Monday, July 23, 2007

Five Minutes With Ronnie Belliard

HUGE UPDATE!! Many Thanks to Nats320 Regular Reader/Commenter/Visitor Jim for first handing me this GREAT INFORMATION!! The Washington Post is reporting Ronnie Belliard as RE-SIGNED with Our Washington Nationals for Two Years. Now, Ronnie comments to me about his future in this post explains his guarded response to my question.





Last Thursday, July 19th--Our Washington Nationals Ronnie Belliard was the Guest of Honor during the monthly get together at THE ESPN ZONE in Downtown Washington, DC. As usual, Washington Play-By-Play Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes hosted the event. A Lunch Time crowd that swelled to a couple hundred fans. This "Meet & Greet" was extremely well attended. No one has ever recorded the actual attendance figures over the first three seasons of Nationals Baseball, and these autograph sessions at ESPN ZONE. But most Nationals employees on hand felt, this was by far--the largest turnout to date.




There were some very good questions from the many gathered fans. And, Ronnie Belliard was quite engaging--sitting on The Dias as Charlie Slowes worked the room gathering every one's interest. Michael Phillips from MLB.com was there and posted up some of the answers to the many fan questions. What was quite revealing, and funny at the same time--was Belliard's response about whether he uses Ash or Maple Bats? Ronnie started laughing and told everyone that he uses Albert Pujols' personal bats. The St. Louis Cardinals Slugger and Belliard are good friends. When Ronnie was struggling early this season, Pujols sent him a few of his bats. Our Number 10 started to use them--and has never turned back. 'Send me some MORE!--I told him on the phone.' "He's my supplier now!!" Belliard shouted out. (EVERYONE BUSTED OUT LAUGHING) And those bats--they are Ash.

Someone joked maybe this would explain Albert Pujols sub par season so far in 2007. Could Albert be using Ronnie Belliard's Bats? (More Laughs--Charlie Slowes loved the comment--Ronnie just dipped his head and chuckled)




Then, as the Lunch Hour moved past the halfway point, everyone lined up to get an autograph, and take pictures with Ronnie Belliard. Once again, Our Washington Nationals provided a free gift for each and every attendee. This time, Red "DC" Nats Visors. The identical ones given out by GEICO during a previous RFK Stadium Promotion. Many used the visor for their autograph from Belliard.



Finally, despite the large turnout, the signing of many autographs and Ronnie needing to head off for RFK Stadium to prepare for that night's game--he was kind enough to give me 5 minutes of his time--answering questions for The Nats320 Blog.

Here we go:

I have said many times that your swing mimics Manny Ramirez (Boston Red Sox Star Slugger)—Why? (SBF)

“I always try to do the things the good hitters do. I have always idolized him. Many times I have asked him (Manny Ramirez) many questions, when I was in the American League. ‘How do you do this? How do you do that?’ I wasn’t seeing the light at first in the Big Leagues. But, after speaking with Manny, things changed for me. I loved how he always got hits. His swing IS SO BEAUTIFUL! So, I have tried to take what he’s done and work it into my game.”

We talked about this the other day in Section 320—how well you extend your swing through the strike zone. Is that because of Manny Ramirez? (SBF)

“Maybe, maybe. Because my swing was somewhat like that, throughout the Minors. I was an inside out hitter. So, as that type of hitter, you must follow through on the ball with your swing. But, I think when I got older, my swing improved and it did coincide with seeing him (Ramirez) hit. I don’t know, for sure. But, he’s My Idol, as a hitter. No doubt, for me, he’s MY IDOL. That man knows how to hit!!”

How is it that you came to play short rightfield, at times, while playing second base? It seems to work for you. And, you don’t appear to be caught out of position, like many might believe? (SBF)

“When I came up as a Brewer, they (Milwaukee) never let me play like that. They said: ‘We don’t want you to play like that.’ But, really, they (The Brewers) were just not familiar with how it works for me. But, when I went to Colorado, they (The Rockies) let me play in the grass. Although, not all the time. Then, I went to Cleveland. One day, someone was hitting in an exhibition game (Belliard playing second base). I was playing into the grass and made a nice catch. They (Cleveland) responded: ‘Man, that’s good--can you do that in a real game all the time.’ I said: ‘Yeah, If you let me.’ The Indians told me to play wherever I wanted. So, I decided to play like that. Interesting, I see a lot of other guys (players) doing it now. It gives me far greater range.”

Yet, it doesn’t seem to effect you coming in on grounders on the infield grass? (SBF)

"Yeah, that’s true, but I have to be smart. If I am to play that way, I can only really do it on the 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th hitters. Or, guys that don’t run well. The leadoff guy, you just can’t do it. That hitter is going to take advantage of me by bunting or hitting a high chopper. Next thing you know, a man is on first base.”

Your pivot at second base is terrific, even with an opposing playing sliding right into your legs, you stand tall and, most always, get the throw off. Is it talent, or more guile? (SBF)

“Oh, I don’t know. I just turn them. Part of the game is being tough. You have to be fearless, take the chance. If not, you get beat. And, someone else will get that job.”

You are really good at it (Pivoting at Second).(SBF)

“Thank you, I appreciate that comment.”

During the Q & A Session with Fans, Ronnie took my following question:

Question: After spending all winter without a team, is there a redemption factor now that you are hitting so well?

Belliard: After I won the World Series, I thought, "Hey, I'm going to play for somebody." But then nobody called me. Then the Nationals called, and I thought, "Manny [Acta] is there, there are Dominican guys there; I'll come and help the team win games."

So, to follow up: Is Manny really the sole reason way you came here? (SBF)

"He's not the only reason, but I am very comfortable with him. He's fun to play for. He lets me play my game, and I appreciate that. And, its always enjoyable to play with other players you consider friends. This is a good environment."

(Quickly, I was running out of time--The Time was 1:30PM at HARD ROCK--Ronnie needed to leave.)

Final question: If I asked you whether you still wanted to be here by the July 31st deadline, you may just well tell me: 'Sure,I like playing in Washington’. But, right now, you don’t control your destiny, until after the conclusion of the 2007 season. So, with that in mind, what has your 4 months in Washington done for your career? (SBF)

“Tough Question. I have always told myself, I came here for a reason. So, I am here for a reason. But, mostly to just play ball.” (He was guarded about this question-SBF).

Then, what’s your career goals down the line? (SBF)

“Nothing. Just keep playing hard. Honestly, I have already satisfied my goals in The Major Leagues. I was an All-Star one season. I won The World Series last year (with The St. Louis Cardinals). I have thought about winning a Gold Glove, but its not in my mind right now.”

But, the game is still fun to you? (SBF)

“Yes, IT IS!!” (Every Single Day?—SBF) Yes, definitely, I love coming to the ballpark every single day.”

And, Manny Acta’s not bad to play for, is he? (SBF)

(Laughing) “No, not at all. I love Manny. We go back a long way. He’s really a good person.”

My brief moment with Ronnie Belliard was up. He had to head off to RFK Stadium for that night’s game against The Colorado Rockies. As both of us walked out of The ESPN ZONE together with Our Nationals PR Staff--Ronnie was carrying his Bagged Up Lunch from The Restaurant. He hadn't had time to eat. So, I said to Ronnie: "Great, the Guest of Honor has to brown bag his lunch." Ronnie Belliard laughing: "Yeah, reminds me of The Minor Leagues."

Everyone chuckled. Belliard's Smile as wide as the playing field at RFK STADIUM.

Just A GREAT SMILE!!

1 comment:

Jim said...

SBF...

Serendipity in posting this, as Barry's reported Ronnie is signed for two years.

Again...VERY nicely done!