Mike Billek: I had talked to the scout (Keith Stohr) who drafted me and had meetings before the draft. We had both come to an agreement that if I were drafted in the top five rounds, I would sign. That's where my financial cutoff was and where I felt it would be all along. As soon as I was drafted in the third round, though, I knew I was going to sign. I wanted to get out and play, advance through the system and get my professional career started.
Inside The Ivy: What was it about the Cubs that impressed you so much?
Mike Billek: One thing that's great is the fact that the Cubs have such a national following. Every Cubs fan is not just in Chicago. It's not like the Devil Rays, where most of their fan base is only in Tampa and St. Pete. You go anywhere in the country and you'll find Cubs stuff in every sports store. They have a great national following and I have friends that I've known since I was young that are in the organization. I played against both Brian Dopirak and Ryan Harvey in high schoool and participated on several scout teams with them. It was good to know people already in the organization in order to get a feel for how things work. I got to talk to them both and ask some questions beforehand, which was nice.
Inside The Ivy: You'd done a little starting and a little relieving before you came to the organization. Most pitchers we talk to who do both say they prefer starting. What's your preference?
Mike Billek: Yeah, my preference is starting. I don't have anything against relieving and if that should come up later on down the road, I'll be happy to do it. I enjoy starting because you're on a set schedule. It's very routine and you know what you have to do every day. I enjoy knowing when my next outing is and being able to prepare for it in advance.
Inside The Ivy: You spent three years with Coach Jay Bergman, who had some nice things to say about you when we talked to him right after the draft. Tell us about your relationship with Coach Bergman and your tenure at Central Florida.
Mike Billek: I had a great time all three years that I played there. It's a great program and it's really starting to come around these past four or five years. Things are really starting to grow here in Orlando, which is where I'm staying right now, now that the season is over. The school is just getting huge and the program is getting better and better recruits every year.
Inside The Ivy: In your own words, give us a rundown of your repertoire and out-pitch.
Mike Billek: I throw a two-seam and four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. I learned more of a slider with about a month left in the season right as I was leaving Boise. David Rosario (Hawks pitching coach) started teaching me a slider and Tom Pratt (Peoria pitching coach) helped me finish that. My out-pitch would probably be my curveball, but it really depends on the hitter. I can get people to roll over on change-ups. I feel comfortable with all of my pitches.
Inside The Ivy: What does the offseason hold in store?
Mike Billek: I'll be working out in Orlando with the facilities at UCF.