Talking Big Leagues (and Little League) with Nomar Garciaparra
The former Red Sox great and ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst tells us who to watch out for in October. Hint: Dude’s a total homer.
You had a fantastic career. Looking back, what stands out the most?
One of the greatest moments was just getting to the big leagues. I got my first hit and I was like, “I did it. I made it. I can go home now.” I’m glad I didn’t, but that feeling was great. It meant a lot to me. Another great moment was at the end of my career. I was cleaning out my locker at Dodger Stadium. I grew up in L.A. and saw my first game there. Anyway, so I asked my dad to come by and help me out. When he got there, I grabbed two gloves and we played catch in Dodger Stadium. That was pretty special.
Are there any stats you’re particularly proud of? The .313 career average, the 229 home runs?
I didn’t play for numbers like that, I really didn’t. The focus every day was to go out and win. The goal was always to get to the World Series. I always figured the numbers would take care of themselves.
Since you’re retired, do you ever play any baseball – pickup games or something?
No, I don’t play at all. I’m fortunate enough to be around the game and get to talk about it
Your wife, Mia Hamm, is a premium athlete, too. Who would win in a 40-yard dash?
I can’t run. Physically, it’s not possible. That’s why I retired. People say, “Let’s go for a jog.” But even that’s not going to happen.
So tell us about your involvement with the Little League World Series.
I go there with Subway to show support for the Challenger Division of Little League. It’s a division of baseball and softball for developmentally and physically challenged children and their buddies—people who come along and help them out. Subway is a huge supporter. One thing they do is make donations to help teams and their families with travel expenses. Williamsport [where the Little League World Series is held] is a special place. The field is beautiful. It’s a great atmosphere. And in the Challenger Division, it really puts smiles on the kids’ faces to be out there. These kids and their families go through a lot on a daily basis. It warms your heart to see them out there enjoying themselves so much.
OK, let’s talk a little MLB. Can baseball ever get past the PED nightmare?
I think the fact that it has all come to the forefront will help clean the game up. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s definitely progressing in the right direction. I think the goal is to to wake up one day and have it not be an issue.
Couple of good divisional races this year. Who’s gonna take the NL Central?
Of course you go straight to the toughest one. I’ll tell you who I’m cheering for—I really hope Pittsburgh pulls it off. I mean, they’re trying to break a 20-year streak of losing seasons. What better way to do it than to get into the postseason. That would be awesome.
What about the AL East?
I know I’m not supposed to be biased, but I have to go with my Red Sox. I don’t know if I would have said it at the beginning of the season. I admit that. But watching them now, they’re battling.
What teams have what it takes to get to the Series?
I think the Dodgers. There was a time earlier in the season when their clubhouse seemed to have no energy. Then they added Puig – what a sparkplug. They woke up and started playing the way they’re capable of with all that talent. They look strong right now. They have a couple of the best pitchers. I mean, Kershaw is fun to watch. Then you have Greinke. And Ryu was a great addition. That staff can carry them a long way.
What about the American league?