Thursday, August 20, 2009
Nyjer Morgan ESPN Zone Transcript
In maybe the most enjoyable 30 minute question and answer session ever in the nearly five years of The ESPN Zone "Meet & Greets" with a player, coach or official from Our Washington Nationals--Nyjer Morgan's appearance on Wednesday, August 19th, was nothing short of terrific. Even Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes, who has moderated these events from day one, stated afterwards how Nyjer's outgoing personality just took over and made this get together special.
So, without any further fanfare--here is the complete transcript to this wonderful ESPN Zone Appearance by Nyjer Morgan with Charlie Slowes.
Charlie Slowes: “Good Afternoon, it’s good to see all of you again. Thanks for doing this. How are you Nyjer?”
Nyjer Morgan: “All right!! Thanks for having me.”
Charlie: “These folks have lots of questions. They have done their homework for trivia questions because we are going to give away five sets of four tickets each to the Friday, September 4th Game against The Marlins. So, tell me how ‘Tony Plush’ came to be?”
Nyjer: “Well, it basically started back in 2000, 2001, when me and my friends were just messing around—just being boys—and we called ourselves ‘The Rat Pack’. We were just out there running around. I was Tony Plush. My boy was Franklin Sleeze, and then you had my other boy James Dean. We were The 2000 Rat Pack.”
Charlie: “And it’s just sort of carried with you?”
Nyjer: “Basically, yeah. I just kind of ran off with it. I have got to be an entertainer because I am entertaining the fans every night. So, I figured I better have an entertainment angle with Tony Plush coming around.”
Charlie: “The Alter Ego, if you will.”
Charlie: “Well, how are things going for you? It has been a terrific run for you since you got here (to DC). You do run and run and run whether it’s in the outfield or on the bases—you have added energy and excitement to this ball club that we haven’t seen.”
Nyjer: “Basically, I just play hard. I like to go out there and impress and make sure if you are coming out to a game for the first time and you see me play—you see The Nats play—you are going to be enjoying it and inspired by just the hard work and talent that we bring to the field night in and night out. And I just have to thank the fans for appreciating my hard work and what I bring to the table. And I want to keep bringing it for many years wearing the Red, White & Blue.”
Charlie: “He’s become comfortable with these colors very quickly. Before, all he had ever known were the colors of The Pittsburgh Pirates”
Charlie: “When you were 16 years old you leave home in San Francisco….”
Nyjer: “…which is not the hot bed of hockey.”
Charlie: “..to go play junior hockey in Canada in which usually every spot on the team is reserved for native born Canadians.”
Nyjer: “It was just one of those things where as soon as I touched the ice it was just a blessing. I went up there to Canada. I was scouted out there and then on I was just out there skating around with the Canadian boys—banging them up in the corners.”
Charlie: “He was a mucker. Can you guys picture that? He was a grinder. Were you a fighter too?”
Nyjer: “I had too. I wasn’t a goal scorer but I definitely played hard and I was a fan favorite.”
Charlie: “So, how did you give it up?”
Nyjer: “It was just one of those things. I had a baby girl at the age of 19, so I had to go to school or figure out something in life. And that’s when I ended up getting the opportunity to go to Walla-Walla Community College. From then on—that is when I got drafted.”
Charlie: “You are growing up in San Francisco playing hockey. I know by growing up in New York that if you wanted to play hockey it was like playing at 3 O’clock in the morning—crazy times just to get ice time. Was it like that for you?”
Nyjer: “Definitely. We would have to go at 5AM to the local mall because that is where the ice was. It was a local mall so that’s where I did all my training.”
Charlie: “But, all that time you played baseball during the summer?”
Nyjer: “Yes, I always played baseball. I started at age five with baseball.”
Charlie: “I have come to realize that most every ball hit in the air, he (Nyjer) is going to catch because I think, you think, any ball in the air can be caught. And I thought you were going to catch Brad Hawpe’s ball last night (August 18th just over the centerfield wall).”
Nyjer: “That was wind blown. That was wind blown, I would have had it otherwise.”
Question: I want to thank you for the great play in centerfield; it has really made a big difference for our team. My question is about nicknames. When you are interviewed, I always hear about you working on nicknames for players on the team. Can you share some of these nicknames and what you do with these guys?
