Thursday, December 16, 2010
Jayson Werth Introductory Press Conference
Here is the complete transcript of the December 15th, 2010 introductory press conference for Jayson Werth at Nationals Park--all of the nearly 4000 words spoken in the 30 minutes allowed. With that, here we go:
John Dever (Senior Director Of Baseball Public Relations): I would like to thank everyone for being here today with us. I would also like to extend special welcomes to our fan base watching locally and regionally on MASN and to baseball fans worldwide watching us on the MLB Network. Thanks for spending some time with us this afternoon. On Sunday, December 5th, just hours after touching down at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida, The Washington Nationals turned the baseball world on its ear and ushered in Phase Two of their baseball evolution with the announcement they had agreed to terms with Jayson Werth on a 7-year contract. As wonderful as that declaration was back on the 5th of December, no note-worthy baseball transaction is complete until a player is formally introduced and adopted into his new franchise family. And by the same measure, local fans get their opportunity to meet their newest player and learn about him as a person.
To help me do this today, I would like to introduce to you from your left to right--Jim Riggleman, Nationals Field Manager; Mike Rizzo, Nationals Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations and General Manager; to Mike’s left, today’s honoree--Jayson Werth, outfielder; and Jayson’s Player Representative--Scott Boras of the Boras Corporation. In a moment, Mike Rizzo with make a brief opening statement followed by the traditional jersey unveiling. And Jayson will then return to his seat and make a brief opening statement of his own before we open up the floor for questions. We ask that you identify yourself and your affiliation and to whom you are asking the question. So Mike could you kick things off for us please?
Mike Rizzo: I would love to. It is my honor to express the happiness and the joy of The Washington Nationals organization with the acquisition of such a fine player, a fine person, and a great person in the community as Jayson Werth is. He is a player our front office and ownership identified early in the process as an impact, elite type free agent that we would like to acquire that would help us, not only in the short-term, but in the long-term. Not only between the lines, but in the clubhouse and the community. So without further ado, it is my great honor to introduce the newest member of The Washington Nationals Family--Jayson Werth.
(Applause and donning of the new jersey)
Jayson Werth: Hi. On behalf of my family and myself, I would just like to take this time to thank The Washington Nationals organization, the Lerner Family--we are excited to be here. We are onboard for many winning seasons ahead. And I think one of the things fans can look forward to is a winning caliber type baseball in Washington on the field and off the field going forward. Thank you.
Question: This is a team that hasn’t done well the last three years. What intrigued you about Washington and how do you expect to help this team to a winning season?
Werth: Baseball is a funny thing. It has its ups and downs--as many teams have had in the past. One thing I saw with The Nationals over the past few seasons play against them was just a grittiness that they had and a will to win. Although they’ve had some rough seasons the past few years, they’ve had some talent and it’s young and unpolished. That’s one thing I look forward to helping along the way. I have always been a big fan of the underdog and I think the situation here in Washington is one, going forward, where we can put something together that, I think, the city and the fans will come to love and come out and see us on a nightly basis.
Question: In the past ten days or so, how much contact have you had with any of your new teammates? Or contact with anyone with this organization?
Werth: Quite a bit actually. The response I have gotten from my new teammates has been supportive. It seems like everyone is excited. Obviously, in the off-season, guys are scattered all over the country--so it’s not like a spring training situation. I am looking forward to getting down there to Florida and meeting all the guys and getting it started. But right now, it really is just a bunch of formalities.
Question: Matt Stairs is a young 42-years old. Do you envision being able to play baseball with your seven year contract until your forties?
Werth: Yes. Over the course of my career, I have played with some guys that have played into their 40’s. And older guys where I have seen what it takes to keep yourself in shape, and the things that need to be done on a daily basis to ensure your body makes it. It was one of the things the Lerner Family was onboard with--taking care of yourself and the things that need to happen in the clubhouse and the things that players are going to need. My grandfather played 19-years (Dick Schofield). My uncle played a long-time (Dick Schofield) also in the game. I feel like I have a lot of years ahead of me. I have no problem seeing myself, maybe not play as long as Jamie Moyer has (laughter), but definitely into my 40’s.
