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Radio Joe Zenzola


My best and worst baseball interviews of 2012

Let’s be honest. The Milwaukee Brewers have a ton of classy players. Off all the one-on-ones I did this season, not one of them was a bad interview. On the other hand, I had my fair share of outstanding, to sub-par, to dreadful interviews with players from all around the league. Here are my top 3 best and top 3 worst player interviews in the visiting clubhouse.
The Worst…
1.      Stephen Strasburg SP Washington Nationals
I did my homework, or at least I thought I did, when preparing for a one-on-one with Stephen Strasburg. In an interview while he was with San Diego State, he seemed like a down-to-earth kind of dude. His answers had good content; he did not appear to come of cocky or arrogant. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into…I was wrong.
Walking into the Nationals clubhouse at 9:45am on a Sunday, I see Strasburg along with several teammates having breakfast by the leather couches. Sunday pregames are always difficult because players are currently rolling into the clubhouse at different times; they’re still trying to wake up from a late night game; they also have a tight schedule before first pitch.
Waiting patiently for him to finish his breakfast, I stood not far from the couches as the clock continued to tick. Then, without hesitation, I approached Strasburg with all of his teammates around him. After extending my hand and introducing myself, Strasburg, with a smirk on his face, looked at me with the expression of “Who the hell is this kid?” Strasburg accepted the interview, but didn’t seem thrilled about it. Then, looking disoriented, while his buddies chuckled in the background, I walked back to his locker with him.
Strasburg didn’t have the time for me, and he was only a couple years older than me. His answers were fine, until I mentioned the whole innings limit situation. Strasburg refused to answer the question (which I guess I don’t blame him), but his tone was rather smug and rude. The more arrogant he got in his answers, the more uncomfortable I was feeling. After thanking him for his time, he bolted.
He didn’t come off as a nice guy. Based off that interview from San Diego State, he definitely changed. I guess that superstardom must have gone to his head.
2.      Josh Johnson SP Miami Marlins
It felt like a rapid-fire interview. Typically, the goal is to have about a 4-6 minute one-on-one interview when doing pregame coverage for the Ziebart On-Deck Show. This interview lasted two and a half minutes! When preparing to interview a Marlin, Josh Johnson wasn’t on the list. However, after not finding who I wanted and running on a deadline, there was Josh Johnson chilaxing in front of his locker.
Not every player is going to be a good interviewee. Johnson was clearly that. His answers lasted only seconds long. I remember firing close to 10 questions at him in that two and a half minute span. For me, it was great practice to have another question ready in the back of my mind before his short response came to an end. The guy had no content, and I don’t think really cared either. Then again, maybe he’s a little shy to do interviews. When talking to him though, I didn’t detect shyness. At least I had something to provide for the show, but I’ll remember to keep my distance from Johnson in the future.
3.      Brain Bogusevic OF Houston Astros
I’m to blame for this barn-burner of an interview. Like Strasburg, in past interviews, Bogusevic seemed like a decent guy to talk to. However, in one of my first questions to him, I said, “Does it bother you that fans and other teams call you guys the Triple-A Astros?” I regret asking that question; in fact, I apologize for it. Bogusevic responded, “Um…I’ve never heard anybody say that…uh that wouldn’t be nice to hear.” From there, the interview went downhill. It’s difficult interviewing a player from one of the worst of teams in baseball. I know better than that, and I’ve improved on focusing on more of the positives rather than negatives with the some of the weaker teams in the MLB. It’s bad enough when you know suck, and then have some young idiot broadcasters (that’s me) call you the “Triple-A Astros.”
Bogusevic should have punched me in the face for that.
Up to that point, that was the last poor interview I did.
The Best…
1.      Huston Street/Joe Thatcher CP/RP San Diego Padres
It’s funny that the Padres visited Miller Park for two series this season, and I was fortunate to get two awesome interviews out of it. In the first trip to Miller Park, I was looking desperately to find a player from the Padres. Whenever you’re preparing to interview a player, always have a list of 3-7 players you would like to go after, and then do your homework/research accordingly. My first two options – Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin – turned down my interview because they were going to the batting cages. Next on my list was Huston Street. Unlike Stephen Strasburg, I saw a couple of YouTube videos of Street being interviewed, and the answers he gave were outstanding. Sure enough, when I got him for the one-on-one, I got just that. The interview lasted close to six minutes. He was a nice guy, and had no problem taking time out to talk about baseball. His content was so good; I remember asking only six questions during the entire interview. They guy had a lot on his mind, and didn’t sugarcoat anything.
