ESPN MLB Home Run Derby Conference Call Transcript

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ESPN MLB Home Run Derby Conference Call Transcript

Earlier today ESPN MLB analysts John Kruk and Nomar Garciaparra joined a media conference call to discuss a variety of topics pertaining to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby on ESPN Monday, July 9, at 8 p.m. ET. Kruk and Garciaparra will call the action with play-by-play commentator Chris Berman and reporters Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez.

The transcript is below. Replay.

Q.  If you were in Matt Kemp’s situation, you’ve just spent a couple weeks on the DL, your hamstrings aren’t at full strength, would you risk participating in the Home Run Derby knowing that all that goes into it?

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  I’ve been in a situation where I was on the DL going into the All‑Star Game back in ’99, and I was scheduled to come off right after the All‑Star Game.  So it was one where it actually ‑‑ it was almost like my little rehab game being in that All‑Star Game.  I used it from that sense, so it wasn’t too bad, and I also knew it was only going to be a few innings, and I was careful about it.  That was at the time I was going into it, cleared it with everybody, talked to the doctors, talked to the organization and they all understood going into it how I was using it.

I don’t know how far along Matt Kemp is or how he’s feeling, but if that’s the case, I mean, from what I am reading, he is scheduled to come off here pretty soon.  I think he’s going into some rehab games.  So if that’s the case, I think he’ll be fine at least participating in the Home Run Derby.

JOHN KRUK:  Yeah, he’s been hitting, and Nomar can tell you, too, I don’t know if he’s ever done it, but there have been times when I’ve swung and swung hard, and my hamstring has cramped up.  I’ve never pulled a hamstring swinging but it’s cramped up on me before.  But I don’t think Don Mattingly and the training staff and the medical staff of the Dodgers is going to let him do anything if they think there’s any chance of risking injury.

He has been taking batting practice from all the reports we’ve seen.  He’s been taking batting practice for over a week now, and he basically said that this is like a glorified batting practice to him.

It’s just swinging a bat.  I don’t have an issue with it.  I think it’s going to be a last‑minute decision from the Dodgers and the training staff to see when they let him participate or not.  Hopefully he does because I think he’s excited.

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  I think what they have going for him is he’s done it before as compared to being the first time doing it.  Since he’s done it before, this is only his second time, but at least he kind of knows what it’s all about and the toll it takes on your body.  I mean, it does take a toll on your muscles, but I think what Kruk said, it’s different from cramping than injuring it.

Q.  Can you describe a little bit about what it does to your body?  What part of your body hurts most after you’re done doing it?

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  I think, more your back – there might be some muscles.  Not that it’s hurting, not that you feel hurt, you’re just like, whoa, I really swung and that was it, and it was gone by the next day, by the All‑Star Game. 

I did a Home Run Derby, though, in the offseason when they used to have the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby in the offseason and then you’re not swinging as much, and then every part of my body was sore after that.  It was from head to toe because you realized ‑‑ it’s a lot different.  Like I said, you might feel some soreness, but it was gone for me in a day.

JOHN KRUK:  I’ve never participated in a Home Run Derby, but I have gone out early and hit for 45 minutes to an hour prior to batting practice.  What hurt the most was my hands.  My hands would just get so sore and raw from that constant max swing for 50, 60 swings, and my hands got really sore.

I know after one I had to get an injection in my middle finger, and people thought it was because I was flipping off the Phillies’ fans, but it was because of hitting extra batting practice.  That’s what got sore to me more than anything was my hands.

Q.  Obviously Mark Trumbo is our representative in the Home Run Derby.  There’s a guy who didn’t play a lot during the early part of the season because they wanted him to be a third baseman and that didn’t work out, so they were trying to find a spot for him in the lineup, but now he’s in there consistently and hitting quite a few home runs, hitting a lot of long home runs.  I just wondered what both of you think of his chances in the Home Run Derby because he’s got a lot of power.  He had a good rookie season last year but may be kind of under the radar for a lot of fans around the country who may not have seen him play a lot.  How do you like his chances in the Derby?

JOHN KRUK:  I think he has as good a chance as any.  When we talked to Robinson Cano a couple nights ago after he made his picks, and we asked him why he picked every player, but when he got to Trumbo he said, have you ever seen this guy take batting practice?  That’s why I took him.  He said it’s as impressive as anyone he’s seen. 

The thing about Trumbo is, like Bill Madlock told me my rookie year, he said, you shake the tree, 10 gloves fall out and only one bat, and he said, you have that bat, and that’s what Trumbo has.  He has that bat.  That’s why he plays.  The heck if he couldn’t play third.  If you can hit, they’ll find a place for you to play.

They can say all they want about someone that can’t catch the ball, we’ve got to put him somewhere else or we’ve got to DH him or something.  You can hit, you’re going to play.  Mike Scioscia understands that better than anyone.  That’s why Trumbo is getting consistent playing time now, because they need offense and he provides it.

