Thursday, May 20, 2010
Ian Desmond ESPN Zone Transcript
Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes hosted the first ESPN Zone "Meet & Greet" for 2010 today in downtown, Washington, D.C. The monthly in-season get together with a player or official from Our Washington Nationals. Rookie Shortstop Ian Desmond was the guest of honor as he answered questions for approximately 30 minutes for fans in attendance. Here is the complete transcript from the May 20th, 2010 ESPN Zone "Meet & Greet" With Ian Desmond:
Charlie: The road has finally brought Ian Desmond to the Nation’s Capital. And now he is making those plays up the middle, going into the hole, diving for balls, showing off that throwing arm in his first year in The Major Leagues. This is one of the most exciting young players in the game, I think, as a rookie. This has been a great run for you and the team is playing real well.
Ian: Yes, absolutely. The team is playing great. We are getting solid starting pitching and we are playing good defense. And in doing so, giving ourselves a chance to win.
Charlie: I know you went into spring training not knowing if you would make the big league club. You came up last September, your second game you get four hits at Florida. You hit that home run in your first game. The wind was blowing in, you could have hit three balls out that night against The Phillies.
Ian: I was fortunate to get Joe Blanton (on the mound). He was scuffling at that time. He left some pitches out in the zone and I took advantage.
Charlie: And then you had another four hit game just a few days ago--you second of your career.
Ian: Yeah, I got lucky.
Charlie: Did you hear that, he got lucky? I don’t think so. When spring training came to an end, when did you find out you had made the club and would be the starting shortstop?
Ian: With about two weeks left, Jim (Riggleman) came up to me in Viera and told me he was going to give it to me. But with respect to (Cristian) Guzman, he was going to give Guzman some time at shortstop, also.
Charlie: It’s been an interesting--the three of you with Adam Kennedy--and the team talking about getting all three of you 400 at-bats each. And so far, that is working out.
Ian: Yes, it’s been great. All three of us are fine with it. Each of us has their own role and we know when we get in there, there is a job to do. There are no emotional feelings towards it.
Question: Who is the person you give credit to the most as you went through the farm system before you got here this year?
Ian: Probably my family because you may not know, or do now, the minors were pretty much a struggle for me the whole way until last year. They were always behind me: ‘Keep on going...keep on going..you are going to get it.’ And I am here.
Question: In the six years you spent in the minors, did you ever feel watching people go by you, that you might never get out of here and make it to the bigs? Were you discouraged at all?
Ian: No, not really because I knew every time I went to the ballpark that I was getting better. I knew that everyday was a learning process. I knew I was young. That is why when I signed out of high school, I knew it was going to take me a little bit longer in the minor leagues. I was just a little baby. I was just 18-years old. I didn’t know how to do anything--living by myself. But no, I just knew that every day I was getting better and my time would come eventually--whether it happened before I turned 30 or not. I would just keep on going.
Charlie: You told me there was a point before last season where you put it in your mind that nothing was going to stop you. I don’t know if it was an attitude change, but you felt like you had turned a corner and were on your way. Then early last year, you got hurt when the ham-mate bone set you back. What changed?
Ian: I think what you are talking about is 2008. I went to the (Arizona) Fall League and I played well against some upper echelon talent. I felt then I could hold my own. At that point, I started to believe in myself. Now, who knows how far I will go.
Charlie: Is there any one person in the organization, whether a manager or a coach, a teammate, that really helped you make a difference turning that corner?
Ian: Not really, the Nationals/Expos always had great staff--as far as coaching, hitting coach, people both on and off the field--like GM’s. Everyone has been great. I learned so much from every single person that has had a hand in my career--that I just can’t give credit to one guy.
Question: Socially, how do you like being in Washington, D.C.? And what do you like most about Washington and what do you miss most about Florida and home?
Ian: I have got to be honest. I really haven’t been out in D.C. much. I usually wake up, eat breakfast, go to the park, come back home. The biggest difference for me is the one-way streets, the big buildings. In Sarasota, you have beaches and that’s pretty much it. A little different.
Charlie: The weather is warmer so we are going to have to get you out to see the sights.
Question: The team is playing so much better this year than last year--and you were there at the end of the season. Do you attribute that to the chemistry from a few of the people they (baseball management) have brought in? For example, Pudge Rodriguez.
