Tyrone has played baseball all over the world, pretty much, moving to Japan in 2003 after 5 years of playing in Korea. He has been generally terrorizing opposing pitchers in Japan by hitting home runs all over the place (he has 219 homers in his NPB career as of this moment, and by the time you read this blog entry, he will probably have more). He came to the Chunichi Dragons in 2005, and was a big part of their recent success and their Japan Series victory in 2007.
As it turns out, he's also a pretty nice guy, and he put up with my asking him lots of stupid questions.
Thanks to Larry Rocca and the Chiba Lotte Marines for letting me hang out on the field for batting practice, and thanks to Tyrone, of course, for taking the time out to chat for a bit.
What do you think of interleague so far? Like or hate it?
It's all right so far, but it takes a toll on your body. There's a lot of travelling, a lot of days off. I guess it's good for the fans, you know, because we get to see so many different fans in different stadiums.
What's your favorite place to go to?
Favorite place to eat? Sapporo. I love Sapporo's seafood.
[We degenerate into a conversation about food. I tell him about Hillman's Hangout and how he MUST GO THERE.]
Are there any pitchers you're looking forward to facing in interleague?
No, not really. All of the pitchers are tough because you don't know them, you don't know their habits, their tendencies, what stuff they throw.
Do you guys have video?
Yeah, we have video, but it's just not the same as facing a pitcher live.
Do you like DHing?
No, not really. I like to be into the game. DHing requires a lot of walking around and a lot of extra swinging, just to stay loose. You have to keep your concentration level up.
With Morino out of action, who would you rather have batting in front of you, Lee or Norihiro?
Well, right now, I'm hitting 3rd.
Oh, right, the last few days. Do you mind that?
It really doesn't bother me. Because the 3- and 4-hole hitters are basically the same. We're there to drive in the runs when the first and second guys get on base.
You're still supposed to hit a home run, so it's the same thing?
Okay, I was curious... do you have a rivalry with Alex Ramirez?
No? Not at all?
No. Not at all.
Do you guys ever talk like "I'm gonna get you..."
All the time.
But, actually, it's never really about how we're gonna get each other. It's all "Good luck", "Have a good game", "Do your best", you know, that's what it's all about for us. We didn't come over here to have anything against each other, we're still both gaijin, we still want each other to do well.
That's the name of the game.
Who's been your best teammate in Japan?
I've had a LOT of them.
[Long pause.] Kaz Sasaki, Alex Ochoa. Steve Cox was cool. There's been a lot of the Japanese guys who are unbelievable. Now I have [Tomas] De La Rosa, unbelievable guy. Stand-up.
Do you talk to the Japanese guys a lot?
All the time. What's so funny is, some guys actually talk to me about hitting, you know... what are they doing wrong, how can I correct the problem?
They want to get more power? Or just hit better?
No, just, if they're struggling, they ask me, "what am I doing wrong?"
That's really awesome! Do you still need a translator to talk to them?
My interpreter does it all, yeah. Right now, Ochiai-san wants me to teach De La Rosa how to hit.
Well, not too much how to hit, just how to stay back and swing down on the ball.
Because of how they pitch here in Japan?
Okay, I gotta ask. Is Ochiai scary to talk to?
No, he's not.
Everyone tells me he's crazy.
No. He's just... well... to me, he's very quiet, very polite. He just lets you go out there and do your job. And that's the type of manager I like to play for. Not somebody who's always talking and always nagging you. Just go out and play your game. If I'm struggling a little bit, Ochiai-san always tells me what I'm doing wrong, he helps me correct it. Then the next couple of games, I'm cool again, feeling good at the plate. I do my work, I speak to him about it.
Were they really controlling in Yokohama, or in Korea?
They weren't too controlling, but you had a lot of players and coaches talking at you in different ways, you're supposed to do this, you can't be late, everything is strictly by the book. But here, it's all about your performance on the field. If you perform at 6:00 the way you're supposed to perform, you can do whatever you want here. Some days, sure, if the team has to stretch at 3:30... I get there at 3:30.
What's your routine like?
It's unbelievable. I basically don't have a routine. I come out, take my batting practice, go back inside, listen to music, go and sit in the sauna and sweat, just as long as I'm ready to play at 6:00.
What's your favorite pregame music?
I like some 2Pac, and a little R&B. [Laughs.]
What did you do yesterday with the rainy day?
We practiced. We practiced in an indoor facility.
What do you usually do on game days?
Well, every day that we play away, I go weight train. 9:30am, I meet the guys downstairs, we go to the gym. We work out until roughly 12pm, eat lunch, get a massage at 1, and get dressed and come to the stadium.
Yeah, a lot of the people that I see in the gym, just regular people, they act like "You have a game today?"
"You at the gym? You don't relax?"
"No, there's no time to relax. I relax on the days off."
You go to a gym with normal random people?
Yeah, I go to Gold's Gym.
There's Gold's Gym in Nagoya?!
Yeah, they're everywhere! I go to the ones in Yokohama, Osaka, Tokyo...
Do you ever have a problem with fans being like "Tyrone! Tyrone!"
Not at the gym, no.
How about outside?
A lot of them come up and speak to me, you know, they probably ask for an autograph here and there, but overall want to sit and talk and hold a conversation? No.
There's no "Can we take a picture? Can we take a picture?"
Every now and then you get that. I don't mind because it's real quick, I have my translator and the coaches there too, so... if it's just one or two of them I don't mind, but if it's a whole bunch it can get irritating.
Okay, one last question. What do you think of Doala? Does Doala ever mess with you?
All the time.
What do you do?
I always ask if he's a boy or a girl. And he always goes like that [makes a fist]. So I guess it's a guy.
Okay, so the reason why I ask that question is, my translator told me that sometimes it's a girl in there. And a lot of the guys used to hit him down low. So I was saying, "Hey, man, that could be a GIRL on the inside." That's why I always ask, boy or girl. I think it was a boy that day.
I've heard that everybody abuses Doala.
All the time. If I see him in the back or whatever, I slap him on the side of the head, throw a ball at him when we are home, etc.
[switches off recorder]
Larry showed up at that point and I got him to take a picture of me with Tyrone. Which was kind of funny considering that I had just been asking Tyrone whether he's bothered by fans asking to take pictures with him, but hey, whatever, I actually AM a Chunichi fangirl.
A bit later Larry even outed me as a huge Dragons fangirl and I showed Tyrone how I had a Morino #31 charm on my cellphone strap. "You like MORINO?" he said, cracking up. I probably turned some bizarre shade of red, but then asked what the heck was up with Morino, and he said just the same things I knew already: Morino hurt his left calf muscle and is still recovering. Sigh. Fortunately, at that moment, Julio Zuleta and Benny Agbayani showed up, and so I didn't have to look like an even bigger dork by asking more about Morino's status.
Anyway, I hope people enjoyed reading this, and I hope I can do some more player interviews in the future (assuming I'm ever allowed back on the field after they read this one, of course).