Pirates (beside Ken Griffey Jr.)
Guys will say something about somebody in the stands, or they'll ask,
"Where's a good place to eat?" or "Anything going on in town?"
but usually it's more about the game. My rule of thumb is if a guy is getting
ready to steal, I don't say much to him. My rookie year, [then Cubs outfielder]
Henry Rodriguez was on first. We were in the middle of a conversation, he
turned to reply to me, and Ron Villone picked him off. I was like, "Oh,
boy. Sorry about that."
Orioles (left, with the Red Sox, next to Derek Jeter last year)
Some guys aren't chatty. They're like, When we cross the [foul] line, we don't
talk. But I talk to everyone. Most of the conversations are "Where do you
travel to next? Blah, blah." As a rookie I was 0 for 24, and when [former
Padre] Tony Gwynn got to first, I asked, "How do you get out of a
slump?" He went into this whole ball of wax about hitting, saying he likes
to sit off-speed because it slows your front side. It was awesome talking
hitting with the best hitter in the league. [He] made sense; most of the time
when you struggle, it's the breaking ball that gives you problems. I don't
remember if it was my next at bat or later that series, but I got a hit.
Yankees (below, next to David Ortiz)
When guys get on, the conversation is almost like a phone call to catch up:
"How you doing? Anything good going on tonight? Where's a good place to
hang out?" Sometimes you're telling about stuff that went on in the
clubhouse, and you've got to get your glove in front of your mouth because you
don't want everybody to see you laughing. When I played for the A's, you'd
always hear about who Derek [ Jeter] was supposedly dating. When he got on base,
I'd ask him, "Are you really dating so and so?" But Derek was pretty
sly. It was fun when [former Yankee] Paul O'Neill got on. He would be so p----d
off when he made an out. If he got on from an error, I'd just listen to him.
He'd be ready to hang himself. Or if someone made a great play on him the
inning before, I'd egg him on and say, "That was a great play [the
defensive player] made" and he'd be like, Yeah, f--- you.
The best part is you get to talk to different types of hitters. In my rookie
year with Arizona, I was struggling and [then Twins first baseman] Doug
Mientkiewicz said to me, "Hey, man, if I can hit up here, you can too."
Earlier this year when I was struggling, Manny [Ramirez] gave me good advice. I
was pulling off--my front shoulder and my hips were flying out. He just said,
"Relax. You've got a good swing. Just stay through the ball." You're
going to take the advice that Manny gives. I was honored he noticed anything
about me. He's a student of the game, and he's watching all the players.... If
a guy has a bad at bat, say he grounds out and we don't get the other end of
the double play, I'll keep quiet. I don't want to p--- him off any more.