Though he is only 24 years old, Traveler right-hand starting pitcher Dylan Unsworth has already been in the Mariners’ system for eight years. The South African native was invited to a MLB elite camp in Italy in 2009 at the age of 16. Several scouts took notice of him including Mariners’ scout Wayne Norton. A few weeks after the camp, Unsworth was picked to be a member of South Africa’s World Cup team. In Barcelona, he had a good outing against Cuba, and Norton saw the performance unbeknownst to Unsworth. When he returned home, the Mariners signed him as an international non-drafted free agent.
How did you find out the Mariners wanted to sign you?
When I flew back from Barcelona, all my family was at the airport. I thought that was funny and didn’t know what was going on. I found out they offered me a contract after my watching me pitch against Cuba.
What made you decide to come to the United States at such an early age?
Playing baseball was exactly what I wanted to do my whole life and I didn’t want to wait until I was out of high school at 20 or 21. It was scary being on my own and doing everything by myself. I was still just a kid, and the game has taught me a lot.
It has taught me to be humble and to grow up very fast. You have to believe in yourself. The game is really hard off the field, and you go through ups and downs every day. At times, when I was down I would call my Mom and tell her I wanted to come home.
Since baseball is not a popular sport in South Africa, how did you develop your love for it?
My dad was a softball player and a pitcher. He got me started, and he kept telling me I’m living his dream for him.
When did it hit you that this was also your dream?
In my fourth year in high-A, I made the all-star team. It actually hit me that the coaches believed in me. It sunk in that this is where I am and what I want to do.
You aren’t known for your velocity, but for your command. Talk about your transformation as a pitcher.
I came in with a four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball. I now have a curveball, cutter and changeup. My specialty is my command and not my velocity. I could try and pick up two to three miles, but pitchers with command can last 10-15 years. I start with my fastball and let the batters see all the pitches. If you are thinking about the sixth and seventh innings, then you aren’t focusing on the first inning.
What do you do in the off-season?
I go home in September for four or five months. I work out and hang out with my family. I also give back as much as I can and help the kids playing baseball.
What do you do on your off days?
Shop. I am a big shopper and love shoes. Thyago (Vieira, starter from Brazil) and I go to the mall and can come back with lots of bags. My mom and brother thing I am a shopaholic. I also like to fish and hope to try it here.