Nyjer: “Basically, the nicknames come from understanding their personalities. It took me a solid month to understand most of the guys’ personalities since I got traded over. So I started to come up with some nicknames like Willie Harris—Sweet Rickey Plum.
Elijah Dukes—he thinks he knows everything—so we call him Charley Chirplin.
And we got Ryan Zimmerman—who is definitely---Peter Franchise.
And we got Adam Dunn—and we are trying to get rid of the big donkey—and we are heading toward calling him Freddie Physical—because he puts a hurting on the ball.
And you got Hammer (Josh Willingham)—we call him The Judge—Judge Wapner because he lays down the gavel.
I am still working on a few other guys though.”
Question: How about Rob Dibble?
Nyjer: “He doesn’t get in on that. This is a players only thing.”
Question: Who is a better player—you or Alex Ovechkin?
Nyjer: “Well, I think myself. No, Ovechkin is one heck of a player. I know you guys are glad to have a guy of this caliber here.”
Charlie: “You get hooked on watching hockey in the off-season?”
Nyjer: “Oh yeah, I am a die-hard San Jose Sharks Fan—don’t hate me. I am sorry. But I guess I am going to have to start becoming a Capitals Fan too.”
Charlie: “I would have to say. But you were in Pittsburgh when they were The Stanley Cup Champs.”
Nyjer: “Oh yeah!! One of my good friends is a Pittsburgh Penguin. So I am kind of a Penguins Fan too.”
Charlie: “Yeah, but if they meet again (in the playoffs with Washington), he’s got to root for the other way now right?”
Nyjer: “Whatever (laughing)”
Question: The body bump you have going with Elijah and Willie. Come on man—Willingham just walks away—aren’t you going to teach him how to do it?
Nyjer: “Oh Man!! I don’t’ have any idea why he doesn’t want to get in on that!! We told him. We bug him about it but he just doesn’t want to get in on it. All right—cool—whatever. Maybe he just needs a little more flavor. We will help him out.”
Charlie: “Do you subscribe to the white man can’t jump thing?”
Nyjer: “No.” (Laughter)
Question: I grew up watching Maury Wills play—whom you remind me of. What are your impressions of him? He is my favorite player of all time.
Nyjer: “I have never met him before. I know he was one of the games best bunters. He always played the game hard and I thank you for just mentioning me beside his great name.”
Charlie: “Who taught you how to bunt? Were you self-taught?”
Nyjer: “It’s probably a whole community of people from instructors from high school to now. It is just not one person. And it’s just a feel that I have on my own. A lot of my proficiency at the plate comes from Marquis Grissom (1st Base Coach) and Devon White (Special Instructor).”
Charlie: “Well, when the defenses play you to bunt, the 3rd baseman is just 50 feet away—you are basically telling him to come on?”
Nyjer: “It doesn’t matter. Bring it on.”
Charlie: “They know you are going to bunt and you still can bunt for a hit if you get it into the right spot.”
Nyjer: “That’s right, it doesn’t matter. As long as I get the bunt down and not try to rush out of the box—I think I am going to lay down a nice perfect egg.”
Charlie: “And most of the time you are causing the pitcher to rush or whoever the fielder is—is going to rush. They know if it’s not at them, then they are in big trouble.”
Nyjer: “Well, that is my whole deal to create a little bit of pressure on them—on the defense. As long as I can keep doing that—I think I am going to keep a lot of pressure on a lot of teams.”
Charlie: “You look at a lot of the scouting reports before a series starts. When I watch you in centerfield—you set yourself up for the batter—but if the count changes or you have an idea of how the pitcher is going to pitch him—two strikes—you tend to go the opposite way a little bit because the hitter is probably going to shorten the swing.”
Nyjer: “Most definitely. You just said it right there. With two strikes, they usually tighten up their swings unless they are just a big bopper—somebody like that—then you just go straight up. But most of the time before a series—I sit in with the pitchers and catchers and understand how they are going to be pitching a certain player. We just go down the line, talk about it. And basically, the game kind of dictates it as to what you are going to do out there. Understanding the different swing patterns is important, so there is a lot of stuff to think about out there.”
Charlie: “Other outfielders usually are moved by the outfield coach. You move yourself, and I see you moving the rightfielder or maybe move the leftfielder—kind of like being The Captain of The Outfield.”
