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Jason Kendall and his new book, “Throwback.”

kendall21) Let’s start off by promoting your new book, “Throwback.” (I read it…and it is definitely one of my favorite baseball books of all time.) Talk a bit about how the book came about and why you decided to do it.
First, thank you for the compliment.  I never had any intention of writing a book, it actually just fell in my lap.  I started playing for the Royals in 2010 and noticed this sports reporter named Lee Judge who was different than any other media guy I had seen over the past 15 years in the locker rooms.  Instead of focusing on the negative when interviewing guys, he was actually asking questions trying to get into the players heads and understand the game play by play.  One day, I jokingly said, “Hey, you should write a book.”  He said, “Yeah, you should write one with me.”  The next thing I knew we had a book deal.
2) What are your impressions on the Oakland organization and how does it differ from other teams?
It’s a low-market team, but Billy (Beane) always finds a way to get the right people despite the low payroll and every September they seem to be in the thick of things.  If you have listened to any of my interviews, any time I’m asked where my favorite place to play was, I always answer Oakland.  It was the first time in my career I made it to the play-offs and that is what I used to dream about when I was a kid playing wiffleball with my brother in the backyard.
3) What are your first thoughts when you see this picture? (below)
Talk about throwback.  That’s a 16 year old punk.  And they don’t make Pony-fucking spikes anymore.  I was a junior in high school and knew I was going to make it in the big leagues somehow.

kid

16 year old punk.

4) Can you get into more detail about the John Lackey confrontation? 
The A’s and the Angels had been going back and forth all year and we didn’t like them and they didn’t like us.  It became a pretty good rivalry.  It was a 2-1 count, bases were loaded, we had 1 out and I had a free RBI out there.  To give you some background, I got hit a lot and started getting a lot of contusions on my bicep so my trainers had me wear an elbow pad.   Lackey threw a curveball and I got out of the way.  I was getting ready to step back in the box and I heard, “You mother-fucker, take that elbow pad off you fuck!”  Nobody is going to speak to me that way.  I have a hard time when people yell at me, but those words really set me off and I went after him.  The next thing I knew, we were on the bottom of the pile and my arm was around his neck and I wasn’t letting go.  Every time I heard, “I can’t breathe” it made me squeeze harder. The pile broke up and that was it.  He wasn’t going to hit, so I was going to take care of it then.  We were a tough team and nobody was going to disrespect us.  That all being said, he’s a great player and I have a lot of respect for the guy.
5) How did you adjust after your horrific ankle injury, and do you think your thumb injury in Pittsburgh took away your ability to hit for power?
The ankle ended up being fine, but I may have lost a step or two.  But, tearing my thumb apart was definitely when I lost my power and had to change the way I hit.  That’s what the game is about: making adjustments.  Your hands are everything in this game.  I became more of a situational hitter and couldn’t grab the ball the way I used to.  It was 10 times worse for my baseball career than my ankle injury because every hit I took or ball I caught felt like someone stabbing a knife in my hand.
6) What was the biggest moment in your Oakland Athletics career?
Going to the post-season.
7) Since 1920 you have the most stolen bases by a catcher with 189. Can you talk a bit about your approach?
It’s not how fast you are, but knowing how to run the bases  Baserunning is a huge part of the game, even the slowest players can steal a base if they know how to and put in the work. It was part of my game and I took pride in doing it.
8) You come from an old school baseball background, so what was your impression of the run being scored as Alex Rodriguez cried like a little baby?
 Don’t get me started on him.

 

Jason Kendall’s new book, “Throwback.”

kendall St. Martins Press was apparently impressed enough by this blog to send me an advanced copy of Jason Kendall‘s new book, Throwback. (The book officially comes out May 13…thank you Michael for the copy.) Mr. Kendall has been called a lot of things in his playing career–tough, gritty, a man’s man, an asshole; and even got some flack in the media in 2010 for his divorce proceedings and subsequent accusations of abuse and addiction to adderal by his ex-wife. He  allegedly destroyed his birthday cake in 2009 with the same bat he used to get his 2,000th hit! Some Pirates fans to this day have no love for the man because of his rookie hazing with fellow player Brian Giles and overall nastiness to the media. As a Oakland fan, I can attest that I had nothing but love for his game. He WAS a gritty, tough guy; sure. But that is what we admire in a town like Oakland that prides itself on its blue-collar, working class roots and take no prisoners attitude. Jason sums it up perfectly with this statement:

“…and for all you fans that thought I was an asshole, you were right; but I still respect you for loving the game.”

That is fucking GOLD right there.

The book is basically baseball 101. I expected a lot of cheap shots and shit kicking, yet there is very little of that here. There is, however, a lot of nuances or as I like to call it, ambrosia, that some of the younger players should read up on and even take to heart.  Jason gets as pissed off as I do when someone misses the cut-off man. I love that shit. He analyzes and spews his opinions on everything from managers, pitch counts, bullpen committees, how younger players are sissies and EVERY baseball situation you could possibly imagine. Let me tell you something…if you think you know shit– you don’t.

Here are some of the highlights/insights:

Joe Blanton changed speeds better than anyone he ever caught.

fight

John “mouth breather” Lackey getting served.

John Lackey called him a “motherfucker” when he charged him on the mound.

Kendall’s thoughts: “You get in a fight in baseball? You might kick somebody’s ass, you might get the shit kicked out of you, but it just takes that one time to show that you’ll fight back. You get drilled at the plate and you think something is wrong with that? Go to the mound. You do that and word gets around that this kid will fight back.”

“I’ve charged the mound a couple of times, and I’ve been asked if I had a game plan: What was I planning to do once I got out there?

Easy–kick the shit out of somebody.”

The best bullpen he ever saw was in Houston with Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner.

Gary Sheffield knocked the crap out of him at home plate causing a concussion. (this later led to an episode of Sheffield slapping his helmet at the plate leading to Sheff getting his eye cut and some people would say his ass kicked.)

C.C. Sabathia is one of the greatest pitchers ever.

Hecklers: “Screw me? Screw you! I’ll kick your ass!

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to REALLY get into the ins and outs of the game. Very highly recommended…and I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the book: “Do not touch our stuff…If I walked into the locker room and found a reporter or clubhouse visitor by my locker and they had my glove on–especially my gamer– I’d probably knock him out. That’s me; but to be honest with you, 99.9 percent of all ballplayers feel the same way. If somebody was in my locker, I don’t know if I’d start the game because I’d be in jail; that’s my shit. Don’t touch my stuff…Even ballplayers don’t touch each others stuff without an invitation. That’s my locker: I’ve got my cell phone, keys, pictures of my kids in there. I’ve never seen anyone in my locker which is good; because that’s fighting shit.