Being a member of the post-collegiate world hasn’t slowed former Gamecock baseball standout Michael Roth at all. Early this spring he paused his hectic schedule long enough to share fun memories and current happenings. Saying he paused may be an overstatement; he completed the whole interview during a workout on the elliptical.
Michael, now a professional pitcher in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization, was a First Team All-American pitcher for the University of South Carolina baseball team — two-time winners of the College World Series. Michael isn’t gathering dust while he waits for the big show to call him. In 2012, the international business major founded Michael T. Roth Enterprises and hit the road as a professional motivational speaker.
Michael shares much about the off-field parts of life and a little about life on the pitcher’s mound, too.
Q: What are your fondest memories of growing up?
A: It was really the time I spent with my family. My dad would come home from work, and we’d go to the backyard and throw the ball back and forth. If it got dark, he’d turn on the floodlights. He’d throw with me until I got tired of it. My mom and I would pack up and go to tournaments on the weekends. We drove all over the Southeast.
Q: What are your parents like?A: My dad is funny and super friendly. He remembers people’s faces and names really well. He can probably still name every kid on the roster of my t-ball team. My mom is a type-A person — busy, outspoken and always ready to go. She’s an intelligent woman who still imparts wisdom with me.
Q: How about your siblings?
A: There are three of us. My brother, Adam, is the oldest. He’s a different bird. He was my personal trainer in high school. He really helped me, pushed me hard. My sister, Lindsay, was the perfect child — third in her class, never even brought a B home. If I call her a nerd she’ll get mad at me. She’s protective, a lot like having another mother — in a good way.
Q: When your father quit his job to attend the 2010 College World Series, it ignited a firestorm. Did that surprise you?A: When that happened it really showed me the power of Twitter and social media. I sent one tweet to recognize what he had done, and it just snowballed. It was crazy. Before long, everyone wanted to interview my dad.
Q: How did your parents shape you as a person?
A: My mom wanted us all to be well rounded and to try new things. She made each of us take a piano lesson when we were younger. We had to go and at least try it. If we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to go back. I didn’t want to go to the first lesson at all and actually ended up liking it so much I played for two years, in the fourth and fifth grade. My dad drove me to work hard and really supported me in sports. He always said talent only gets you so far, so you have to work hard, too.
Q: What’s it like to be a college student with sports having such a large role?A: I don’t know anything other than that! One thing you do get is structure. I think a routine is something highly successful people have. In college, I had to be on the field every day from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. so that meant I had to be out of class by 1 p.m. You have to learn to plan your day and manage your time. You also have to think about what you’re going to have to sacrifice to be able to get everything done. Sleep was usually the first thing to go for me.
Q: What were your “walk-out” songs?
A: I never repeat them. Last year it was “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (Whitney Houston) and “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepsen). I like dance-y, techno-y, dance party music. I haven’t picked this year’s yet. Maybe I’ll tweet them when I do.
Q: What drove you to change degrees in college?A: Baseball. I came to U.S.C. to play baseball, and my major was biomedical engineering. I saw that wasn’t going to work the first semester. There were a lot of afternoon classes and labs. I didn’t play too great my freshman year so I decided to switch to international business. I’d taken Spanish all through high school and liked it. I also knew a business degree would give me a lot of latitude.
Q: What’s it like to play on a national championship team?
A: It’s so exciting. I like to play in front of people. I came to U.S.C. because I liked its history. I knew the coaches were great, and it would be a good place to play because the Gamecock fans are awesome. It was a great place to develop. What’s funny is that I was recruited to play first base, but I ended up pitching out of necessity.
Q: How was studying abroad in Spain for five weeks?A: That was the best experience in my life, hands down. I learned a lot being outside the United States. Everyone should experience being thrown into a new environment where you don’t understand the language. I’d have stayed six months.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway?
A: I formed ideas for my future there. Before I went, I wasn’t sure of my career path. I learned I don’t always want to be safe. I want to be willing to experience new things.
Q: What’s the minor league life like?
A: This year, I’ll spend six weeks in Tempe, Ariz., and then be assigned to a team either in California or Iowa. This level of baseball is different. The passion isn’t the same. The crowds are smaller. The team dynamic is different. The atmosphere is different. It’s more like business.
Editor’s note: On April 13, shortly after this issue went to press, Roth was called up to pitch in his first major league game for the LA Angels.
Q: How do you motivate people during your speaking engagements?
A: People want to hear personal stories. How you succeeded and failed, and what you learned along the way. I like to leave audiences with a challenge, too.
Q: Do you get stage fright?
A: I get anxious. I’m not a patient person. I’m ready to get on the stage and get rolling. I’m like that on the field, too. I want to get on the mound and throw that first pitch. After that, I’m good.
Q: What messages do you share in speeches?
A: That people shouldn’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. You will fail; we all do. But don’t let failure make you averse to trying new things.
Q: Are you left handed in all things?A: No, I write, shoot pool and play ping pong right-handed. I pitch, hit and play golf and basketball left-handed. I’m all over the place!
Q: Where do you see yourself in two years?
A: Pitching in the big leagues. Baseball is a sport where, in six weeks, they could tell me to come home. It’s hard to plan your future so I just take it six months at a time. The second baseball is no longer fun, I’m done. In a few years, I know I’ll be doing something I enjoy.