Nyjer: “Most definitely because that is who I am. I tell my guys too—if you see anything that I don’t see you move me too. Just because they say the centerfielder is always the captain doesn’t me I can’t be wrong and somebody else can’t pick me up on that. That makes for a good outfield.”
Question: It seems like a lot of Pirate Fans were sorry to see you go. But with Pittsburgh being such a big hockey town—did you see yourself getting caught up in The Penguins?
Nyjer: “Oh Yeah. I went to Game Six (NHL Playoffs) when The Caps won in overtime. I saw that game and it was a real nice game. I still have the passion to play. It is just my competitive nature. I definitely miss playing the game (hockey) and getting caught up with everything.”
Charlie: “So you just couldn’t in the off-season lace them up? (Skates)”
Nyjer: “Believe me, I can still skate. I sill have it. My hands are a little rusty but I can still get at it.”
Charlie: “You can’t do any contact hockey? That wouldn’t be a good thing—would it?”
Nyjer: “What they don’t know—won't hurt!! (Laughing at the joke)”
Charlie: “As long as you don’t get hurt!!”
Nyjer: “I’m not.”
Charlie: “You can’t hurt what you can’t catch—right?”
Question: One of the controversial things about the game last night (8/18/09) was the pitcher for Colorado (Ubaldo Jimenez) had over 100 pitches thrown. And when we came up to bat, a number of folks swung at the first pitch offered. Philosophically, do you agree with dragging out (the pitch count) when a pitcher has thrown over 100 pitches?
Nyjer: “Yes, because we definitely had him on the line a few times. He was ready to come out of the game anyway. All we had to do was put in a couple of good at-bats, or whatever, good pitch counts and he would have probably been done. That’s just a part of the learning experience sometimes. We just need to more patient at the plate.”
Follow-up: Yeah, because a lot of us fans thought the game would have been different if we had just taken a bunch of his pitches.
Charlie: “He wasn’t throwing too many balls. Most of his pitches were 98, 99, 100 MPH.”
Nyjer: (laughing) “Yeah, you had to GET IT READY because he WAS BRINGING IT!!”
Charlie: “You don’t want to get down 0-2 to him.”
Nyjer: “Naw, not really. But I do understand this gentlemen’s question though.”
Charlie: “Even Ryan Zimmerman was swinging at the first pitch because he didn’t want to get down in the count early.”
Question: “The last two times you were called out stealing last week…”
Nyjer: “I was safe!! I was safe!! But I couldn’t argue with the umpire. He had it out for me!! (Very animated in his expressions right now) Or the team, I think that was what it was. AND HE KILLED US ON THAT RALLY IN ATLANTA!! MAN!! I AM STILL FIRED UP ABOUT THAT!!
(Everyone busting out laughing)
Continuing question: …and the announcers were stating you were understanding better how to deal with these situations.
Nyjer: “You have just got to keep your mouth shut in those type of situations and keep playing hard.”
Continuing question: …we all really enjoy watching your play and we love you very much!!
Nyjer: “OOOH!! You got me all FIRED UP RIGHT NOW!! Thanks very much for the kind words.”
Charlie: “I think Nyjer’s problem when he is out stealing a base—his head first dive is too fast. His hands are too quick for human eyesight. Your hand goes in and they are tagging you knee or below—so you have the umpire looking in two different places.”
Nyjer: “I got to keep rolling it out and eventually—they are going to start calling me safe.”
Charlie: “I know Jim Riggleman would like to get you to slide feet first.”
Nyjer: “Not happening, I get dirty a lot more going in head first (laughing).”
Charlie: “Does that slow you down—feet first?”
Nyjer: “When I slide feet first that is because I get really good jumps and I know there is really not going to be a throw.”
Charlie: “But what about at the plate?”
Nyjer: “Nah, Nah, I will go in feet first. I have busted up my hand a couple of times sliding in head first at home plate.”
Question: You came up as a late round pick and were happy just to get an opportunity. Stephen Strasburg kind of walks into the door with a big bonus. What is you take on that?
Nyjer: “My take is that I am glad that he got the money. Hopefully, he can do what everyone proclaims he can do and bring that Nolan Ryan heat. Basically, I am happy to have him as my teammate.”
