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"Unless you're leading the Dog, the view never changes." - sign just outside the Yankees spring training clubhouse, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida



by modernerabaseball.com

With his knee shot, Tony Gwynn was relegated to mostly a pitch-hitting role in 2001.

Not a problem for Batman, who at one point was batting .500 as a pitch-hitter. We decided to let Tony do what does best besides hitting – talk hitting – and caught up with him after he drove in the winning run in a game this past season.

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“You just go up there and try and get a good pitch to hit,” Tony says simply as a crowd of reporters surround his locker.

The rest of this interview is unedited, so you can better understand inside the mind of one of baseball’s greatest hitters to ever put on a uniform.

On his one at bat in the game, a game-winning RBI: “That’s my biggest thing. Fastball away, breaking ball away and then I leaped out at a fastball away and two strikes, you know, you’re just trying to put it in play. And I got a breaking ball that I was out in front of but my bat stayed in the zone and I found a hole. And I was able to get to second base too and it turned out to be the winning run.”

“Right now, in that situation, you’re just trying to get a pitch to hit. That’s all. Try to keep the ball off the ground and get a ball up and try to put a good swing on it, and really, I lucked out because I’m sure that breaking ball was supposed to be more away from me but he kind of hung it in the middle and I was able to hook it down the line.”

Question from a reporter: “Everybody is kind of in awe now of what you’ve been able to do the last few times you’ve pitch-hit, what are your thoughts?”

“I’m just doing what I’ve always done, really,” Tony answered.

“When you break it all down, whether it’s one time up or four times up, what I do is put the bat on the ball and usually it gets a lot more attention when there’s guys in scoring position and that’s what I said before. The one time they don’t want to see a guy like me come up is when guys are in scoring position because usually when you put the bat on the ball you’re going to get a run in.”

“Like I said, in that situation, I did not want to hit a ball on the ground because I know if I hit it on the ground there’s a good chance (Tony starts to chuckle) they’re going to turn two, so I’m trying to get a ball up in the zone that I can do something with. And really, I had three balls to do that with. But the first two I really didn’t attack it the right way. And so, but the last ball, I was able to do something with it so, like I said, I’m trying to do what I’ve been trying to do.”

“I know people are making a big deal out of it because it’s pitch-hitting. It’s that one crack. You get one crack at it and if you succeed it’s easy to go about your business and when you fail you’re up all night long. And, you know, that’s pretty much the life of a pitch-hitter.”

“But, you know, sitting there watching the game on the bench you really kinda get a different perspective because I’m watching the flow of the game and I’m watching (Cubs pitcher Kevin) Tapani – he was in and out, he changed speeds, he was up in the zone. He came back with the change up so, you know, you’re watching the game and you’re watching hitters and if you really just pay attention it really just keeps you in the game. When you go up there to hit, it’s not like you’re just sitting there on the bench doing nothing, ‘saying, ok, I got to go up and swing the bat.’”

“I’m approaching it like, you know, ‘I’ve been in there. I’ve watched the game. I‘ve watched how guys have pitched.’ You’re situational thinking. I know what (Cubs Manager Don) Baylor’s doing. I know what (Padres Manager Bruce) Boch(y) is doing. You try to pick a spot where you think your time might come.”

“Basically, it still boils down to getting a good pitch to hit and doing what I need to do, and here lately its worked pretty good, so these guys are trying to get me to not retire and pitch-hit for the rest of my life! And I’m like, ‘No, forget it, I’m still trying to get out there and play on a regular basis!’”

“And it’s worked out. It gives you a chance. It gives you an opportunity. And if you succeed, it’s great. And if you fail, it’s a lot deeper than people make it out to be. It’s tough. It’s a tough night’s sleep when you go home.”

“Like last night, (Kyle) Farnsworth, he’s throwin’ 99 (miles per hour). Just beat me, just beat me inside, you know? I look at the tape, I came here today, go to work, take some swings and, you know, you’re only going to get that one crack so that’s the thing that makes a little bit of difference.”

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Feb 09 2002, 10:19:22
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