A few weeks ago, I got a chance to sit down and talk to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. You probably have seen him reporting on Sports Center or Baseball Tonight, or live from games or at other baseball events.
When I met Tim, we talked for a long time. He was interesting to talk to and he gave some really good answers to my questions. For example, I asked him what is the craziest thing he’s ever seen happen in a game, and believe me: it is crazy! He’s seen maybe thousands of baseball games, so keep reading to see what Tim Kurkjian thinks is the craziest thing he has ever seen at a game.
He’s also a really nice person and knows more about baseball than almost anybody else in the country.
I’m really excited to share with you this Matt’s Bats Chat with Tim Kurkjian. Take it away, Tim!
Matt’s Bats: How did you get into journalism?
Tim Kurkjian: I got into journalism when I started writing for my high school paper, The Pitch, at Walter Johnson High School (in Bethesda, MD). Then I went to the University of Maryland and majored in Journalism. After that, I went to the Washington Star, then I went to Dallas Morning News, then I went to the Baltimore Sun, then I went to Sports Illustrated, and 17 years ago I went to ESPN. So, journalism is something that I’ve been really interested in for the last 40 years when I turned about 15 years old.
MB: What’s your favorite ballparks to visit?
TK: I have covered a game now in 58 different Major League stadiums and my favorite is still Fenway Park, just because it’s the oldest one. I love the history of the game. I love the tradition of the game. And the fact that that’s where Ted Williams played and that’s where Babe Ruth used to pitch – that stuff really means something to me. So I love all the new ballparks, including Camden Yards, but Fenway Park is my favorite.
MB: Who was your favorite player when you were my age?
TK: When I was your age, I had two favorite players. Eddie Brinkman was my favorite player on the Washington Senators because he was a little short stop who could really play defense and that was what I really liked to do when I was a kid. And my other favorite player when I was your age was Willie Mays. And even though he played for the San Francisco Giants and was 3000 miles away from me, he was the best player in the game. He was this iconic star. He’s the guy that I kind of hooked along with because I figured he’s the best player ever and I need to get closer to him.
MB: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen fans or players do during a game?
TK: I saw Bo Jackson one night in Baltimore. I watched him run to try and catch a fly ball. And he caught it and he didn’t have time to stop himself from running into the fence. So he kind of ran up the fence and around the fence. It’s a famous ESPN highlight now. But he almost looked like a race car going around a curved and ramped track. He kind of ran up the fence and down without ever touching it. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
MB: What kinds of lessons can the game of baseball teach kids?
TK: Baseball can teach a very important life lesson about teamwork. There’s nothing better than being on a team. And that’s what Major League Baseball teaches us, that’s what Little League baseball teaches us, that’s what high school baseball teaches us. You have teammates that you have to look after. You have teammates that you have to take care of no matter what. The winning and the losing of the game is really important, but the loyalty to your teammates is what this is all about, whether its on the Major League level or anywhere else. Teamwork expands well beyond baseball. When you go to work, you have teammates there, too, and you have to look after each other.
MB: What do you expect in 2014 in baseball?
Listen to Tim’s answer:
TK: I expect a bunch of surprises, just like this year. I didn’t expect the Red Sox to win the pennant or win the World Series. I thought they would come in last place. I thought the Nationals would win the World Series and they didn’t even finish in the playoffs. So 2014 is going to be filled with surprises but I think the Nationals are going to play the Tigers in the World Series in 2014. If I’m right, that will probably be the first time I’ve ever been right this far in advance.
[Tim gave this answer before the Nationals acquired Doug Fister from the Tigers, and before the Tigers traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. On Dec. 31, Kurkjian said on ESPN that he still predicted the Nationals would win the World Series and that Bryce Harper would win the Triple Crown. FINGERS CROSSED!]
MB: What’s your favorite baseball-related memory?
TK: My favorite memory is the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. That was more than a baseball story, that was a story about commitment. It was a story about loyalty. It was a story about love of a team and a neighborhood and a state. It was about a player that went out there and tried as hard, and played every single day for 15 years in a row. That’s what made that so special. I’ve covered over 3000 Major League games, but that was probably the most special night that I’ve ever spent in a Major League ballpark.
MB: What are your favorite things to do in DC?
TK: Number one is to go to the Nationals games, since I love baseball and I love going to the ballpark. I love to go to the Orioles games, which is in Baltimore, but its still the DC area. Sometimes I like to go watch the Wizards play or the University of Maryland play because I’m a big basketball fan also. But beyond all that, I still love going to the museums and the landmarks in DC, whether it’s the Lincoln Memorial or the Air and Space Museum, whatever it is, that’s where I like to go.
MB: Tell me something about yourself that’s not baseball related?
TK: I really, really love basketball. I still like to play even though I’m 56 years old. I still love to go to watch high school basketball games. And I mostly love now to go to Syracuse University, where my son goes and my daughter used to go. And when I go there I love to watch the Syracuse basketball team because, other than the University of Maryland where I went to school, that’s my new home basketball team. Everybody knows that I cover baseball for a living, but basketball is my second love and I really like being around that and that’s my hobby in the offseason – watching and playing basketball.
That’s all I have for now of my interview of Tim Kurkjian. I really want to thank him for talking to me and all of you for reading this. If you know other interesting people who’d be interested in talking to me, send me an email.
Tim Kurkjian is on Twitter @Kurkjian_ESPN, online at ESPN.com, and also on ESPN on TV.
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