Question: On the day you got traded—what was your impression?
Nyjer: “I was happy. Just being in trade talks, I was happy. I had worked so hard to get to where I was. And the fact that I came over to The Nationals, I thought, man—that’s a cool place right there. And I finally get to wear something red. But just coming over here—I was just happy and I really wanted to let my game show to the fans. And I have appreciated all the support.”
Continuing question: What do you think of the talent here as compared to Pittsburgh—which was getting rid of everybody?
Nyjer: “We definitely had talent there. We didn’t have the firepower there that we have here (in DC). It was definitely a good group of guys. Guys that were just as good and decent as the Washington Guys. But, I like it over here!! Yeah, I really do!!”
Charlie: “What was it like to go back to Pittsburgh talking to your old teammates after they had just blown the whole thing up?”
Nyjer: “I didn’t have any more old teammates. There were probably three guys that I knew!! (Laughter all around)”
Nyjer: “My first game back (at PNC Park) was kind of emotional—a little bit inside for me. But it was still the game of baseball. It was a cool thing going back, getting the ovations and everything—but I am working on something new here and something real special here.”
Charlie: “The ovations you received there was like you had played there for seven or eight years.”
Nyjer: “Yeah, that’s good, but it’s also because I play the game right. I play the game hard. Basically, I was one of those blue collar Pittsburgh Kids. That was something cool, but I would like to start something cool right here with The Nats.”
Charlie: “What is so cool about red?”
Nyjer: “I have just always loved red. It’s always been one of my favorite colors.”
Charlie: “I know you also told me that playing centerfield here and leftfield there (in Pittsburgh) is a big difference?”
Nyjer: “The way the ball comes off the bat. In leftfield there are different slices. But playing in Pittsburgh it was like playing in centerfield anyway. It’s still a big yard in leftfield. But now I am back in my roots and I am glad they brought me over here so I can play centerfield.”
Question: Thanks for playing so hard and setting a good example for the kids. When you steal the bases, and you go in head first, you tend to have a tough time even stopping on the bag. Is there something you can do to try to stay on the bag?
Nyjer: “Yeah, I know. I am trying man. I think it is the dirt. I call it ‘Turbo Dirt’ (laughter), because I have so much force going into the bag. I will even try to slide early as I have so much momentum going in that it is kind of tough for me to stop. And I have been called out a few times by sliding over and past the bag. I really don’t know.”
Continuing Question: Does Marquis’ have any ideas for you?
Nyjer: “I don’t think anybody does. I think a parachute—I might imagine.”
Charlie: “That is where Jim Riggleman came up with the feet first slide, the pop-up slide. We thought about getting some signs for the left field bleachers like in Forrest Gump—‘Stop!!’”
Nyjer: “That would be alright.”
Charlie: “But the feet first slide was his idea, but what if you had the pop-up slide going?”
Nyjer: “But, I just feel like I have so much speed going that I just have to go in hard. Like I said, I like getting dirty a lot quicker.”
Charlie: “The bag is a lot harder than people think and that’s why you worry about your hands going straight for the base.”
Nyjer: “Yes, that is why you come in with your hands up (fingers high).”
Charlie: “Opposite of those sliding in feet first with their fists closed to keep from getting their hands in the dirt (scraped and cut).”
Question: What is you favorite thing about DC?
Nyjer: “I like all the history here because I am from the west coast and there is so much history over here that I read in social studies back in elementary school and I finally get a chance to see it all in person. I haven’t even had the chance to see it all yet. But, The Smithsonian Museums are really catching my eyes right now.”
Final Question: No question, but this young lady and I both work for The Smithsonian Portrait Gallery and we would like to send you a personal invitation to come visit if we can work it out.
Nyjer: “Really!! Well, OK!! Sure, I would be honored to visit. Yeah, that’s nice. Thanks!!”
Will that final invitation—The ESPN Zone Q & A With Nyjer Morgan concluded. He was quite entertaining. The transcript probably doesn't do justice to his animated ways and expressions. For the next 30 minutes, Our Number 1 signed autographs and took pictures for the many attendees.
The Next and Final ESPN Zone Meet & Greet with take place on September 24th at 12 Noon—player to be announced at a later date.