Question: Do you feel any undo pressure in signing such a long-term contract, one of the richest in Major League Baseball history?
Werth: Any time you go on the field and you play for a team, there is going to be pressure. I am coming into this team and this city to be involved in something much greater than you’ve seen here before. I think the owners are onboard. Mike is onboard. Jim is onboard. We are all going in the same direction and I don’t foresee any undo pressure. I will just go out and play my game and come to the game every day ready to play--going out there going to war with all the guys that are in the clubhouse and getting the job done.
Question: In Philadelphia, you were surrounded by a great lineup. As you prepare to be a National, how do you see yourself fitting in with the lineup that is here?
Werth: I see myself fitting in very well. It’s a talented group, it’s a young group. There are pieces to the puzzle that are coming along in the next couple of years that we are going to need. I foresee us getting the guys that help us get over the hump. But right now, the team is a lot better than people think. The last few years, they have just been a little young and inexperienced. They made some changes and got some guys in that, I think, are going to help. I am onboard for that. I think we are going to surprise some people.
Question: Along those same lines, you were a part of a lineup that had a lot of proven guys--a lot of production. There are some of those in this lineup. How comfortable are you with being the guy with the weight on your shoulders both on the field and off the field?
Werth: I look forward to it. I have been playing this game a long time. I have played in World Series. I have played in post-seasons. The thing about baseball is that you play day-in and you play day-out. In a 162-game schedule, a lot of things get overlooked. One thing I can control is the level of intensity and just the overall willingness to play the game on a day-in, day-out basis. I look forward to it. I look forward to playing with these guys. We have a talented group. Just a little polish here, a little polish there, and I think we are going to be good.
Question: Have you had the chance to talk with Ryan Zimmerman? If not, what have your impressions of him?
Werth: He’s a great player. All-Star, Gold Glover. I think the people who have seen Ryan Zimmerman play know the type of player he is and the caliber he brings to the field. I have talked with him. I’ve known him before I came here. I think he is excited. I know that I am excited to play with a guy like that. There are guys coming up with talent as well. It’s going to be good. I feel so strongly about the talent that is on this club.
Question: You hit the cover off the ball here last season, this by far your second best park besides Coors Field (Denver). Are you excited to make this your home as a ballpark?
Werth: I am. I have always said this is a great place to hit. I love hitting here. My numbers have shown that. It’s a good division to hit in. I am glad I am staying in the NL East. I know the parks. I know the teams. I know the pitchers. It’s a good situation for me and my family as well.
Question: What do you feel is the timetable for this team to become a winner? And for you, what does it mean to be a leader in the clubhouse?
Werth: The things that are important to me in the clubhouse are things that I will keep to myself. I will share them with my teammates and I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too early. But the thing about this team is there are pieces to the puzzle that can be put together and make this team a winner. I was insured by the Lerner Family and Mike Rizzo that they were going to take the steps needed to go get those players and to fill the roster accordingly, not just with anybody, but with the right talented guys and the right mix that will make the clubhouse a complete place. That was important to me and that was one of the things that led me to sign here. They are onboard for winning. They are a winning family. I think it is a true success story. Mr. Lerner (Ted) shared with me the life he has had and I foresee them doing the proper steps and getting the guys that are really going to help this club get to the next level.
Question: We’ve seen you hit 500 foot home runs, steal home, get your uniform dirty. For Nats fans on a day-to-day basis, what is your process for getting yourself ready to play everyday?
Werth: It is quite involved I would say. There is a lot that goes on everyday that a lot of the fans don’t get to see. We are training every day. We are doing rehabilitation stuff every day. Guys get dinged up and nicked up over the course of the season. Staying on the field is hard, it’s a tough thing. As most fans know, there are no too many Cal Ripken ‘s (Jr.) out there these days. So you take the proper steps. You do the work. You get to the park early. You do the video. You do the training. And you do whatever it takes to stay on the field. You stay in great shape. I eat the proper foods. There is a lot that goes into it.
