March 2009

Assessing the Matthews situation

I know a lot of people are criticizing Gary Matthews Jr. for taking the stand he’s taking, wanting to play every day. People wonder how a guy making the kind of money he’s making can act like he’s not happy. I hear that all the time. You’re making all that money, how can you complain? What’s your problem? Well, that’s not fair at all, if you understand the mindset of an athlete. We’re competitors by nature, and we all want to be part of something special.

I understand perfectly how Gary feels. Gary’s an athlete. He grew up loving the game and playing for nothing. That’s what got him where he is, that passion he has for the game. The fact he’s now making a lot of money doesn’t change that. He feels he can play at a high level — and I agree with him.

We play the same position, and I know what it takes to get it done. Gary’s a terrific center fielder, and he can also play left and right. But we’ve got a lot of talent everywhere in this clubhouse, and even though that’s great for the organization, it’s not so great for some of the players.

You can’t expect a guy who loves the game to sit on the bench and be happy about it. I’ve always felt older guys who are near the end of their careers make the best bench guys, because they know what they can do and how to respond to situations. Younger guys just want to get out and play. Gary’s not a kid — he’s 34. But he’s not an old guy, either. He’s healthy again, and he wants to get out and show the world what he can do. How can you blame him for that?

Bobby Abreu is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Because of the economy in baseball now, he had to take an $11 million cut this year, down to $5 million, to come play for us. He did it because he loves the game and wants to play baseball. He’s here every day, cracking us up with jokes, laughing, having a great time. I knew he was a great player, but seeing him every day now, i can see he’s a great teammate, too. He’s going to be good for this club in the clubhouse as well as on the field. Bobby’s a real pro. 

I know what it’s like to be frustrated with your situation. I was the same way back with Minnesota. I’d be hitting like .450 in the spring, but they had Otis Nixon in center field in ’97 and ’98, and I couldn’t make the team, no matter what I did. It kind of messes with your mind when you’re young.

That’s why I’m always talking to Brandon Wood, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez, all these young dudes who can play but have established veterans in front of them. I tell them to be patient, that their time will come. I know how frustrating it is, but you have to keep working, keep improving — and be ready when your opportunity arrives. I tell them it’s the same game up here. That doesn’t change. What changes is the hype, the fans. It’s the spotlight, and how you handle it.

The talent level on this club is really amazing. Man, I look around and shake my head. We’ve got athletes all over the place. That’s why I feel for Gary. This guy is a premier athlete. I know it’s tough on him emotionally. It doesn’t matter if you’re making $500 million — you want to play. That’s true of 99 percent of the guys in the Major Leagues. Manny Ramirez is playing because he loves the game, loves to hit. I know Manny, and he lives for the game, the competition.

Gary is no different. He just wants to play. That doesn’t make him a bad guy, by any means. It makes him an athlete.

All’s well that ends well

Any time you go crashing into a wall, like I did on Wednesday in Tempe, there’s a certain risk involved. It goes with the turf, you might say. I’ve run into a lot of walls in my career going after balls, and I won’t stop now. That’s how I play the game — all-out. I don’t think I can play it any other way.

crash.jpgMIke Scioscia likes to say that playing hard actually helps you avoid injuries, that it’s when you’re holding back, not playing the game naturally, that you’re more likely to get hurt. There’s definitely some truth in that. When I’m on the field and there’s a ball to go get, I’m going after it, whether it’s March or October.

Anyway, I’m fine. The X-ray showed no damage. So I’m good to go. I’m going to play against the Indians today. If it’s not something with my body — my arm, shoulder, legs — I’m OK. I took a little shot in the face with the ball when I hit the wall, but my nose looks good as ever  now. The collision might have looked a little worse than it was. I’ve gone head-first into walls before and gotten concussions.

I’m old school, man. It takes a lot to get me to come out of a game. I was able to walk off the field, so I knew I was all right. As long as it’s not a knee or a shoulder, something like that, I’m good to go.

The way I play goes back to my younger days when I played football. I could throw the ball and move around, so I took some hits. Arkansas, where I grew up, is football country, and they don’t mess around down in Southeastern Conference country. We get after it. So my body was conditioned from an early age to take hits and bounce back up, ready to go.

I wish I could have stayed in that game and enjoyed the fireworks our guys set off. We’ve been swinging the bats, man. I really like our offense, how deep it is. We’ve got so many guys who can hurt you. We might not have four guys hitting 30 to 40 homers, but we’re going to be banging line drives to the gaps and running those bases. It’s an exciting style to play, and I’m loving it.

I’ll get back with more shortly. Just wanted to let everyone know I’m fine. My profile hasn’t changed at all. I’m still the same Torii — and we’re going to keep Toriis Storiis rolling.   

