The interview was over.
Boise Hawks pitcher Hayden Simpson had once again told his story, patiently and passionately.
As he walked back to the dugout, he spoke, as if to no one or maybe everyone.
You know, the easiest thing in the world would be to just walk away from it all, he said. But Im not going to.
Simpson is determined to prove the skeptics wrong.
All the people who doubted me in the beginning, that was fine then because I knew I was going to go out there and shut them up, the 23-year-old Simpson said. I knew it.
That was his mind-set when he was drafted by the Cubs in the first round in 2010. After all, he had compiled a 35-2 record in his three years of pitching collegiately.
If you look at his college career, unbelievable, Hawks pitching coach David Rosario said.
If you look at his videos, this kid used to locate the ball at 92, 93, 94 (mph), and he could sink, he could throw breaking balls and a changeup.
But Simpson had his detractors who said he wasnt worth a first-round pick, that he was unproven because he pitched at the Division II level at Southern Arkansas University.
With the 16th selection in the 2010 MLB draft, the Chicago Cubs pick ... Hayden Simpson? Who? ... Many teams had Simpson, a diminutive Division II pitcher, going in the fourth or fifth round.
Bob Warja, Bleacher Nation columnist, June 8, 2010
Simpson remembers hearing the critics shortly after being drafted.
I was sitting there in my living room, a town of 12,000, and they know, theyd seen me play and what I was capable of doing, Simpson said. So, I was like, Bring them on. I cant wait. I cant wait to go out there and show them that (the Cubs) did a good job.
Its no wonder, then, that the negotiations went quickly. Around 10 days later, Simpson signed a $1.06 million deal.
I was right there, at the pinnacle, Simpson said.
But he didnt stay on that peak for long.
I was in Chicago, the day after I signed the contract, he said. And I woke up with strep throat.
The Cubs team doctor said his main concern was that it not turn into mononucleosis. Two weeks later, it had. Simpson fought the illness for the next seven months.
You take someone who has the flu really bad, and multiply it by 100, he said. Thats the way it was with mono. I couldnt eat solid food for two months.
Simpson lost 20 pounds as his first season of professional baseball was taken away from him.
I used to think about it all the time, he said. I would be in bed, and be like, Damn man, I was there. I was right there.
Its been a long road back from there, too.
Simpson returned to the mound in 2011, and went 1-6 with a 5.72 ERA with the Low-A Peoria Chiefs, not the kind of numbers he was used to in college.
In the beginning, that was the toughest thing, Wow, thats not me, he said. It was terrible, terrible.
After another offseason of trying to regain his strength he began 2012 with the High-A Daytona Cubs. And it was quickly evident he still wasnt himself.
At this point, Simpson is having to try to survive without a pitch that misses bats. Its a nearly impossible task, as hes struck out four of the 88 batters hes faced this year.
J.J. Cooper, Baseball America writer, April 24, 2012
Simpson was 2-3 with a 6.98 ERA with Daytona before the Cubs decided to send him to Boise to play for the Hawks.
Hes just got to come down here and take a deep breath and regroup, Hawks manager Mark Johnson said. I think hes taking advantage of it.
Simpson refused to let the demotion get him down.
I think you have to take the positives from everything, he said. Everybodys been harping on the negative, you know ... but Im taking the positive in the fact that Im getting some of my confidence back.
And some of his velocity. As a result, his numbers have been solid with the Hawks. He came into Fridays game with a 1-0 record and a 2.57 ERA while striking out 17 and walking 10 in 14 innings. His best outing was June 21, when he struck out seven and walked one without giving up an earned run against Eugene.
Last year, he was at 85 (mph), Rosario said. Now hes at 86 to 90. I guarantee next year, hell put on 10 pounds in the offseason and hes going to be close to where he was.
Simpson knows theres still steps to be taken, and he talks about his former self as if its a monster inside him waiting to return.
I feel like its in there, and I dont know when its going to come back out, he said. But when it does its going to be well worth the wait, because Ive learned so much.
And you can be sure hell be ready to apply those lessons.
So many guys get to the top without any bumps in the road, and when they start having trouble they dont know how to react, he said. Well, Ive had every bump in the road. Im never going to take anything for granted ever again.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424