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Ryno With Brad Wolff: Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg Interview

Ryne Sandberg was a second baseman for the Chicago Cubs and briefly the Philadelphia Phillies. Sandberg now manages a Phillies minor league team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame 2005 class.

In his 16 years in the major leagues, Sandberg was a 10-time All-Star, nine time Gold Glover, seven time Silver Slugger and was the National League MVP in 1984. Ryno’s .989 career fielding percentage at second base is a record for second basemen. Interestingly, Sandberg is named after three time All-Star Ryne Duren. 

Instead of the interview being written completely, I am experimenting with a YouTube video of the interview. Hopefully, I will do some video interviews soon so you can actually watch the interview.

Please comment below if you enjoy the older format of written interviews, instead of YouTube video interviews.

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Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson Interview With Bleacher Report

Going to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is a place where you can dig your mind into a gold mine of artifacts and have an amazing day in one of the greatest sports-related places in the world. I have gone to the Hall of Fame multiple times, and diehard baseball fans can never leave Cooperstown without new chunks of baseball knowledge.

The man that runs sports’ most storied Hall of Fame, Jeff Idelson, has been its President  since April 2008 and has been in baseball for almost 25 years. Here’s my interview with Mr. Prez:

Brad Wolff: How did you get your first job in Major League Baseball?  

Jeff Idelson: My first job in baseball was being a vendor at Fenway Park in Boston.  I was a vendor in junior high school, high school and part of college.  My first internship was with the Red Sox in 1986 after I graduated from college.  I produced Red Sox home radio broadcasts in 1987-88 for WPLM Radio and my first full time paid job was as the assistant director of media relations and publicity with the New York Yankees, starting in 1989.  

BW: Who are some of the greatest people you have gotten to meet through your job? 

JI: There have been many.  From Johnny Unitas to Tip O’Neill to Tom Hanks and Robert Redford to Colin Powell to President Bush to Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Sadaharu Oh, Doris Kearnes Goodwin…it’s a long list! 

BW: What do you daily for the Hall of Fame? 

JI: I oversee a 100-person staff and the oldest and best-known sports history museum in the nation.  From fundraising to public speaking to artifact acquisition to building sponsorships to staying connected to our Hall of Famers and the baseball community at large are all parts of my daily responsibility.

BW: What new ideas do you have to make the Hall more fun and interactive? 

JI: We recently opened our first ever bilingual exhibit, Viva Baseball, which explores baseball in Caribbean-basin countries and their impact in Cooperstown.  Next year we will open a cool exhibit on baseball records.  Both are very interactive.  We also have a ton of cool programs where you can meet and talk with Hall of Famers and other stars connected to our great game.  

BW: What advice would you have for somebody trying to get into the MLB as an executive? 

JI: Work hard in school and learn how to write and learn how to listen well.  It does not matter what major you pick, as long as you can leave college knowing how to read, write and think on your feet.  Stay connected to the game any way you can.  Internships are very important, either within the game or connected to the game. Most of all, be patient.  It is a very competitive industry.  It took me three full years to find a full time job after graduating. 

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New York Yankees: This Needs To Be The Year George’s Team Wins

In one line I will say this: Anything but a World Series in the year of the loss of George M. Steinbrenner, would be a disappointment. 

The best and highest paid team in baseball needs to be motivated after tonight’s emotional memorial for George Steinbrenner. Watching the memorial I saw a man standing at the right field foul pole with a sign saying, “Win one for The Boss.” I know it is easier said than done to win a World Series, but a repeat for The Boss would even make rival managers melt down in tears. 

The Yankees and the Rays meet today and it also brings a question to mind: Is it more important to play the Twins in the divisional series by winning the wild card? The Twins are a team the Yankees don’t find trouble with in the playoffs, or the other scenario is this: the Yankees could go all out and win the American League East. This meaning that they would play arguably the best team in baseball, the Texas Rangers. I would rather let the veterans take a breather, lose the division and home field advantage, and meet Tampa in the ALCS without breaking a sweat. 

My closest encounter with Mr. Steinbrenner was before opening day 2009 at the New Yankee Stadium. I went to meet Reggie Jackson at his hotel to get his autograph and I found out that the Steinbrenner’s were staying there. My dad and I were pressed for time before the game. The first Steinbrenner appeared outside. It was Hank. A man in the news all of the offseason. This before I learned not to get starstruck during interviews. I walked over to Hank, who was smoking and chatting with body guards, BlackBerry on “Voice Recorder” in hand, and asked Hank as low as I could speak and as fast, “My name is Brad Wolff, I am 13, and write a sports blog. Can I ask you a few questions please?” I lost the interview once I didn’t know how to save. I think I may have asked 2 or 3 questions including, “What is it like owning the Yankees?” He responded, “It’s great.” I walked away as Mr. October walked out. I got his signature on a ball I caught at the stadium from the day he was inducted into Monument Park. He signed it and my dad got a call from my mom. My mom and brother were on their way to the stadium and thought we should make our way there. We went on the subway moments after, as I never got the opportunity to witness George M. Steinbrenner in front of my eyes, not through a television.