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  And we did a Wednesday game over there in Anaheim, and gosh, he hit a ball to right field that was on a bullet, and he was using all fields.  The power he displayed, I was excited.  I like seeing new faces in this Home Run Derby, and he was one of the ones I was hoping would be in it for a new face because I think he can put it on display.

I think he definitely has to talk to people who have been in it and get their advice and utilize that for people who have done it in the past.  But I’m looking forward to that. I think if there was somebody going who’s going to hit the farthest one, to me I’d put my money on Trumbo and Stanton as far as who may be able to hit them the farthest because of the raw power that these guys have.

Q.  I’m calling obviously regarding Carlos González.  What impresses you guys the most about him in terms of all‑around game, but then if you could talk specifically about this contest, being a left‑handed hitter.  What do you think his chances are in the contest?  What do you like about him, your impressions of him as a player now and his chances in this contest?

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  Well, I enjoy watching him play because, one, on the field he goes out there and he plays the wing, he’s an impact player in the middle of that lineup.  He goes out there and he plays defense, as well, and on the bases.  He’s going to affect the game in some form.  That’s what I like.  I like a guy who’s going out there and knowing he’s going to be an impact and trying without overly doing it going, okay, the game is going to come to me, but I’m going to be an impact.

As I look at his swing, and Cano was a great example that you brought up, I think they have a very similar effortless swing when they’re out there.  I think a lot of people were going, really, I didn’t know you had that much power, but you watch him, he has such a consistent swing on the ball, and it seems like it’s effortless and the ball jumps off his bat.

That’s the same thing with Carlos González when I watch him.  Even in a game, he goes out there and when he puts that swing on, it’s not necessarily a violent all‑max‑effort swing out of him all the time, and then he’s able to hit that ball and drive it out with a pretty swing.  Those are a few things that I like watching about him.

JOHN KRUK:  Yeah, he’s about as close as the National League has to Robinson Cano if there is anyone close to Cano.  When you look at González, the fact that he can hit the ball out of the ballpark but he still hits for a high average that just tells you that he’s not a one‑dimensional guy.  The thing you like, too, is what he’s doing now.  With Tulowitzki out, he’s basically the Lone Ranger in that lineup, but you don’t hear any complaining, you don’t hear anything about anything.

But as far as guys that have a chance to win the Home Run Derby, normally it goes to a left‑handed hitter, he has as good a chance as any, because like Nomar said, the effortless swing, the lack of fatigue that’s probably going to come about as the rounds go on, if he keeps advancing, you know, the conditioning part, the heat could play a factor, although hopefully it’s not going to be that hot like Kansas City can get.  But I think he has as good a shot as anyone in this thing because the fact he’s left‑handed and he has an easy, effortless swing like Cano did last year.

Q.  My question is about Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, and as you’ve probably read, there’s a knee issue that may prevent him from participating, but if he does get the green light and if he does participate, how do you like his chances, number one, and overall if I could get your impressions on what you think of him as a power hitter.

JOHN KRUK:  I don’t think there’s anyone in baseball, maybe Mark Trumbo, which just has that raw power that he has.  I think the great thing if you’re a Marlins fan, he hasn’t figured it out yet.  When he figures it out, good God, it’s going to get scary.  And some pitcher and some third baseman, shortstop and maybe even a left fielder is going to get hurt.  You hear the legendary tales of his home runs that he hits in Spring Training.  That’s the first thing when I went there this spring, Ozzie and Joey Cora and all the coaching staff, they’re like, have you seen this big son‑of‑a‑gun hit a baseball, and I said, I’ve seen him hit them, I just didn’t understand. 

I think Chris Carpenter told me he hit a line drive off of me to right field in St. Louis, and I started walking, I thought that was an out, a line drive to right field, and he said it went about 10 rows up.  He said, this guy is going to kill someone.

It’s exciting to me.  I hope he can participate.  If he does, what are his chances?  They’re as good as any because he’s going to hit it as far as any of them.  Is he going to risk how far he can hit it over how many he can hit?  That might keep him from winning it.

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  I think Kruk makes an excellent point with that.  Like I said when I was talking about Trumbo, if I had my money on people who can probably hit it the farthest, I’d have to go Giancarlo Stanton and Trumbo because of that power.  I’m sure ‑‑ when I look at that body, I’m sure everybody begs to see if they could have that body or know what that feels like for one time and see if that can withstand a Home Run Derby because guys do get fatigued over the course of a Home Run Derby.  Like I said, I hope he’s able to participate, as well.

Q.  How much merit do you put into what participating in this event can do for a player’s confidence for a season?

JOHN KRUK:  You’ve seen some guys that have done well in it and have excelled after and you’ve seen some guys who have dropped down after and not done so well.  You know, I think it just seems to me like the last few years ‑‑ there was a few years past that they had to beg people to come hit in it because guys just didn’t want to hit in it.  I know at the end of my career there were a lot of guys that really didn’t care to participate in it.

