Known for his famous bat waggle, Gary Sheffield tore up major league pitching in his 22 year big league career. Holding too many accomplishments to count, Sheffield played for eight different franchises, beginning as a 19-year old with the Milwaukee Brewers and ending as a 40-year old with the New York Mets. Earlier this week, Rays Colored Glasses had the chance to sit down with Gary and talk with him about his esteemed career as well as what he has been doing since his retirement. Part one of the interview was great, but now we get more into Gary’s numerous accomplishments as a player. Without further ado, here is part two of RCG’s interview with legend Gary Sheffield.
Drew Jenkins: Hitting mechanics are looked at time and time again, but an often overlooked part of hitting is the mental game plan you have to take into each at-bat. What plate approach did you use to ensure that you had success at the plate?
Gary Sheffield: I always made sure to not miss the fastball and to lay off a breaking ball that isn’t a strike. I also made sure I didn’t swing unless a pitch was a strike. It was very simple and I just focused on those couple of things rather than worry about my stance, my mechanics, and ten other different things at the same time. I made sure that the ball was up and over the plate so that I could hit the ball hard. I also made sure to never swing at a pitch that I didn’t like when there were runners in scoring position.
DJ: You are one of just three players in MLB history to hit a home run before you were 20 and after you were 40. What helped you find such longevity in a league that is usually not kind to aging players?
GS: I think a bunch of it was good genetics. I did not abuse my body and I took care of myself. I had fun but got my reps at the same time. I also gravitated to eating healthy. When I was around 24-25 years old I began to take the game really seriously. Earlier I took it for granted, but when I focused I almost won a triple crown. Staying focused helped me just as much as anything else.
DJ: You have more than a fair share of milestones in your career. You hit your 500th home run in 2009 with the New York Mets, you won the World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and you are part of just a handful of players that hit 450 homers and 450 doubles in their career, among many others. Of all of your achievements in baseball, what is the one you are most proud of?
GS: Winning the World Series was definitely my proudest. Everyone dreams of that. Ever since I played against Taiwan in the Little League World Series when I was 11 or 12 years old, I’ve wanted to win championships. From there on I tried to be first in the world. Everyone is always trying to capture a championship, and that was always my goal.
DJ: This year, you are going to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. How do you like your chances and what about your career makes you deserving of being inducted into the Hall?
GS: I like my chances of getting in. I’m sure based on what people are trying to make my generation be known for, it is going to hurt any player in that generation, and that is tough. But I feel that I deserve to be in. As far as what I’ve done, my track record speaks for itself. I’ve done things that only 5-10 people in their life have done at the highest level, and I did it for three decades. Not only was I productive, I dominated.
DJ: After your career you become a player’s agent. But even during your career, you were very involved in your contract negotiations and even negotiated one of your contracts without an agent. What about being an agent has intrigued you throughout your career and into you retirement from baseball?
GS: What intrigues me about it is how a lot of guys do not take care of the gift they were given. I love being able to provide good contracts and being a blessing to someone else. We have the formula where we believe success is not only about getting there, but longevity to keep your finances and allow you do to things with your family for the rest of your life. I found a passion to help anyone who needs it. I can show these kids how to do things the smart way, protect their investments, and live a quality life.
DJ: You recently joined Pasco sports as a partial owner. Pasco is planning to build a huge complex in Wesley Chapel, Florida that includes 19 fields, a stadium, a player development center, on-site dormitories, and more. Tell me more about this project as well as what made you want to get involved in it.
GS: I already had my own plans of doing something on this level, but this was the best pitch. When I learned about this scenario, it intrigued me mainly because of the location and the amount of fields that we are getting ready to build. Wesley Chapel was an up and coming area, but when the economy crashed it was hurt. Bringing these facilities there is going to bring revenue and people back to Wesley Chapel. The destination is perfect, Disney and Tampa are close, and there is good weather. It is going to provide kids somewhere to go and play against the best talent in the world. We also have more major league players coming on board. This is the only complex that you may see a current or former major league ball player on a daily basis. This is where scouts are going to come and see talent. They will trust in our vision.
Thanks to Gary Sheffield for taking the time to sit down with Rays Colored Glasses!