Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tommy John's perspective

Former Major League Baseball Player Tommy John helped Canastota Little League celebrate the opening of it's 60th season as the keynote speaker of a banquet on April 30, then throwing out the first pitch the next morning. He was asked about today's aspiring baseball players, being the name for the famous surgery, his thoughts on not getting into the hall of fame and his connection to central New York.

On being the first to undergo Tommy John surgery and now being it's namesake:
Tommy John throws out the first pitch in Canastota.
"I'm honored. I'll be dust in my casket and Tommy John surgery will probably still be performed by orthopedic surgeons. The rehab is better but I pitched in a ball game one year (and) one day after surgery. All the stuff we didn't know then that we did in our rehab; in the 13 years I pitched competitively after surgery I never missed a start. Whatever we did, we did it right.When I had it done (I) never thought it would be as epidemic as it is now. It's sad but I serve on a health and safety board for USA Baseball and Dr. Andrews is on there and Jimmy and I are talking about the surgery and he said it's becoming epidemic. His thing is it borders on child abuse. There are kids 12, 13, 14 years old coming in to have Tommy John surgery. You should not have to have that surgery at that age unless parents are making you pitch year round baseball."

On not being inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame (so far): 
Tommy John slaps hands with a Little Leaguer
"I only worry about things I can control. I worry about my golf game. I worry about getting my EZ Pass re-upped. If I get in, it will be the greatest day in my life. If I don't get in, I know how well I pitched. I know there from latter 60s to early 80s, about 13 years, my record was as good as any pitcher in baseball for the amount of wins and ERA. In fact, my ERA did not get over three until the last few years I pitched. I was well in my 40s then. I'll put my record up against the guys who are in the Hall of Fame. I believe my ground ball to fly ball ratio is the best in baseball history."

Advice to kids who may dream of playing professional baseball:
"If you're going to play the game, learn the fundamentals, practice and have fun. I had a big league manager that said, 'if you cannot have fun at this game you're getting paid for, then you've got to go back home and sell used cars.
"My dad told me...you learn by observing. If you're a left handed pitcher, I would try and watch a game every time Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels or John Lester pitched. I would watch the good left handers. When I was a kid we had one game a week on Saturday (TV). That night my dad and I would play catch in the back yard and he would try to guess who I was imitating with my throwing motion. If you're a shortstop and you like Derek Jeter I would watch a lot of Yankee games."
On his connection to central NY:
"I come up in this area quite a bit. This winter I left New Jersey during a blizzard and went up to Watertown. I can say when I got into New York the snow stopped so it was a nice drive. I started my first Triple A baseball game at old MacArthur stadium in Syracuse. I think I went about four or five innings. My next start I won my first Triple A baseball game in Rochester."
Tommy John signs autographs for Little Leaguers

On pizza?
"I have a friend of mine named Don Ross, he had a great pizza place called Twin Trees Pizza in Syracuse. I used to go over and devour his pies all the time. Used to do a lot of autograph signings at the Carousel Mall. I would be driving back to Jersey eating Donnie's Twin Tree pizzas."


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