Cole Uvila is a Texas Rangers pitching prospect who put himself on the map last year with a terrific season in A ball, followed by a dominating Arizona Fall League stint. A righthanded reliever, Uvila will likely start the 2020 season with the Frisco Roughriders, and its not out of the question he could be pitching in Arlington at some point this season.
I had the opportunity to talk to Cole, who is a very interesting person with a great backstory, along with being a very interesting prospect. You can read Part I of the Q&A here. You can read Part II of the Q&A here. You can read Part III of the Q&A here. This is the final part, where he talks about expectations for the 2020 season and playing poker professionally to supplement his baseball income.
AJM: You were talking about making ends meet as a minor leaguer — my understanding is that you had, or maybe still have, a side gig as a professional poker player.
Cole: So, when I was rehabbing my elbow, that’s how I was supporting myself, and that’s been, outside of baseball, my only source of income since I got done with college. That’s what I did this past offseason, and its definitely not something I see myself doing forever, but just given my circumstances now — I need to train in the mornings for baseball, so the fact that I can make my own hours, poker-wise, is a perfect fit for the professional baseball offseason.
AJM: How did you get started in that and discover you had the talent to be one of the few that makes money playing poker rather than loses money?
Cole: The story goes that as I grew up, once every few months my close friends, my baseball friends, would come over and we’d play poker. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was always something I was interested in.
My junior year at Georgia State I had to write a ten page paper in English class about a community in Atlanta that I joined. You had to write about what the community does, the personalities of the community, and the like. What I chose to write about was the Atlanta Poker Club, which was free bar poker, where every night at 6:00 at various bars around Atlanta you would go and play a poker tournament. It was free to get in, but if you spent, like, $10 at the restaurant, you’d get extra chips. So I would go and buy dinner and play cards.
And I kind of fell in love with it, quite honestly. I would almost say it was like an obsession at one point — trying to improve, scouring internet forums and training websites, just taking in as much as I could. I was just fascinated by it.
The thing behind poker that always really attracted me is — its not necessarily like baseball where there is a talent element but there’s a luck element of having the necessary genetics. With poker, you can truly become as good as you work — the harder you work, and the more you put into it, the better you get at the game, and the results should be a direct correlation. That was always really attractive to me because it seemed like there’s a lot of money to be made by somebody who is willing to put in the time.
And I had so much downtime with my elbow, it all kind of came together at that time in my life. And then once I developed that skill set it was more about staying sharp, refining it, and always improving. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years.
AJM: What’s your preferred game? If I were to run into you in a poker room, what would you likely be playing?
Cole: I would say 99.99% of my hours have been $3/$5 Hold ‘em. If they offered $5/$10 in Washington I would definitely play as often as I could, but Washington has a weird law where the biggest amount you can bet at any given time is $500, so there isn’t “true” no-limit.
When people are buying in — like the game I played regularly this offseason — the max buy-in is $1000. So it essentially plays like true no-limit because it just takes one person to bet $500 and the next person raises to $1000 and then all the chips are in the middle. Because of that they don’t play much higher than $3/$5 because then it would become a big limit game.
When I go to Vegas or L.A. I play $5/$10, but for the most part I would say 99% of my hours are $3/$5 No Limit Hold ‘em.
AJM: You’re going to be reporting to Arizona soon, and will probably too busy to hit up the casinos out there — anything in particular that you are prioritizing or planning on working on this spring once you report?
Cole: So, for me, its just about consistency. I think if you were to ask about me, you’d hear, “Uvila is just a stuff guy. He’s got the stuff, and if he ever puts it all together he could be pretty good.”
And so for me its about — because if you look at my stats from 2019 and even 2018, you see that I walk like 5 guys per 9, which is too high. But if you look at the individual outings, I’ll go two, three, four outings, where I’ll go 8 innings, one walk, and then I’ll have that outing where I go 2 innings with four walks or five walks. And it skews the data and the stats so it looks like I walked a guy every inning.
So for me, its about finding a way to — obviously, you’re going to have bad outings. Sometimes you’re going to go out there and not have it. But for me, I let those outings kind of snowball, so when I’ve pitched bad, I’ve pitched really really bad. So I’ve identified that, and now its about working with the pitching coaches to stay consistent in my delivery, because that’s where that comes from too, but also with the mental strength coaches about a mindset, and how to not let it snowball.
I’ve already started that process. I’ve talked to one of our peak performance coaches about having a routine that I can lean on when tough times come up and I get a little bit wild. So for me, its about consistency, consistency, consistency, and not worrying about much else other than filling up the strike zone and still getting after guys.
AJM: You finished strong for Down East in 2019 and then had a great stint in the Arizona Fall League. Are the indications you’ve gotten thusfar that you should be looking for apartments in Frisco to start the 2020 season?
Cole: They haven’t told me, hey, you’re going to Frisco, but I think that would be the natural progression, assuming I’m healthy and have a good camp. And that’s definitely — I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket, if they send me back to Down East I wouldn’t see it as a bad thing — but I definitely feel like Frisco would be the natural progression for how things have gone. So yeah, that’s where my head is at.
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