Results tagged ‘ Sean Rodriguez ’

Thinking about the Say Hey Kid

When you come to San Francisco, you’re in Willie Mays country. This is his turf. You go by the statue of him outside AT&T Park, and it really hits home. This is where he played some of his greatest baseball, one of the all-time best.

It’s almost like he invented the position I play. He was the master of center field, no quesiton about it.It’s his position, and I’m honored to follow in his footsteps.

I had the good fortune to meet him once. It was at the 2007 All-Star Game here. He was The Man that day, walking out on the red carpet, getting that great ovation from the people. It was emotional for everybody. Seeing Willie Mays walk on that field, a tear in his eye, that really got to me. He is loved here, that’s for sure.

When we all huddled around him on the field before the game that day, I shook his hand. He had a tear in his eye, and I remember how thrilled I was when he told me that he liked the way I play the game. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, coming from where I did in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a football player who became a baseball player. Hearing the great Willie Mays tell me that, it blew me away.

All I could think of watching him that day was the film of that classic catch he made in the 1954 World Series, his back to the infield, whirling and making that throw. He was known as the “Say Hey Kid” when he was young, and he played center field the way I’ve always wanted to play it, dreamed of playing it. He threw his whole body and soul into the game. I think that’s why he’s always been so admired — that attitude he brought to the game along with his incredible tools.

People always focus on a guy’s power, his offense, but Willie could beat you running the bases, making great catches and throws, doing it all. He had amazing instincts. When you have a five-tool guy like that, you don’t let him go. You keep him, work with him, help him grow into the player he can be.

I just wish I could have seen him play live. Everybody I’ve talked to who saw him says he was the best, that the brought so much energy and passion to the game that it had an impact on everybody. That’s what I try to do, play the game aggressively, without fear of failure. A young guy like Sean Rodriguez comes up and sees the way I play, hopefully that shows him that you should play aggressively, go first to third, not worry about making a mistake. You have to be bold and believe in yourself to succeed in this game.

I got to know Preston Gomez after I signed with the Angels, and he’s someone we all miss, like Nick Adenhart. Preston was in the game for about 60 years, and he always said Willie Mays was the greatest player of them all.

One of the best compliments I’ve gotten was when Preston told Lyle Spencer of MLB.com, just before he had that accident after leaving Spring Training in 2008, that I reminded him of Willie Mays in some ways. He told Lyle that it was not just the way I played center field and hit with power and ran the bases, but the way I work at my game, trying always to get better. I’m learning new things all the time, and I think I’m better now than I’ve ever been, because of the knowledge I’ve been able to pick up and apply to my game.

One thing Preston told Lyle that I especially appreciate is that I have a positive impact on my teammates. He said I was one of the best leaders, and it would show in the work ethic of my teammates. If that is the case, it’s something I’m tremendously proud of, because nothing is more important to me than playing the game right and being an example for the younger guys coming up.

When you think about it, being compared to Willie Mays in any way is an honor. Coming from a great and respected baseball man like Preston Gomez, that is something I’ll always cherish. 

    

Thinking about the ‘Say Hey Kid’

When you come to San Francisco, you’re in Willie Mays country. This is his turf. You go by the statue of him outside AT&T Park, and it really hits home. This is where he played some of his greatest baseball, one of the all-time best.

It’s almost like he invented the position I play. He was the master of center field, no quesiton about it.It’s his position, and I’m honored to follow in his footsteps.

I had the good fortune to meet him once. It was at the 2007 All-Star Game here. He was The Man that day, walking out on the red carpet, getting that great ovation from the people. It was emotional for everybody. Seeing Willie Mays walk on that field, a tear in his eye, that really got to me. He is loved here, that’s for sure.

When we all huddled around him on the field before the game that day, I shook his hand. He had a tear in his eye, and I remember how thrilled I was when he told me that he liked the way I play the game. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, coming from where I did in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a football player who became a baseball player. Hearing the great Willie Mays tell me that, it blew me away.

All I could think of watching him that day was the film of that classic catch he made in the 1954 World Series, his back to the infield, whirling and making that throw. He was known as the “Say Hey Kid” when he was young, and he played center field the way I’ve always wanted to play it, dreamed of playing it. He threw his whole body and soul into the game. I think that’s why he’s always been so admired — that attitude he brought to the game along with his incredible tools.

People always focus on a guy’s power, his offense, but Willie could beat you running the bases, making great catches and throws, doing it all. He had amazing instincts. When you have a five-tool guy like that, you don’t let him go. You keep him, work with him, help him grow into the player he can be.

I just wish I could have seen him play live. Everybody I’ve talked to who saw him says he was the best, that the brought so much energy and passion to the game that it had an impact on everybody. That’s what I try to do, play the game aggressively, without fear of failure. A young guy like Sean Rodriguez comes up and sees the way I play, hopefully that shows him that you should play aggressively, go first to third, not worry about making a mistake. You have to be bold and believe in yourself to succeed in this game.

I got to know Preston Gomez after I signed with the Angels, and he’s someone we all miss, like Nick Adenhart. Preston was in the game for about 60 years, and he always said Willie Mays was the greatest player of them all.

One of the best compliments I’ve gotten was when Preston told Lyle Spencer of MLB.com, just before he had that accident after leaving Spring Training in 2008, that I reminded him of Willie Mays in some ways. He told Lyle that it was not just the way I played center field and hit with power and ran the bases, but the way I work at my game, trying always to get better. I’m learning new things all the time, and I think I’m better now than I’ve ever been, because of the knowledge I’ve been able to pick up and apply to my game.

One thing Preston told Lyle that I especially appreciate is that I have a positive impact on my teammates. He said I was one of the best leaders, and it would show in the work ethic of my teammates. If that is the case, it’s something I’m tremendously proud of, because nothing is more important to me than playing the game right and being an example for the younger guys coming up.

When you think about it, being compared to Willie Mays in any way is an honor. Coming from a great and respected baseball man like Preston Gomez, that is something I’ll always cherish. 

    

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.

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