Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 8/15/12
Detroit Tigers starter Doug Fister takes being a laid-back Californian to a whole new level. In fact, unlike many pitchers who pump themselves up before a start by listening to loud music on their headphones, Fister is more likely to be found stretching out his 6-foot-8 frame on his clubhouse chair or the couch for a little snooze. "The story I like to tell is one of his first starts here when we got him, it's like a half an hour before the game, normally when we go out to start warming up and everything, and he's on the couch sleeping," catcher Alex Avila said. "I kind of nudge him and say, 'Hey, Doug, you're pitching today, right?' He's like, 'Yeah.' I was like, 'You know, the game starts in a half an hour.' 'I know, I'll be there.' He's so cool and kind of collected and knows what he has to do to be successful." Fellow catcher Gerald Laird wasn't with the Tigers last season so he found out about Fister's pregame slumber when he returned this year. "Honestly, he's got some type of issue because he can fall asleep on one of these chairs," Laird said. "He's out like a light. I don't know how he does it. He just falls asleep anywhere." Fister verified the story and said it's something that actually helps him be a better pitcher. "I don't pitch well when I'm bouncing around and amped up," Fister said. "So I've found that jokingly, sleeping before I start is something that calms me down, keeps my heart rate down. I don't want to get too high or too low with the good things and the bad things that come around every start so before the game, I just come in here and crash out for a half-hour in my chair and go out there and go pitch." No one is going to argue with the success that Fister had. At the end of last July, the Tigers traded Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later that ended up being Chance Ruffin to the Seattle Mariners for Fister and reliever David Pauley. After he arrived, Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA, creating a perfect 1-2 punch with Justin Verlander to lead the Tigers to their first division title since 1987. "The way he pitched down the stretch was like a shot in the arm for us," Avila said. "It was unbelievable. He pitched great. A guy that every time he's on the mound, he's about as consistent as it gets. That's just good going every day when he pitches, knowing you've got a chance to win." Laird has an interesting way to describe the way Fister pitches. "He kind of reminds me of a left-handed right-handed pitcher," Laird said. "He's actually pretty coordinated for as tall as he is. That's why he's so effective, he just pounds the zone with strikes. And he doesn't care how hard he throws, he just fires it in there and he lets his defense play. That's why you see him pitch deep into games a lot and his pitch count's real low because he's not afraid to pitch to contact." Although Fister has been limited this season due to a left side strain, now that his strength and stamina are back up, he's been Verlanderesque the way he's pitched late into games. In his last six starts, Fister has gone nine innings once and eight innings three times, including Tuesday night's 8-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Because Fister is not your traditional tall, hard-throwing pitcher like a Randy Johnson, he's had to focus on other things throughout his career. "I don't have, per se, the lightning stuff that Justin does or even the other guys but I feel like from day one I've had to learn how to pitch," Fister said. "That's using my off-speed pitches as well as my fastball, and location. That's the biggest key for me is locating it, keeping it down. I am left-handed, but I throw right-handed so I use a lot of that strategy." Fister, 28, even had a strategy as a young kid growing up in California. Like many guys in the big leagues, he wanted to play professional baseball. "Obviously that's one of the dreams of a little boy is to play big league baseball," Fister said. "It was funny because I always sat down and told my mom my goals. She would write them down and keep her little log of it. I told her I want to play at every level. I want to play high school, I want to play college, junior college, play professionally, and so when it all happened, I told her, 'Look, I want my college degree paid for by playing baseball. Anything other than that is icing on the cake.' "So for me, once I got to that point, it was like, OK, new set of goals. I want to make it to the big leagues, I want to play for a while and have a good career. So I really focused my senior year of college. It was always a goal of mine to be able to make it to professional baseball, going through high school it's always a want and a goal, but kind of realized it my senior year of college and said, you know what, I need to focus on being a pitcher and forget about the other positions and just kind of hopefully excel and be good enough to incrementally increase and get to this point." Fister could have started his professional career a lot earlier as the San Francisco Giants drafted him in the 49th round of the June 2003 draft, right out of high school. It might have been a tough choice for a guy who grew up a Giants fan, but Fister wanted to go to college and opted for Fresno State. "I have been drafted three times total," said Fister, who was also drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round of the June 2005 draft. "It wasn't the right time for the previous two drafts. I felt like I needed to go back to school to mature both physically and mentally and just become myself. It was something that I wouldn't trade for the world. There isn't a dollar sign or anything else, the experiences I got my senior year of going back to school was worth every ounce of trouble with the decision." Fister majored in Liberal Studies at Fresno State and said someday when his baseball career is over, he plans to use that education. "I want to be a school teacher," Fister said. "I went to school to get my multiple subject degree, which is more of an elementary school (training). But now that I've had the chance to go back and work with high school kids, I really like being able to work with high school kids. But after my career, it's a possibility of doing either one." For now, Fister's focus remains on helping the Tigers get back to the playoffs and improve on what they did last year, when they lost in the American League Championship Series to the Texas Rangers. Although this season hasn't been smooth sailing between the numerous injuries and other struggles, Fister believes it could all work in their favor in the end. "That's when you learn the most about yourself and the most about your teammates is going through some rough times and being able to adjust and add the mental strength, the mental toughness to get through those things and that's what's really going to be an attribute for us if we can get back there this year," Fister said. "That's the goal, to get back and get in the World Series and you have to go through the rough times to be able to understand yourself and understand your teammates and be able to rely on one another."
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