Ian: First of all, our manager Jim Riggleman has had a huge hand in that. He’s been great with us. Like Ryan Zimmerman says all the time. He doesn’t get too high and he doesn’t get too low. He’s very consistent and that helps us play better. When we win, we don’t get all giddy about it. But yeah, Pudge, Adam Kennedy are real winners on the ball club. Jason Marquis, although you guys are not seeing him that much, he’s still in the clubhouse and rooting us on. It’s a team/family right now. We’ve got a good family vibe going on right now.
Question: We see what it is like after the games--shaving cream pies in the face--guys having a really good time. But after the just completed road trip, you had your first real stumble on the season. What is it like in the locker room after the highs of winning and then feeling the lows of losing when you drop five in a row?
Ian: During those five games, it seemed like the team got closer--which is something that never happens. With adversity, instead of pointing fingers at each other, saying this guy needs to step it up, that guy needs to step it up--everyone was fine. We knew we were playing good baseball and wins & losses are only determined by the game. Both teams can go out and play as hard as they can--but one has got to lose. We played some really good ball games during that stretch and we knew the wins were bound to come. It’s a long season. But to answer your question--what is different about this team that is different from any I’ve ever played on is that we have such a family bond--with Pudge, Jim Riggleman and the veteran guys--we are so close, I don’t see us having scuffles.
Charlie: When you got called up last September, it was kind of past the rough point of the year. The team was playing well at that point.
Ian: Yes, we won our last seven in a row. and I think 10 or our last 15--we were playing good baseball.
Charlie: Was it tough for you coming in at that point and wondering what went wrong earlier in the year?
Ian: No, I was watching. (laughter)
Question: What inspired you to play baseball?
Ian: Oh man. I think when I was a kid, I just wanted to play. When I turned 12-years old, something happened. I wanted to be a Major League Baseball Player. Every wish I had from the time I was 12-years old until now--whether it was blowing out candles on a birthday cake--I always wished I was a Major League Baseball Player. I don’t know why? I just wanted to be on TV. I wanted to play baseball in front of people. And I thought I could help the game out a little bit.
Charlie: Did you play other sports?
Ian: When I was a kid I played soccer, football. I played basketball for a year--and baseball.
Charlie: Was it always baseball for you?
Ian: Yeah, football was getting a little serious in high school, but it was too much of a job. I would rather go out and play ball.
Charlie: You told me last year that in high school ball (Sarasota High), you had a star shortstop on your team and that forced you to play other positions--including second base--because you couldn’t get the shortstop position until your senior year.
Ian: Yes, Marcus Sanders was a big time prospect for The Giants-but he had a bum shoulder and had surgery. He played short (in high school). He was a great player and I had to wait my turn to get my turn at short.
Question: When did you start playing baseball?
Ian: When I was 10-years old, I had my first tryout. From then on--I’ve played all my life.
Question: What is it like inside the clubhouse before the game?
Ian: Pretty calm, quiet. (chuckling) No--it’s not quiet. There a lot of music, people drinking energy drinks.
Charlie: What he doesn’t realize is that there are different stages in the clubhouse. There is early in day--before Batting Practice. Then there is the time after BP when you are getting ready for the game. So there are different stages of what can go on in the clubhouse--isn’t there?
Ian: Oh yeah--from 12:30PM to 6:45PM you find a range of sleeping, to dancing, to yelling...
Charlie: And then the serious part with watching video, hitters meetings on the first day of a series....pitchers meetings--all that kind of stuff. The phenomena this year before you go out for batting practice--is the flip game--more of a latin game from those that played winter ball. You’ve made a couple of plays where the ball has been deflected, or you juggled it, and just took the ball out of the air--like the flip game--and got it to the second baseman for the out--or grabbed the ball out of the air and threw to first base.
Ian: For me, I’ve had to improvise a lot over the years. So that is where those plays come from. The flip game adds to the family atmosphere we’ve got. There are not too many activities that you see 10- 12 guys involved in the same activity. It’s really hard to find.
Charlie: It gets so loud with all the laughing and the camaraderie before the Nationals stretch--or on the road when the home team is taking batting practice--the other teams are looking over to see what is going on--because it’s getting so loud over here.