I tried getting Street again during this final series with the Brewers, but he looked like he was in a bad mood. Awkwardly standing by his locker, I should have walked away. Instead, Street yelled at me “I don’t have time for an interview right now!” I apologized and left. Unless I reintroduced myself, I doubt Street remembered me from the last time.
On the following day, I landed a one-on-one with lefty Joe Thatcher. For those of you baseball nuts out there, you may remember this guy. Thatcher was once a part of the Brewers minor league system. In fact, he came up around the same time as Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks. Along with two other pitchers, Thatcher was dealt to San Diego for veteran relief pitcher Scott Linebrink in 2007. Since the trade, Thatcher was the only player that panned out for the Padres, and he’s had quite a career there. Thatcher told me in the interview that had it not been for the Brewers, he may not be where is today. Originally, Thatcher was undrafted and took his chances in the independent league. The Brewers actually signed Thatcher out of independent ball.
This could have made for a great feature story on Fox 6. Thatcher is a good guy, very down-to-earth, and had enjoyed talking with me. Of all the players I’ve interviewed so far, his story stuck with me the most.  
2.      Tim Hudson SP Atlanta Braves
It’s always hard finding a specific player in any clubhouse. Players are constantly moving in and out, getting food, having treatment, going to the cages, etc. Sometimes it’s better to target a pitcher over a hitter, just for the simple reason that hitters are more active than pitchers. This is not to say that pitchers are lazy by any means. From my observations though, they have more time on their hands than the rest of their teammates. More specifically, starting pitchers who don’t pitch on their specific dates are the ones to really target.
With that being said, Tim Hudson was minding his own business. After talking to someone on the phone, I approached Hudson and introduced myself. Once again, he was very down-to-earth and had no problem speaking his mind. When asking him how he felt about shutting down pitchers, I was afraid he was going to give me a really bad Stephen Strasburg-like response. Instead, he was very honest with me. Hudson understands where the organization is coming from by looking out for the pitcher’s future. However, Hudson said, “Barring injury, you should go out there and perform…What happens if next spring he blows his elbow out? You never know what’s going to happen.” To conclude on the shutdown debate, Hudson would go on to say that “it seems a bit silly to me.”
We would go on to talk about his great career. He mentioned how lucky he was to play for two great organizations (A’s and Braves, of course) and never coped with a ton of injuries. It would not surprise me if Hudson was a Hall-of-Famer down the road. I was glad and fortunate to do that interview. Veterans have been around the block, and they can definitely have more class to members of the media, than some of these youngsters (Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, I’m taking to you).
3.      Buster Posey C San Francisco Giants
While I could have improved on some of the questions I asked him, there was one key reason why I enjoyed Buster Posey’s interview. Don’t get me wrong, his answers and content were great. But there was something else that stood out from one of the best catchers in the game…He actually cares.
Struggling to find a player to talk to you, I saw Posey looking over some film. Up to that point, Posey would be the biggest name I got to interview. Approaching Posey, I introduced myself and right away said, “I know you’re busy right now, but if you a have a couple of minutes, could we do a little one-on-one.” He said he would try, but usually that answer means “No.” Keeping my distance from Posey, I stayed on the opposite corner of the clubhouse as the clock continued to tick. The last thing I wanted was to walk out of that clubhouse with nothing. Sparky and Josh would have killed me!
After a couple of minutes, Posey stood up from his computer, walked across the clubhouse, and approached me. He said something along the lines of, “All right. Let’s do this.”  
When a player takes their time out do that, it goes to show what kind of person they are.
So there you have it!
Follow me on Twitter @RadioJoeZenzola
Until next time, Milwaukee…

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Topics : Sports
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Locations : MilwaukeeSan Diego
People : Bryce HarperCameron MaybinCarlos QuentinJoe ThatcherJosh JohnsonRyan BraunScott LinebrinkStephen StrasburgStephen Strasburg-likeTim HudsonWashington Nationals

10/04/2012 2:44PM
My best and worst baseball interviews of 2012
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