I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitch Williams the other day while he was promoting a great contest for Little League coaches. You can check it out at facebook.com/HiltonHHonors and we discuss it at the end. You may remember Mitch as the “Wild Thing” closer for the Phillies in the early ’90’s or might know him from the MLB Network, MLB.com or Fox Baseball broadcasts. Lot’s of good stuff, enjoy…
MJ Lloyd (hey, that’s me!): You pitched 10.2 inning for the Angels in 1995. Do you have any fond memories of that time?
Mitch Williams: Uh, no.
Number one, it was back where I was born. I was born in Santa Ana. So going back there I was not a huge fan of the Cali lifestyle.
MJ: Oh, really?
MW: No. I pitched bad while I was there. Wasn’t there long.
MJ: Let me ask you about the current Angels. The bullpen was a bit of a mess until Dipoto swung that deal for Ernesto Frieri. He’s thrown 12 hitless innings and struck out 25 since joining the team and Scott Downs and Jordan Walden have been better. What does the turn around for the bullpen mean to the Angels?
MW: It’s huge for the team. They’ve gotta make the lead stand up. And they have an offense, they can put up runs. With Weaver going down, every time they get it to the 7th, 8th inning, they gotta make that lead stand up. And Frieri coming over and doing what he’s done is awesome. But they can’t count on this guy to be this way the rest of the year. And I look at Jordan Walden and I just see a guy who throws extremely hard that doesn’t understand closing yet. And once he understands it and realizes that pressure is not on him that pressure is on the hitter, I think he’ll be a dominant closer.
MJ: That was a question I was just about to ask you. Do you still see Walden as the long term solution for the Angels at closer?
MW: Yeah, I do. I think he needs to get with somebody who’s been a closer and sit down and talk to him and make him understand that the most important thing he can do as a closer is throw strike one. As soon as he throws strike one, all the pressure is on the hitter. He doesn’t have to throw another strike. When you throw 100 (mph), strike one, after that, learn to elevate the ball in the middle of the plate. There’s different things you can tell guys that throw that hard that they might not know. If you throw 100 and it’s down, it’s hittable.
If you throw 100 and it’s letter high, in the middle of the plate:
1: They can’t take it
2: They can’t hit it
3: You’re gonna be a stud
He just has to understand that when you do elevate it, it has to be middle of the plate. At 100 mph, a hitter can recognize away or in. But if it’s in the middle, you are on a mound as a pitcher. What you are trying to create is a downward plane. Well, a hitter can’t trust that the ball on the middle isn’t going to curve down on that downward plane. So he’s gotta turn it loose, make that split second decision. This ball’s in the middle. Well, he needs to learn how to walk the ladder on guys and understand the pressure isn’t on him. He’s already got the lead. And take advantage of that. Take advantage of all hitters egos and them all wanting to be heroes.
MJ: Moving away from the Angels, is there a non-Aroldis Chapman reliever who is really impressing you right now?
MW: A game that I want closed right now, I am giving the ball to John Axford.
MJ: That’s interesting. I didn’t see that one coming. (3.44 ERA but a 1.64 FIP and 14.24 K/9)
MW: Because he knows how to elevate and has that big overhand curve ball. He actually got a blown save because he bounced the curve ball three feet in front of the plate and the guy swung at it and he got a strike out.
AND NOW, RAPID FIRE NONSENSE!
MJ: The carnival game where you throws balls at milk jugs. Did you ever have one get away from you and hit the guy working the game?
MJ: That’s disappointing. *scratches ping-pong goldfish game off questionnaire* During the early 1990’s, you guys seemed to think mullets were a good idea. Who had the best one between you, John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra?
MW: Lenny didn’t have one.
MJ: He had some curly weird stuff going on.
MW: Lenny’s hair was just bad. I think i was voted 6th best mullet of all time, so I think I had Kruk beat. His looked liked a mullet because he didn’t have a neck.
MJ: Follow up, who gives the best financial advice of the three of you?
MW: Me, Kruk and Dykstra? (laughs) Well, I can tell you it ain’t Dykstra.
MJ: Philly Cheesesteak, Chicago Deep Dish, Kansas City BBQ?
MJ: By far?
MW: Yeah, I mean, I love Gino’s East in Chicago, but a Philly Cheesesteak done right? There’s nothing better.
MJ: Biggest trash talker from your era?
MW: (almost no hesitation) Wally Backman
MJ: My version of marry, eff, kill for pitchers is hit, walk, strikeout. Patent pending. So, Mitch, hit, strikeout, walk some of MLB’s mini media members. Keith Law, Ken Rosenthal, Tim Kurkjan. Go…
Hit one: Keith Law
Strike one out: Timmy. Only because he was a beat writer with the Rangers when I started.
Walk: And this is gonna sound stupid because they are about the same height. I would walk Kenny because I don’t think I get the ball down there. That applies to Timmy, though.
MJ: They are little guys.
MW: Yeah, they are both good dudes. The only reason I would hit Keith is because I don’t know him.
MJ: Thanks for being such a good sport. The Hilton Honors Little League World Series contest for most outstanding coach is a cool contest. Can you tell us about it and your involvement in it?
MW: I am working with Hilton on this. I will be at the LLWS with Hilton. What it is is the contest parents can go to facebook.com/hiltonhhonors and write their story about their sons or daughters little league coach and why they are the best coach in the country. Hilton has gotten behind it as a sponsor. Little league baseball and softball and when you have a company this big get behind this it tells you how important little league baseball and softball has become in our country. I just think it’s an awesome deal (I agree!). These coaches get no recognition and nine out of 10 get grief from parents. It’s an opportunity for parents to come out to talk about how good these coaches have been to their kids. How they’ve touched their lives either on or off the field.
The grand prize gets a two night stay at any Hilton and throws the opening pitch at the Little league World Series. It’s about time these guys and gals got recognized for their time and effort. I know. I just came from my eight and nine year olds game last night. Parents can be critical and think their kid is going to be the next Ruth or whatever. These guys take a lot more heat than credit and it’s time they start getting credit.
Yes, sir. Can’t thank Mitch enough for taking time to BS with me. He’s promoting a great cause, go vote for your favorite little league coach at facebook.com/hiltonhhonors. Catch Mitch on the MLB Network, MLB.com and Fox broadcasts.
Special thanks to my wonderful girlfriend who transcribed that interview and now I’m sure I owe her trip to the French Quarter for steak and lobster.