Question: You are one of the last links to The Expos here in D.C. Should the team do something to honor that?
Ian: I don’t know about that. The Expos were The Expos. They became The Washington Nationals for a reason--people lost interest in The Expos. We’ve got a good thing going right now. The Curly “W” is where it is at. And we need to stay focused on the “W”. There might be a date or year we wear a throwback Expos jersey though--that would be kind of cool.
Charlie: With the Potomac Nationals being so close in Woodbridge, Virginia and having you, John Lannan & Craig Stammen all play there--does it feel pretty good to have so many familiar faces that were there when you first started out in professional ball?
Ian: Yes, it does. At the beginning of the season, I went back to see all my buddies there. People there (in Woodbridge) are very appreciative. There are not a lot of fans, but the people that are there--care about you and they want you to do well. I still get some pointers from them--here.
Question: What’s it like to be Ian Desmond?
Ian: Pretty Awesome. (laughter) I’ve got a good job. I’ve got a good family, a beautiful wife--it’s pretty good.
Question: Shortstop is supposed to be the captain of the infield. I’ve noticed a couple of times Zim will let a ball go through so you can field it in the hole. As a rookie, what did you learn to earn that type of respect?
Ian: I think it’s because I just work hard. I am there every day, early--taking ground balls and getting defensive work in with Adam Kennedy and Guzman and Pat Listach--our infield coach. And I think they see me work as hard as I can, everyday, and play the game as hard as I can. So I think that’s why I’ve earned a little bit of respect. I’ve got more to do, but I am moving in the right direction.
Charlie: Zimmerman usually takes anything he can get to to his left. Do you say: hey, let one get through for me sometimes?
Ian: What’s funny was that the other day, Livo (Livan Hernandez) was pitching and Zim was playing third. They both kept on cutting in front of me and getting the balls. Hey guys!! I want to play too!! (laughter)
Charlie: How about that Livan Hernandez on three days rest last night?
Ian: Unbelievable. What you guys see is fun. But I get to see the location of the pitches and every single time he throws a pitch--he throws it to where he wants it to go. Other pitchers can’t do that. And it’s amazing to sit out there and watch him do that. He’s gone 14 or 15 years without missing a start. And to be able to pitch on three days rest? That’s pretty special.
Charlie: You are right. His location this year is incredible. You were telling me before we got out here that if he wants to throw a ball on the corner--he can. If he wants to walk a guy or throw four pitches off the plate to get the hitter to chase--he can. He’s not worried about walking anyone. I’ve never seen a player--especially a pitcher--where it’s like a walk in the park for him. He’s so relaxed out there. And he’s a pitcher that becomes a defensive player. There are not many pitchers that field their position as well as he does.
Question: Being raised in Florida, did you have any hopes of being drafted by any of the Florida Teams?
Ian: I just wanted to be a big leaguer. Playing for The Braves would have been nice because coming home from school every day we had TBS broadcasting Braves games. So I always watched The Braves growing up. That would have been cool playing for them, but I couldn’t have picked a better spot than where I am playing right now.
Charlie: How old were you in 1998 when The Ray began as they were very close to your hometown?
Ian: I was just a little kid when they started. But they stunk so bad.
Charlie: I know!! I was there for seven years!!
Question: Who do you hang out with most on the team?
Ian: I try to spread it out evenly, but Adam Kennedy is the person I hang out with the most. We get a cab together and go the field on the road. Probably, AK.
Charlie: How did that happen? He’s a 12-year veteran, you are a rookie. You didn’t know him before this year. So how did that come about?
Ian: It’s funny actually, in spring training I hated him when I first saw him. That Adam Kennedy guy ARRGH. They were thinking about moving Guzzie back to short and I would have to wait again for my turn again. Then I got to know Adam Kennedy. We have the same workout ethic. I think that’s how our relationship built. We worked out with each other every day and we realized we had a lot more in common than we thought. He’s a good guy. He’s sorta taken me under his wings--looking out for me--and I appreciate it tremendously.
With that final answer the first ESPN Zone “Meet & Greet” for 2010 concluded. Fans were allow to line up for autographs and pictures before Ian Desmond headed off to Nationals Park for the May 20th game versus The New York Mets.
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