The past few months have been a crazy blur for Buffalo Bisons pitcher Conor Fisk.
He entered the season with the goal of playing in Double-A, but after just one month was called up to Triple-A. He has since become one of the Bisons' most consistent and reliable relievers, with the ability to deliver when the team needs him the most.
In his first seven games in Buffalo, Fisk put in 15.1 near flawless innings and didn't allow a single run. He stumbled a little bit after, but still has only allowed nine runs in 16 games.
“It was a pretty good feeling (getting the call),” Fisk said. “It was tough, the first time I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay and then I went back for two days. Then I got the call to stay here. It was definitely exciting being Double-A for the first time and then getting the call was a pretty crazy feeling. You always want to get to this level but I never thought it would happen that fast.”
Fisk, who until earlier this season always consider himself a starter not a reliever, began the season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Prior to this year, he spent the first four seasons of his professional career bouncing around to different Single-A teams.
After going back and forth to New Hampshire, he appears to be steady in Buffalo, at least for now.
“I still live out of a suitcase right now too because you never know. It’s just part of the grind, it's tough. You have to stay ready at all time. I try to have a few things with me, just the essentials just to be ready at all times you never know with this game.”
His coaching staff has taken notice of his abilities, and manager Bobby Meacham said he has been pleased with the way he has performed so far.
“I think the experience of going out there and having success early and stumbling a little bit in the middle and then having the confidence to retain what he is learning is big,” Meacham said. “I’m proud of the way he’s pitched and hopefully he’s proud of the way he’s pitched and can keep going.”
Fisk never thought he would end up here, contributing as a relief pitchers for the Blue Jays organization. He thought maybe he would end up in Texas with the Astros, or in Milwaukee with the Brewers.
But the Blue Jays picked him in the 24th round of the 2014 draft, and the northeast has since become his home.
“I had other teams talking to me I had no idea the Blue Jays would draft me,” Fisk said. “I actually thought I would get drafted by the Astros because they called me and then the Internet went out and I got a text that said congrats so I thought it was the Astros. But it was a pretty awesome feeling.”
Growing up in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, a town of about 12,000 in the Milwaukee suburbs, Fisk split his time in between hockey and baseball. As soon as hockey season ended he would switch his skates for his cleats for baseball., and vice versa as soon as baseball ended.
Hockey was a part of him, especially growing up in a hockey-crazy town, and it not only provided a change of pace, but also helped his baseball.
“I think playing hockey really helped me with baseball too just being able to compete is a different mindset out there and I’ve been able to carry that over to pitching,” he said.
But baseball was always his first love, and when it came time to decide which sport to focus on baseball was the clear answer. As a senior in high school Fisk was drafted in the 34th round of the 2010 draft by the Brewers, his hometown team. He had to make a tough decision between pursing his professional dream with the team he grew up watching, or getting an education for free while continuing to mature both as a person and player.
Fisk ultimately chose college, as he figured professional baseball would still be there in four years. He played two years for Wabash Valley College, a junior college in Illinois, before transferring to Southern Mississippi.
It was not until the beginning of this season, when he was playing for the Fisher Cats, that he began to pitch as a reliever instead of a starter. But his experience from his years as a starter has come in handy, as he has been able to pitch for three, even four innings as opposed to other relievers who usually only go one or two.
“Just being a starter in the past, I always go out there with the mindset that I’m going to play multiple innings,” he said. “That helps gage it, but also being a reliever I have to go out there and attack right away so it's kind of nice that I don’t have to save energy for six, seven innings I can just go one or two or three.”
Through 16 games he is holding down a 1.97 ERA and has allowed just one home run. He’s focusing on his command and getting ahead of the count, all the while taking in the experience of finally making it to the highest level of minor league baseball.
“I like starting and I like relieving,” he said. “As long as I’m pitching I really don’t care it doesn’t matter to me. Anyway I can help my team win.”