Alls well that ends well

Any time you go crashing into a wall, like I did on Wednesday in Tempe, there’s a certain risk involved. It goes with the turf, you might say. I’ve run into a lot of walls in my career going after balls, and I won’t stop now. That’s how I play the game — all-out. I don’t think I can play it any other way.

crash.jpgMIke Scioscia likes to say that playing hard actually helps you avoid injuries, that it’s when you’re holding back, not playing the game naturally, that you’re more likely to get hurt. There’s definitely some truth in that. When I’m on the field and there’s a ball to go get, I’m going after it, whether it’s March or October.

Anyway, I’m fine. The X-ray showed no damage. So I’m good to go. I’m going to play against the Indians today. If it’s not something with my body — my arm, shoulder, legs — I’m OK. I took a little shot in the face with the ball when I hit the wall, but my nose looks good as ever  now. The collision might have looked a little worse than it was. I’ve gone head-first into walls before and gotten concussions.

I’m old school, man. It takes a lot to get me to come out of a game. I was able to walk off the field, so I knew I was all right. As long as it’s not a knee or a shoulder, something like that, I’m good to go.

The way I play goes back to my younger days when I played football. I could throw the ball and move around, so I took some hits. Arkansas, where I grew up, is football country, and they don’t mess around down in Southeastern Conference country. We get after it. So my body was conditioned from an early age to take hits and bounce back up, ready to go.

I wish I could have stayed in that game and enjoyed the fireworks our guys set off. We’ve been swinging the bats, man. I really like our offense, how deep it is. We’ve got so many guys who can hurt you. We might not have four guys hitting 30 to 40 homers, but we’re going to be banging line drives to the gaps and running those bases. It’s an exciting style to play, and I’m loving it.

I’ll get back with more shortly. Just wanted to let everyone know I’m fine. My profile hasn’t changed at all. I’m still the same Torii — and we’re going to keep Toriis Storiis rolling.   

And the winner is . . . Torii’s Storiis

Man, you took me seriously when I asked you to get creative with some ideas for giving the blog a new title. There are far too many great suggestions to include here — it would take up the whole blog — but I really want to commend you.

Afte sorting through the long and impressive list with my wife, Katrina, we settled on “Torii’s Storiis” from Scooter. Katrina  told me she really liked it, how catchy it is, and I’m smart enough to agree with my wife. Truth is, I like it too.

So there it is: Torii’s Storiis.

Today I’d like to talk about the World Baseball Classic. It’s a great event, and I’m definitely for it. I think it’s awesome, what it has done for our game. You’d never think Netherlands would beat the Dominican Republic — and it happened twice. Baseball is international now. It’s America’s pastime, but the whole world is playing it now.

I made a comment about the Classic in 2006 when it got started. I said I wouldn’t play if they asked me, because I liked the chemistry with my team, the Twins, and I didn’t want to do anything to mess with it. I’m not old, but I’m old-school, and I knew it would be hard on my front office and manager knowing how I play and worrying about me crashing into a wall, getting hurt, missing some time. I can onlly play one way, and I knew that I’d be diving for balls, going all-out.

I wasn’t asked to play on Team USA this time, and I think those comments I made might have had something to do with it. I have the same mindset I’ve always had, If they had asked me to play, I’d have thought long and hard about it. It would be a great honor to play for my country and to be part of that whole experience.

On the other hand, I’m not sure our owner, Arte Moreno, or our manager, Mike Scioscia, would have been too crazy about it. I wouldn’t want that panic about me running into a wall and getting hurt. I just wish they could play the Classic at another time, so it doesn’t disrupt the chemistry you’re building with your team for the season ahead.

I’ve been watching as much of the Classic as I can, and I love what I’ve seen. Japan is impressive, man. I’ve liked the way those guys play since 2002 when I went over after the season for a series of games with an all-star team. They play the game right. They’re fundamentally sound, play good defense, and they’ve got athletes, Pitching and defense — that wins games. Everybody hits line drives, lots of doubles, running the bases hard. They play the game we do with the Angels.

As much as I’d love to be in the Classic, I need to be here with my team, doing everything we can to win a World Series. It’s all about the World Series, and that’s how it should be. From the day you sign, it’s not about MVPs and Gold Gloves, individual stuff. It’s about winning the World Series.

Camaraderie, chemistry, leadership . . . all those things are so important to developing a winning atmosphere. I love what we have going here with the Angels. I can’t wait to get the season started.

   

And the winner is . . . Toriis Storiis

Man, you took me seriously when I asked you to get creative with some ideas for giving the blog a new title. There are far too many great suggestions to include here — it would take up the whole blog — but I really want to commend you.

Afte sorting through the long and impressive list with my wife, Katrina, we settled on “Torii’s Storiis” from Scooter. Katrina  told me she really liked it, how catchy it is, and I’m smart enough to agree with my wife. Truth is, I like it too.

So there it is: Torii’s Storiis.

