to get a lot of recognition and noticed more. So we do our best to give information about the situation out here whenever we are asked. I am very blessed to not only be playing right now, but just to still be playing this game for a living and help provide for my family.
FORD: You’ve found quite a lot of success since joining the UniLions, what do you credit your success to?
ROENICKE: I think just finding out who I am as a starting pitcher has been the biggest difference. I was a reliever almost my entire career in the states with only a few starts in the minor leagues until 2015. Then in Mexico in 2017 it was my first full season as a starter and I have just made adjustments along the way to try and maximize my potential as a starter.
FORD: What are some of your favorite moments from playing in the CPBL?
ROENICKE: I threw my first and only complete game shutout here in 2018, winning the ERA title and Gold Glove that same year is up there. And then going to the postseason and the finals that year as well. Any time there is an elimination-type atmosphere, it’s always enjoyable.
FORD: What kind of goals have you set for the 2020 season?
ROENICKE: I don’t really jot down goals or even think about them much. With my career coming to an end sooner than later I just want to enjoy my time as a baseball player and really take it all in without getting too frustrated with things out of my control. But I think just pitching to the best of my abilities that the good Lord has given me is always a goal.
FORD: As you enter your third season in the CPBL, what has been your favorite thing about playing with the UniLions?
ROENICKE: Just being on the same team has allowed me to build relationships with some of the players, even with the language barrier. Being able to be comfortable around them and them allowing me to share some of my knowledge with both hitters and pitchers has been pretty cool.
FORD: You’ve been pitching professionally for about 15 years, how has your game changed/matured over time?
ROENICKE: I am very fortunate to have been able to become a starting pitcher late in my career which has allowed to keep playing and with success. As a right-handed reliever with my stuff and age I would just be a dime a dozen, could possibly be out of the game right now. I think just the maturity of not trying to do too much and being able to slow the game down has been a big advantage for me.
FORD: What are some key pieces of pitching advice you’ve received over the years?
ROENICKE: Throw what you want to throw, when you do that you’ll throw it with more conviction.
Control only what you can control.
Try to stay relaxed as much as possible, especially in a tough situation when the game seems to speed up. Relaxed muscles tend to work best for you.
Have a short memory. Don’t let your failures from the game affect your attitude away from the field.
FORD: Your uncle Ron Roenicke has been an MLB coach for years. Is coaching something you would want to do in the future?
ROENICKE: I go back and forth with that question. It’s hard for me to not want to give back all this knowledge of the game I’ve acquired literally since the day I was born, cause my dad was playing at that time. But also it’s hard to see myself away from my family on the road all the time.
FORD: When you returned to Taiwan from paternity leave, I understand you had to do a 14-day quarantine. What was that like?
ROENICKE: That was miserable. Couldn’t leave my hotel room at all, could only open my door to grab food they set outside or to leave trash for them to pick up. Also, no laundry so I had to hand wash everything in the shower. Only one window that cracked a couple inches. Time stood still, it seemed like, and I watched way too much TV.
FORD: What did you watch to kill the time during quarantine?
ROENICKE: I watched all three seasons of “Ozark,” which was phenomenal, but that only took 4 days. I watched a few of the “Step Up” movies along with the show “Step Up: High Water,” both “Creed” movies, “Southpaw,” “Bloodshot,” the Harley Quinn movie, “Underwater” and a lot more.
FORD: What is the thing you miss the most about being in the states?
ROENICKE: My wife and kids, without a doubt. Just being able wake up each day with them is a blessing and I can’t wait to get back home. After that, just the ability to hop in my car and go do anything I want or go anywhere I want. Here we get around by only bus, train and cab.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4232.
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