But it seems like now, and I think because of the ‑‑ they have the captain now, the National League, it’s hard to tell a peer no.  It’s hard to tell a guy I’m not doing it.  Hey, thanks for asking, but no, I’m not going to do it.  So I think you’re getting the more ‑‑ the higher echelon of power hitters participating in the Home Run Derby now because of the captain.

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  Yeah, and I also think there’s a lot of shared information.  What I mean by that is guys are talking about it, about what they did in the past, or really going about it and explaining what it was like when they ‑‑ from their past experiences and what they did, say whether I kept swinging underneath and made sure I stayed loose, or I got just enough and saved myself for later, whatever the strategy is.

Now that they realize there’s some strategy involved and how to save yourself and save some of those swings, I think that also is a factor where guys are like, oh, okay, I know what I’ve got to do, I can go out there and do that.  And with that information I think people have the confidence to say, okay, I’m willing to give it a try and realize that it may necessarily mess up your swing.

I think you have occasionally, and I think even with Cano, like we saw last year, you’ve got guys that are not afraid to go the other way and try and hit the ball the other way.  It’s not always just trying to pull it every single time.  I think a lot of people think, well, I got my swing out of whack or I lost my confidence because now I’m trying to pull everything because of the Home Run Derby.  I don’t think that’s the case.  I think that they’re going, you know what, they’re so big and strong now that they’re able to drive the ball to any part of the field and the guys stay with it, aren’t afraid to go to the opposite field, go hit balls to dead center, all of those, and their swing is just fine.

Q.  John, when Cargo is going well he hits left‑handers well.  How hard is that progression for a left‑handed hitter to be able to learn to hang in and hit left‑handed pitches?  He’s hitting over .300 this year again against lefties, but can you articulate how difficult sometimes that transition is for younger players?

JOHN KRUK:  Well, the thing that’s interesting to me is when I played in the Minor Leagues, what helped me against lefties, you play every day in the Minor Leagues, and I’ve seen some guys get called up to the Big Leagues, and all of a sudden it’s like lefty pitching, we’ll put in a righty, we’ll platoon him.  Now if you play a rookie year, part of your second year without playing against lefties, it gets difficult.  When you’re facing Major League pitchers and you haven’t seen a left‑handed pitcher in a year and a half, now it becomes difficult.

The advantage I had with lefties was we had a four‑outfield situation when I first came up in San Diego, Marvell Wynne was one of our outfielders, and Marvell couldn’t hit lefties at all apparently, so we platooned, he was a left‑handed hitter and I was a left‑handed hitter, but when I would face only left‑handed pitchers in a platoon situation.  If I wanted to stay in the Big Leagues, I had to learn how to hit them.  That keeps your shoulder in when you’re playing for your life, for your job. 

And that’s how I learned how to hit lefties, plus I had an ability taught to me when I was young, harvested by Tony Gwynn when I got in the Minor Leagues and the Big Leagues being able to hit the ball the other way, and I think that helps tremendously when you’re facing left‑handed pitchers is to be able to hit the ball the other way, inside‑out a ball because lefties will tail a fastball in but most of the time they’re going to try to throw it away to you.  If you can hit the ball the other way and inside‑out a ball like I was able to do and Carlos González is able to do, it really becomes an advantage to you against lefties as opposed to anyone else.

Q.  Nomar, you know Tulo a little bit and he grew up idolizing you and Jeter.  He has dealt with some injuries and I know that’s something you had to go through in your career.  What would you tell a guy like that in Tulo’s case?  What is the key for him going forward if he wants to keep playing shortstop?

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  Well, I think first of all, don’t look at yourself as injury prone.  I think you go out there and you gain as much knowledge now, and you’re going to constantly work, and he’s going to do that.  Sometimes there are things just beyond your control.  I think that’s what the toughest thing is as an individual and as a player is you start blaming yourself. 

You start going, man, what could I have done different, what should I have done different, is there anything.  And you’re going out there and starting to look for that, and you can’t start questioning those.  You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing, how you’re working, continue ‑‑ just like in baseball, your workout regimen is an adjustment, too.

Not saying you change it, you adjust it.  You’re not going to change how hard you’re going to work, you’re not going to change ‑‑ and you recognize what it takes to be at that level, but at the same time, you’ll make adjustments due to say maybe because of an injury in the past, due to other things, and you make slight adjustments to make sure that those are strong.

It really takes your whole max effort.  That’s just a part of this game to be at this level and believe.  You can’t let it affect you mentally and believe, hey, I’m doing everything and there’s certain things just beyond my control, and I’ve got to go out there and keep playing my game. 

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Ben Cafardo

I lead communications strategy and execution for ESPN’s NBA, MLB, FIBA and Little League World Series properties. I’m also a proud consumer of all things ESPN.
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