Today I’d like to talk about the World Baseball Classic. It’s a great event, and I’m definitely for it. I think it’s awesome, what it has done for our game. You’d never think Netherlands would beat the Dominican Republic — and it happened twice. Baseball is international now. It’s America’s pastime, but the whole world is playing it now.

I made a comment about the Classic in 2006 when it got started. I said I wouldn’t play if they asked me, because I liked the chemistry with my team, the Twins, and I didn’t want to do anything to mess with it. I’m not old, but I’m old-school, and I knew it would be hard on my front office and manager knowing how I play and worrying about me crashing into a wall, getting hurt, missing some time. I can onlly play one way, and I knew that I’d be diving for balls, going all-out.

I wasn’t asked to play on Team USA this time, and I think those comments I made might have had something to do with it. I have the same mindset I’ve always had, If they had asked me to play, I’d have thought long and hard about it. It would be a great honor to play for my country and to be part of that whole experience.

On the other hand, I’m not sure our owner, Arte Moreno, or our manager, Mike Scioscia, would have been too crazy about it. I wouldn’t want that panic about me running into a wall and getting hurt. I just wish they could play the Classic at another time, so it doesn’t disrupt the chemistry you’re building with your team for the season ahead.

I’ve been watching as much of the Classic as I can, and I love what I’ve seen. Japan is impressive, man. I’ve liked the way those guys play since 2002 when I went over after the season for a series of games with an all-star team. They play the game right. They’re fundamentally sound, play good defense, and they’ve got athletes, Pitching and defense — that wins games. Everybody hits line drives, lots of doubles, running the bases hard. They play the game we do with the Angels.

As much as I’d love to be in the Classic, I need to be here with my team, doing everything we can to win a World Series. It’s all about the World Series, and that’s how it should be. From the day you sign, it’s not about MVPs and Gold Gloves, individual stuff. It’s about winning the World Series.

Camaraderie, chemistry, leadership . . . all those things are so important to developing a winning atmosphere. I love what we have going here with the Angels. I can’t wait to get the season started.

   

And away we go

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This is the start of what I hope will be long-running relationship with fans at MLB.com. I’m looking forward to passing along to you on a weekly basis my thoughts and ideas, insights into the game, my take on events of the day, whatever is relevant. I think it’s important to make a connection with fans and keep it, because that relationship is vital to the health of the game we all love.

I feel blessed to be in a position to represent a great game and a great organization. That’s why I’ll often use “we” in the blog, since I’ll be speaking in many respects for teammates, hoping to promote our game, get more people involved.

To get this going, we’d like to start with inviting you to help us create a name, a title, for this blog. We’re asking for suggestions in the comments bar at the bottom of the blog. This is going to be an interactive process, so we might as well get it moving in that direction right away.

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I am thrilled to be wearing an Angels uniform, playing in a great environment with a first-class organization. My first year in Anaheim had some great moments with 100 wins, most in the Majors, even if it didn’t end the way we all wanted. This season we’ll try to deliver six winning months again along with a happier ending in October. I am convinced we have the talent and the drive to get it done. Now it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.

Before we get into that, though, I’d like to talk a little bit about one of my passions off the field: getting young people out of their houses and outside, using their imaginations and creativity the way I did as a kid growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in some pretty rough circumstances.

I was always outside, using my athletic ability in some way in our neighborhoods. If I wasn’t playing catch with a baseball or football, I was riding a bike five miles to another neighborhood, then riding it back. I like to say I got my speed running from a dog, and I got my jumping ability leaping over a fence to get away from a dog. My throwing ability came from trying to hit trees with rocks. We were always outside competing in some way. It concerns me now that so few kids are doing that. Too many of our parks are empty, quiet. 

With the technology we have today, too many kids are spending too much time playing video games, watching TV. It’s a fast-food culture, and it’s not good for our kids’ health. They need to be outside, developing their minds and their bodies in healthy ways. When I was a kid and wanted to be like Tony Dorsett or Andre Dawson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I’d be doing it on a sandlot or a playground. Now kids are doing it with video games, and it’s just not the same. We have all these kids who are obese, and it’s a function of society, of spending all this time sitting in their houses.

That’s why it’s been so important to me with the Torii Hunter Project to work with kids, to build Little League fields, get kids outside playing games. It might not get a kid to the Major Leagues or the NBA or NFL, but it’s going to make them healthier and more productive in their lives. Even my own kids try to stay inside, but I’ll close the door and lock it. I tell them to go outside and play a game, any game. Invent one if you have to, but do something. I don’t want my kids inside the house all day.

Well, that’s a start. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in the weeks ahead, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

So, when you get a minute, use your imagination — it’s one of your best resources — and help us come up with a name for this blog.

I’ll check in next week, and hopefully by then we’ll have a title that we think represents what we’re trying to do here.

Stay active, and stay positive.

My best, Torii

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