The Yankees got bombed that day as I sat in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar above monument park. I predicted the first home run (Jorge Posada) and remember a Shin Soo Choo homer to right field. All throughout the first blow out and the nice new ballpark, I wondered what meeting George would be like. Would he have a conversation with me or go right in his limo? Now it’s just a lingering thought in my head as the Boss’ legacy lives on.

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Looking Back at the 2010 MLB Trade Deadline: Evaluating the Trades Thus Far

We all know July 31 and the days leading up to that day change the season for some teams. There were some serious trades including a trade involving a Cy Young winner and a couple of ex-first overall draft picks. This slideshow shows the top nine pickups and the worst trade deadline pickups. The slideshow only shows teams in second or third place who brought in players who have played well since joining their new team.

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How He Changed Public Relations: Marty Appel Interview

Marty Appel was the Public Relations Director for the New York Yankees from 1973 to 1977. After resigning as the PR Director in 1977, he began a sports management company and later worked with World Team Tennis and Billie Jean King. Later on in his career he won an Emmy as the executive producer of Yankee telecasts. He has written 18 books including collaborations with Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Tom Seaver.

BW: I know Mantle lived a wild life, what was the weirdest thing you ever saw or read in Mickey Mantle’s mail?

MA: I always found it amusing that people would send him bar mitzvah invitations, as though they expected him to attend.

BW: I read that you originally got your job with the Yankees by writing to Bob Fischel, the then PR Director, what do you think stood out in your letter that intrigued them to hire you?

MA: When I wrote to Bob Fishel, it was at a time when young people were pulling away from baseball, turning to football. So I think he liked that I was young, a big fan, knew my stuff, and wanted to come into the industry. He wasn’t getting many letters like that.

BW: What are some of your memories of George Steinbrenner?

MA: He brought a will to win that we hadn’t experienced under previous ownership, and made each of us feel that by working harder, we would contribute to the team’s success. We had never felt that before, and it soon started to look true!

BW: What do you consider some of your most valuable traits that have made you successful?

MA: I took time to read a lot—tried to read everything written about us; writers liked it when you knew what they had written. I recognized suburban media as just as important. I knew the team’s history and wove it into each game’s development. And I made certain to keep in daily touch with the manager and maintain a close relationship with him.

BW: Did you ever regret leaving the Yankees?

MA: I miss the travel and the friendships you form on the road, but it’s a job for a younger person who can work without a day off from February-October, and all those nights. Not an easy task!

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Zorilla!: An Interview with Ben Zobrist of the Rays

Ben Zobrist is the starting second baseman on the Tampa Bay Rays. He made the 2009 American League All-Star team with a batting average of .297, 27 home runs, and 91 runs batted in.

That season, he was voted MVP of the Rays by the Tampa Bay sector of the Baseball Writers and finished 8th in American League MVP voting. “Zorilla,” the nickname given to him by his manager Joe Maddon, is very involved with his Christian faith and is a true class act.

Here is my interview with Mr. Zobrist—


Brad Wolff: Reading about you and meeting you tells me that you are a nice person. How do you plan on maintaining being a child’s role models as you get older?
Ben Zobrist: I model my life after my Lord and Master Jesus Christ and his life. He has called me into God’s family and I am a representative for him so I just try to be obedient to what He asks me to do. When I do what I want, it is natural for me to ignore autograph seekers, but God wants me to share my testimony card with them and be loving. That power and initiative comes from him.
BW: What was it like once you found yourself on the field with the best players in the game?
BZ: I was pretty nervous at first because I wasn’t sure if I belonged there. I mean, these were players I grew up watching and I never thought I would actually be playing with them. Over time though, you realize that you can play with them and they are just normal guys trying to do their best just like anyone else in their skill. God has blessed us all with different talents and abilities.
BW: If you weren’t an athlete, what would your occupation be?
BZ: I don’t know. I really like the game, so I might be some sort of coach in it or possibly a teacher. I also could see myself being a minister and trying to help people live their lives as God has called them to.

BW: What is the funniest thing that has ever happened in your locker room?

BZ: That is a really tough question. I don’t have a good answer for this, but I always laugh at my teammates for little things they say and do. Recently, one of our coaches came out and was dancing to a rap song and I was cracking up about that one.  I tried to get it on camera but didn’t get a good shot of it.
BW: What is the hardest part of being a baseball player?
BZ: Everything you do is measured by stats and it is difficult to keep your identity as a person out of the game. It can swallow you whole if you let yourself be engulfed by your statistics.
BW: Who are the hardest pitchers for you to hit?
BZ: Josh Beckett [Red Sox], Roy Halladay [Phillies], Felix Hernandez [Mariners], Jon Lester [Red Sox], Josh Johnson [Marlins].


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