No, I’m not really in the sauna. That wouldn’t be good for the laptop. I’m still in the press box at Chase Field, which is kind of like a sauna, because they open the roof about a half-hour after the game, presumably so it’ll be open tomorrow morning when the sun comes up and the grass can get whatever sunlight it can get through whatever openings there are in the roof of this place. In the meantime, because there are so many patches of the field here that NEVER get sunlight, they shine these solar simulators on those patches after games. I’ve always heard that they also PAINT part of the grass green here, but I have never gotten actual verification that it’s true.
Matt Kemp has a problem with me. I have never quite figured out what it is, but I have been around this guy for more than seven years now, and he has seemed to have a problem with me almost from the moment he got to the big leagues. It flared up again after the game tonight, when a group of us gathered around his locker to ask him about his return to the field, which consisted of that game-ending pinch-hitting appearance.
We asked him a handful of questions, and he answered them. Then I asked him how different it was to suddenly be standing in the batter’s box in a major league game against a major league pitcher — something he hadn’t done since July 21 — after all those at-bats in the Cal League and in simulated games. Perhaps I didn’t articulate it very well, and maybe it wasn’t a very good question to begin with, but what I was looking for was some comment about whether all of THAT could ever have really prepared him for THIS.
Well, evidently, he didn’t like the question, and I’m not sure why. He said, “It felt the same.” Then, we all broke away to head back upstairs to write, and he was kind of laughing under his breath. As I walked away, he said, “You’re funny, man.” And so I said, “Funny in a good way or a bad way,” fully knowing the answer. And he said, “Not in a good way.” So as we exited the clubhouse, I said, “Did you take offense at that question.” He didn’t answer, just kept walking, and outside the door of the clubhouse is where players and the media go in opposite directions, so we did.
Now I realize he doesn’t really like the media in general, and so I don’t take it personally, but I almost never take anything personally — except, maybe, for when Don Mattingly puts on the sacrifice bunt in a key situation in the ninth inning, but I digress. But in my case, I know he has a particular problem with me because I have heard from third parties that he has complained specifically about me. According to one of those third parties, he said, “I can’t stand that guy.”
Oh, and then there was that time when, on a commercial flight from L.A. to Phoenix for the 2011 All-Star Game, we ended up SITTING next to each other. He threw such a fit about that I was actually afraid the flight attendant was going to come over and ask if there was a problem and we were BOTH going to get kicked off the plane, but he eventually figured out there was nothing he could do about it and piped down. Needless to say, we didn’t make a lot of small talk on the 50-minute flight over.
But anyway, one of the things I want to do with this blog is take you behind the scenes as much as possible, and that was just one of those little vignettes that happen when a group of people spends WAY too much time together — especially when there is longstanding mistrust and acrimony between a particular pair of those people.
You’re funny, too, Matt. So I guess we have that much in common, at least.
Speaking of behind the scenes, shared a pregame meal tonight with fellow scribes Bill Plunkett and Barry Bloom and former major league catcher Terry Kennedy, now a scout for the Cubs. Terry was actually the Dodgers’ Triple-A manager my first year on the beat, and just a really good guy. At one point in the conversation, Fernando Valenzuela came over and pulled up a chair. I asked Terry about facing Fernando as a hitter, and he gave the usual compliments about how tough he was to hit against. But then he turned the conversation to what a good-hitting pitcher Fernando was.
“This guy was the only pitcher I ever called breaking ball on the first pitch for,” he said. “The only one.”
This reminded me of another pre-game dinner conversation with Fernando and Plunkett a couple of weeks ago. I asked him how many home runs he hit. Said he didn’t remember, which I’m not sure I believe. So I looked it up on my phone. Told him to guess. He said, “10.” It was 10.
Buenos noches, amigos.