Question: What was the one thing the Nats sold to you that really brought it home? And secondly, do you have any reaction to Cliff Lee going on to Philadelphia this week?
Werth: I missed that in Philly. What happened? (laughter) I am sorry. What was your first question? Obviously, this was my first chance at getting free agency. I worked so hard over the years. I went through so much. I had a bad wrist injury that wasn’t diagnosed for a couple of seasons. I missed an entire season due to that. When you finally get to free agency, you have a chance to do something special for yourself and for your family. A lot of things go into it. Obviously, the years were important to me. I have the chance to come to a city guaranteed to be here for a long time. The no trade (clause) was a big deal to me. I have the chance to set myself and my family up for years to come here--just have more of a solid base. One thing people don’t realize from season to season, if you do have family and kids, it’s really tough to have normalcy. That is one thing I was able to obtain here. The length of the contract was very important. A million things go into it, honestly. But the one thing that I think was very important was the willingness from them and the willingness of the owners to win. That was something else that really drew me to Washington. And of course--the team. I think the team, going forward, is going to be pretty good--especially with the type of talent they have even in the Minor Leagues. The guys they have drafted. The steps they have taken the past few years to set up the core of the organization from the bottom, up. I really think it is a good situation for me. I think it is for the team. And I am excited to be here.
Question: You just mentioned you will do whatever it will take to get on the field and do well. You are a late-bloomer in the game. What’s changed in your game from your early 20’s to get you to where you are today?
Werth: You mentioned that I am a late bloomer. I was a tall, wiry kid. (6’5--165lbs as a teenager). Over the course of time, I grew into my body a little bit. I’ve been able to do some advanced training methods to help me get there. I have been fortunate enough to stay healthy enough the past few years. I think the injury I had (to his wrist) made me step back and look at things a little differently. Like most guys, I was close to being out of the game at one point. I was lucky to find Dr. Berger at the Mayo Clinic to fix my wrist. It wasn’t a bad injury at all, it was just rare and undiagnosed. Once I got that taken care of, I got an opportunity to play. People don’t realize how tough it is to get an opportunity to play in this game. A lot of guys fall through the cracks. They never really got a chance and when they did get a chance--they were a little rusty, they weren’t locked in and they just fell by the wayside. I was lucky to play well when I got the opportunity and fight for a spot, get back in there. I had a chance to be with Jim (Riggleman) in L.A. in ’04. If you asked him what he thought after that season, he would probably say I wasn’t much different than I am now and I was going to have a long, healthy career. But things change and things happen and I was able to fight back and it got me back to here, today.
Jim Riggleman (following up that answer): He was a tall thin kid. Jayson is really what Mike identified that we have got to get more athletic. Jayson is a great athlete. He signed, correct me if I am wrong, as a catcher. (Yes) Not many people can catch and play centerfield. That’s the good athleticism that he has. And as he grew into his body, when we saw him in ’04 in Los Angeles, you could really see what Baltimore and Toronto had seen in Jayson in terms of the strength and athleticism. I used to joke to people that if you bumped into him, you hurt yourself because he is hard as a rock. He’s found a way to take care of himself. His body is put together now to withstand the rigors of a long season. He is one of the unique athletes in the game. When he really got his opportunity with Philadelphia in a nice lineup there, I remember Charlie (Manuel--Philly Manager) speaking on this a little bit, they really didn’t click offensively--but when some other guys went down and they withstood some terrible injuries, Jayson was in there consistently and really protected Ryan Howard in the lineup. He produced in the lineup when those guys were down and he really carried them to the National League East Pennant. So he’s come full circle from where he was before he signed with Baltimore many years ago. Sometimes guys do get more playing time later, like with Raul Ibanez and with Jayson. They (The Phillies) got some guys that blossomed late and they really produced.
Question: The perception among many is that The Phillies are way up here (raising hand high) with their success. And the Nats are all the way down here (lowering his hand). Would you say the gulf is not as big as it is made out to be? And the opportunity to play down the road with (Bryce) Harper and (Stephen) Strasburg, how much did that play into your decision?
