With the 555th overall selection in the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the New York Yankees selected Evan Voliva, a right-handed reliever out of East Carolina University.
In 2019, the Currituck, North Carolina native pitched to a 5-4 record with a 3.19 ERA across 36.2 innings. Voliva set a career high in appearances with 32 this past season and held opponents to a .185 batting average. The redshirt senior also went on to record four saves, while striking out 49.
Voliva saw a dramatic jump in relief appearances in the Pirates record-setting 2019 campaign after only pitching 4.1 innings in 2018, due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Paul: Evan, first I would like to say congratulations to you and your family on being drafted in the 18th round by the New York Yankees. What a tremendous honor, you must be on could nine. Take us back to draft day. What was your reaction when you received the phone call from the Yankees?
Evan: “Draft day was a funny story. I am about to get on a plane to play Louisville for the Super Regionals, and we are waiting for an air traffic control guy. I started to freak out thinking to myself what if I get a call when we are in the air, and that may be a team doesn’t draft me if I don’t pick up. So, I made a new voicemail saying that if this is a Major League team regarding the draft; the answer is yes, I will sign for whatever. It was actually about three minutes before we took off that it popped up on Twitter that the Yankees had drafted me. Billy Godwin (Yankees NC/SC scout) gave me a call shortly after that, and I had a chance to talk with him. It was pretty cool too that Bryce Harman (Yankees Amateur Video Coordinator) who I played with for three years at East Carolina had a chance to talk with me and congratulate me as well. That was pretty special.”
Paul: Who was your first call to once you found out that you had been drafted?
Evan: “Well, initially, I couldn’t call anyone because we were about to take off. But I talked with Billy (Godwin) and Bryce (Harman) before we took off as I said. But then I had to wait everything out for the duration of the flight. Once we landed, my phone was blowing up. I still don’t even think I have had the chance to get around to everyone who reached out to congratulate me, but I have tried to. My parents had heard the news, but they were my first call once I had the opportunity to speak to people once we landed.”
Paul: Leading up to the draft, was the New York Yankees, the team that showed the most interest in you?
Evan: “They and a couple of other teams showed some interest. But really, I had no idea what team I would be going to. I had a pretty good idea that I was going to be drafted on Day 3, but I didn’t know where. I was fired up because I had known Billy (Godwin), he was the one who had recruited me to ECU. So, I would say that I stayed in contact the most with (the Yankees) than any other team. It’s a comforting feeling knowing that I had a relationship with him before this. Also, having played with Bryce (Harman) and having him being involved with the Yankees is a comforting feeling as well. My roommate Jake Agnos was also drafted by New York as well, so hopefully well be teammates again.”
Paul: There’s a lot of buzz around the Yankees. How excited are you to join the most historic organization in baseball?
Evan: “I am jacked up for it. Being from North Carolina I can’t say growing up the Yankees were my favorite team, but after playing college baseball it was pretty apparent, they were on top technologically and had one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.”
Paul: You are a 5th year senior out of East Carolina, can you tell us a little more about your collegiate career as a Pirate?
Evan: “It is not the most traditional career; my first two years, I was coming into a coaching change. New head coach and new assistants so nobody knew what to expect. I just worked hard, and things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I don’t remember my stats, but they weren’t good. After having a good summer, I had high hopes for my sophomore year, but it was the same story as my freshman year. That next summer, I stayed back at ECU and went to summer school and had many talks with Coach (Cliff) Godwin. In our talks, he said that it might be in my best interest to leave East Carolina and play somewhere else as he wasn’t sure that I fit in the team culture. That motivated me because I love ECU, especially being from eastern North Carolina. I then had the attitude the only way I am leaving here is if I am forced to leave. I stuck it out, and my junior year I finally started to feel like my old self again. Everything started to work out and felt pretty good heading into the season. But a month into the season I completely tore my UCL and didn’t know what to think. I worked so hard after not doing well for two years, then something like that happens. I went down to see Dr. (James) Andrews in Florida. They had top-notch facilities and staff. They took great care of me. After surgery, I worked with ECU’s trainer Zac Womack for a year. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him. I had the surgery in early April, and he worked with me to get me back to playing ball as soon as I could. I finally got cleared by the doctors to start throwing in live games half way through that next season in what turned out to be my redshirt junior year. It was the last regular season game of the year, and I came in bases loaded against Campbell. The first pitch that was called was a curveball, so I break a curve off for a strike. I had tons of butterflies because it had been so long since I was on a game mound. I ended up getting out of that inning and earned the win in the game after pitching two more innings my first game back from Tommy John. Moving forward in the postseason, I went on to pitch three more times and snaked two wins in four appearances. This year I just gave it everything I had. If I hurt my arm again, it is just not meant to be. The team and I had a pretty successful year, and I am just blessed that I have been a part of such great teams in my five years at East Carolina.”
Paul: Can you give us a quick scouting report on yourself as a ballplayer? What would you say is your go-to pitch?
Evan: “I found out this fall that my fastball has a pretty high spin rate, so I pretty much utilize a four-seam fastball that sits anywhere between 90 and 94 miles per hour. I have a 12-6 curveball that is probably my go-to, out pitch. I also have a changeup that is in the mid-’80s that is good to get some weak contact from hitters as I keep them off my fastball. Overall, I am pretty fastball heavy; I throw a lot of fastballs.”
Paul: Who has been the most influential person or player in your baseball career to date?
Evan: “Oh man, there are so many people that have helped me along the way that it’s hard to pick out just one. Coach (Cliff Godwin) and (Zac) Womack have all helped me out a ton, but I would honestly have to say my pitching coach Dan Roszel. He stuck with me all five years, when Coach Godwin may not have wanted to keep me around Coach Roszel had my back and was fighting for me and stuck with me the whole time. We have had our ups and downs, but he taught me how to control my delivery and helped teach me a good mindset to have out on the mound. He’s helped me out a ton with my development.”
Paul: What has been the biggest moment in your baseball career thus far?
Evan: “Without a doubt closing out the game two weekends ago in the Greenville Regional final. After we dropped game one to Quinnipiac, we heard a lot of chatter that our team is a bust, we can’t win big games, etc. We came back and won four games in 48 hours. Being in that locker room, knowing that we all believed in each other, and that was the only thing that mattered was pretty special. I was in the bullpen that last game and called down to the dugout and said tell Coach Godwin I don’t care what the score is I am closing out this game. That was my last game at Clark-LeClair Stadium. They all told me to tell Coach (Godwin) yourself, and Coach Roszel stopped me halfway and said that (Jake) Kuchmaner was going back out in the ninth inning, but I would come in at some point. Kuch ended up getting an out, and then I came in with a chance to be on the bottom of the dog pile.”
Paul: Last but not least, is there anything that you would like any Yankee fan to know about you as you enter the farm system?
Evan: “I am going to work hard. I am going to have fun. I am just really looking forward to interacting with all the great Yankee fans and being a part of this organization.”
Paul: Thank you so much for your time Evan, we appreciate you letting us get to know you, best of luck as you report to Tampa!