2015 May Recap
They chatted and then we opened the floor to the audience for a Q&A. Here are a few snippets:
Brad: There’s this debate that if you want to play in college you need to specialize. What do you think about that?
Willie: I couldn’t disagree more. I have a lot of kids. This is my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth, but I think it’s doing a disservice to your kids if they are specializing in one sport at 9-, 10-, 11-years-old. I think it’s important to develop different muscle groups and different things. You learn different things. For me, I learned things in football that helped me in baseball. I learned things in basketball that helped me in baseball.
You’re wondering why people are blowing out elbows at 16 and 17 years old. It’s because they never rest. It’s because they never develop other muscles that help protect you over time. It’s good to learn different sports. It’s good to be diverse.
Brad: What was it like the first year you came to the Mariners?
Willie: That for me was a page taken out of a storybook. I grew up a huge Mariners fan just like you guys. Went through the years of frustrations and watching losing seasons. I’ll never forget the day Edgar hit the double. I was sitting in my living room. My whole family’s going crazy just like everyone was. Magic was in the city. It was awesome…If you told me that I’d still be playing 13 years later, I’d be lying if I’d said I believed you. It’s been a great ride. It’s been a lot of fun. And I’m not done yet. I want to go a couple more years. The main thing for me right now is I want that feeling back in this city that the ’95 year had.
Brad: Let’s talk a little about the difference between the National League and the American League.
Willie: There’s huge difference in my mind. It’s just a different game. In the America League a guy who does what I do, a utility player who moves around and pinch hits every now and again, can go long stretches without finding themselves on the field. That’s not the case in the National League. If you’re not starting that day, you’re going to find your way into the game unless your starting pitcher goes eight or nine innings.
Brad: Do players still enjoy interleague?
Willie: I think it’s good. I think it’s good for the game. If I was commissioner for the day, the thing I would probably change is that I would play the National League rules at the American League parks. So fans could see the different styles of play.
Audience Member: Willie, can you give us some highlights of your conversations with Lou when you were first called up?
Willie: My first Spring training with Lou – and this is when I knew that if you just stuck to your guns and played the game the right way he wouldn’t have a problem with you – I’d heard all the stories about how he hates young guys and can’t stand rookies and rookie mistakes. And that you don’t want to get on Lou’s bad side.
My first Spring Training I almost made the team out of camp. I was just raking and having an outstanding spring. It was late in spring and we were losing a lot of games. Regardless if it’s spring or not, Lou does not like to lose. He had a team meeting and he said, “We have to pick it up. We have to start winning. You can’t just switch it on once the season starts. You have to play winning baseball now.”
So he ends up pinch hitting me in one of the games. I hit a double to put us ahead. And then later I go out to play defense. I am kind of feeling good about myself. I hit an RBI double and we took the lead.
There are runners on first and third with one out. There was a groundball to David Bell at third and he throws it to me at second and I go to turn the double play.
I was taught that if the guy doesn’t slide, you throw and hit him in the mouth because he’s trying to take out your knees. It’s either my career or his. I would rather keep playing than him.
That’s the old school way of playing the game. If he’s not going to slide you drill him right in the face and he’ll slide next time I promise. That’s how I was taught. That’s how I still play.
The guy wasn’t sliding. So I dropped down and threw it at him. And he put his hand up and it hit off his hand and went down the right field line. The run scored. The hitter made it all the way to third base. And I see Lou over there throwing his hands up and pacing with a red face.
I thought, “Oh no. This is where it starts. He’s going to chew me out in front of everyone.”
The next guy gets a base hit. The go ahead run scores. Now he’s more pissed. The inning ends and I go jogging off the field with my head down. I see Lou get out of his chair and I think, “This is it. I’m going to pack my bag and head to AAA.”
And Lou says, “Son, what the hell happened?”
And I said, “Lou, he didn’t slide. So I dropped down and tried to put it in his teeth.”
He grabbed me by the jersey and said, “Son. That’s how you play the game. I don’t care if we lose every damn game in Spring Training. Don’t you change the way you play the game. That’s how you play.”