Werth: Again, the young talent in this organization is immense. With the length of the contract I got, I felt good about the chances of this organization winning over the course of my contract. And that was very important. I have been in the post-season a lot the past few years. And that’s what it is all about. That’s what we play for. That’s what you work out all winter for. That’s what you get to spring training early for. I hate to lose. I am here to win and that’s for sure. I am not going to say anything bad about Philly or anything like that. To answer your question, you look at last year. We had the best record in the game and we didn’t win. Nothing is guaranteed in this game. We put together a good team, a scrappy team that has a chance to win. And a team that wants to win. And you go out there and you play the game and you see what happens. I feel good about our chances.
Question: I got a glimpse of you last night at the Wizards game. I was wondering if you have spoken with any other athletes in the D.C. area--the Redskins, the Wizards--about how it is to play in this city?
Werth: I haven’t but the last few years I have played here and I have a pretty good idea what is going on here. I know it is a big sports town. You look at the Caps with their fans. I think they are going pretty good in filling the seats. I think if you put the product on the field and you win the ball games--the fans are going to support it and show up. I think that was evident in Philadelphia when I went there. I got there in ’07 and you see what type of place it is right now after we won there. So you win the games, you put the product on the field and you get the guys fans want to come and see--I think it will see an exciting time the city and the organization. And definitely for the players to play with the seats filled.
Question: You’ve not only been a late-bloomer, you’ve continued to bloom over the last two or three years. A lot of your stats have gotten better. Why is that? Are you seeing more and more pitches? Also, I wanted to ask Mike. You say you can see him improving. Why?
Werth: I have been saying for a long time. The more I play, the better I am going to get. I think that has been pretty evident. I think seeing pitches is an important part of the game--wearing the opposing pitcher down, get them to the bullpen early. The more pitches you see, the more apt you are to pick the ball up better. And as time goes on, I think it makes you a better player. That’s definitely part of the game I am looking to extend throughout the clubhouse and the team--an approach we can work on.
Rizzo: I just feel that this is the package we were looking for going into the off-season. We wanted to get better skilled players that play both sides of the ball--both offensively and defensively. You have a guy here that can hit 30-plus home runs, drive in 100 runs, play Gold Glove defense, steal you 20 bases, leading the clubhouse and be a middle of the lineup hitter. The bigger the game, the better he’s played in his career. He is playoff battle tested. And he brings an edge to the ball club. I’ve seen it oh too many times with The Phillies. And that’s the type of guy we want. I think that is what separated him from those elite free agent candidates that we were looking at. His skill set fit what Jim & I are looking to do with the ball club. But also, his makeup, his persona, and just the way he plays on a superstar skill level--and still plays like a guy that is not afraid to get his jersey dirty--and would run through a wall for you.
Question: Jayson, you said all summer and into the fall that The Phillies can do anything they want to get you back in terms of money. I know you just joked about anything happening there. But because of what just happened there (Cliff Lee signing), do you feel vindicated at all about the money that was thrown out and maybe bitter at all that they did have all that money (Philadelphia)?
Werth: I have definitely moved on these past few months. I am really excited about being a National. Obviously, they got their boy back!! What more can I say. That’s fine. I like that. If you are going to be the best. You have to beat the best. They are going to make their plays and we are going to make ours. Over the course of time, the city is going to see, the people are going to see that The Washington Nationals are for real. And they are going to bring an exciting style of baseball that is going to bring championships to this city.
Last Question: We’ve already talked about you being a late-bloomer and all that. Has what you have gone through with the injury and other obstacles make this moment for your more appreciative?
Werth: I am definitely more appreciative, that’s for sure. I can’t thank the Lerner Family and this organization enough. I finally got the opportunity and the situation I’ve played my whole life for. And I have given a lot to the game of baseball and I plan on seeing this through and being the type of guy that they want here. I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great seven years and I think we are going to surprise a lot of people.
With that final answer, the formal press conference ended and broke up into individual side sessions with the participants.
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