More – lots more – from Kurt Suzuki
A half-hour interview with Kurt Suzuki provided lots of interesting stuff that couldn’t fit into today’s column. Here’s the rest of it:
On being the right fit for Major League Baseball as a defense-first catcher in the post-steroids small-ball era:
“From a player’s standpoint (low-scoring) games become a technical match up where every little detail could come into play in determining the outcome. In a 3-2 game, a pitching and defense matchup, teams have to figure out ways to manufacture runs and that comes from the technical part of the game. Real baseball fans understand that part of the game on defense, too, things like holding runners and defensive plays in certain situations.”
On getting back into the groove as a hitter:
“I had a really good relationship with (Nationals hitting coach) Rick Eckstein. The game evolves so much, you’re constantly making adjustments, constantly trying to get better and improve your swing and your overall offensive game. I’m working on something (to do with the swing) that I really feel good with. The easiest way to explain it is it makes things more simple, a simple approach to hitting a baseball and not over-thinking it too much.”
On whether over-thinking as a hitter has to do with being an analytical player as a catcher:
“Catching you always think of what you would do, and sometimes that’s bad. You over think instead of just go up there and have a good approach and see the ball. I haven’t changed my swing since 2008, I just try to stick to my strengths. But at the major league level all the pitchers have devastating stuff. I’ve always been a contact kind of guy, still am, usually don’t strike out much, put the ball in play. Driving the ball is trying to learn now when to really do it, to take what they give you. A lot of times you’re in a situation where they won’t give you something to drive. If it’s a good pitch on the outside of the plate I have to try to flick it to right.
On balance of working on offense and defense:
“My No. 1 thing is going to be my defense, knowing our pitchers, having a game plan, Know how to deal with each and every situation, what to do in certain situations. Get to the field early, so I can put good efforts into both parts of the game. It’s more important to me to take the defensive side and put more time and effort into that. Honestly, the last couple years have not been what I wanted hitting, but (defense as the priority) will never change.
On joining the Minnesota Twins:
“I know it’s cold, I also know it gets hot during the summer. But the ballpark is one of my favorites, they’ve got a great fan base. It seems like a first-class organization that stresses fundamentals, playing the game the right way. That’s the type of baseball you respect.”
On leaving the Oakland A’s again:
“I was surprised, at the same time I’d been there so long, great relationships up and down the organization. I feel like they gave me a lot of respect, that was something I appreciated. The coaching staff was awesome from (Bob) Melvin down to the coaches. Great to be around, I keep in contact with a lot of them.”
On how retiring someday will be a family decision:
“I’m fortunate to have a wife, Renee, who supports me through all of this. I have a growing family and this is harder on them than it is on us.”
On his father, Warren’s, liver cancer:
“He’s currently in remission. Happy, healthy, exercising a lot chasing his granddaughter (Malia). Happy and healthy.”
On where he plans to retire, Maui or California:
“I’m very fortunate a lot of perks come along with what I do. We have a house in Redondo Beach but my wife loves it out here, too. So maybe both.”
On staying in touch with Shane Victorino:
“Not too much, it’s hard to do when you have kids and family. We talk and catch up and see family. He lives in Vegas, I live in California. He’s a little older than me and we never really hung out (growing up on Maui). We have family friends.”
On players from Hawaii on each of the World Series teams:
“That was great. Any time kids from Hawaii in any sport are on a stage that big you feel pride. It helps people realize there’s some talent out here.”
On his foundation:
“It benefits the kidney foundation, we’re working with kidney disease. Both of our families have experiences with kidney disease coming into play in our lives. We’re fortunate to be in a situation to give back and help.”
On changing the rules to disallow home plate collisions:
“It’s kind of a tough topic and I’m not for or against it yet. I understand where not being able to run a catcher over because of the danger of it and you’re vulnerable comes into play. It’s like having a football player running at you and you have protective equipment but not like that for football. It’s like getting blindsided, they’re coming with shoulders down, elbows up. Pretty violent. But it’s hard to change in one day because it’s been played like this a long time. I’m neutral, not for or against it. I try not to put myself in vulnerable positions (behind the plate) because I’m not the biggest guy. I try to use my athleticism and make the play.”
Hard work, continuous improvement, preparation, and dependable defensively … definitely a role model for young athletes, especially undersized ones. And it’s nice to see that though Suzuki and Victorino took different paths out of high school, both have achieved at the highest level.
Looking forward to meeting him at the Downtown Athletic Club Hawaii luncheon tomorrow. 523-3460 for reservations.