October 2015

Matt’s Bats Chat With Darren O’Day (Part 2)

IMG_5455Last month, I had the great opportunity to interview Orioles relief pitcher Darren O’Day. In the first part, I interviewed O’Day about his community service to military service members and family as a nominee for the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. In the second part, I talked to him about baseball topics, like how he developed his signature sidearm delivery. Here is the 2nd part of my Darren O’Day interview!

Matt’s Bats: When did you start playing baseball?

Darren O’Day: I first played organized baseball when I was five.  I’m 32 now.  I guess that makes me old!  I’ve been playing for a long time.  I took one year off in high school.  Its been the one constant in my life as long as I can remember.

MB: What values can baseball teach kids?

DOD: First of all, it keeps you out of trouble.  If you’re busy practicing and you’re busy playing catch and hitting batting practice, you’re not going to be out doing things you shouldn’t.  The game teaches you to get to know different personality types.  If you play athletics you know how to get along with other people.  You’re not going to succeed in athletics unless you work hard.  That’s proven – the higher up you go the harder you have to work.  There’s not many lazy Major Leaguers.  There’s a lot of applicable things you can learn in sports.

MB: You’re going into the off-season as a free agent for the first time.  What is that like?

DOD: You’re right, it’s the first time I’ve been potentially a free agent.  I’ve been on four different teams already so I kind of know what its like to be in different places.  You never really know what’s going to happen.  It’s tough because I have a wife and a child and two dogs, so there’s a lot of things to consider, like where they would be happy.  I might come back here [to Baltimore], I might go someplace else.  You never know!

MB: Another new thing for this year was your first All-Star Game selection.  Congratulations on that!

DOD: Thanks for that.  I never knew if I was going to be in the Major Leagues, first of all.  And I never thought I would be an All-Star!  But it was a really cool honor and I’m glad I did it.  I had a lot of fun.

MB: You throw side-arm, one of the few baseball pitchers that does that.  But every coach I’ve ever had has encouraged us not to throw side arm.  How did you start throwing side arm?

DOD: You have good coaches, then.  You don’t want to screw around throwing side arm until you figure out you’re not very good at overhand.  I threw overhand my whole life, all the way through high school.  I tried out for my college team and didn’t make it throwing overhand, so I thought I was done with baseball.  But I screwed around throwing side arm, figured out I would try out again, and this time I made the team.  I played for four years in college and its been an interesting career.

MB: How did you master the side arm?

DOD: Everybody can throw side arm, but not everybody can throw strikes.  Its like anything else.  If you tried throwing left handed, you wouldn’t be very good at first.  But if you kept practicing and practicing you’d get pretty good.  I know it seems hard, but you could do it.  I’ve also had some good coaches along the way.  I’ve been doing it so long I probably know the side arm motion better than a lot of the coaches now.  Its been a lot of hard work, a lot of video, a lot of repetition.  And I learn as I go.

MB: When the Orioles were down in Washington, you witnessed the incident between Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Machado.  [Jonathan Papelbon was ejected from the September 23 Nationals-Orioles game for throwing chin music at Manny Machado].  What are your thoughts on the big dugout fight between Papelbon and Bryce Harper?

DOD: Baseball is a funny game.  Different people have different interpretations about what is right and what is wrong.  It’s unfortunate the Papelbon-Machado incident is what came out of that series, instead of the news being us [Orioles] sweeping the series.  Sweeping the series was the big story for us and for our team.  It shows that guys care and that they love what they do and they are passionate about it.

As for what’s going on between Harper and Papelbon, I can’t speak with any authority about what’s going on there.

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Thanks for reading the latest Matt’s Bats Chat.  I will have some more posts coming out in the next couple weeks.  Next week, I will be covering the third annual Bob Feller Act of Valor Award, where I expect to bring you another Matt’s Bats Chat with Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy and other celebrities.  ALSO, stayed tuned for one of my favorite posts of the year: my Holiday Gift Guide around Black Friday.  If you are buying gifts for kids or adults who like baseball, you will definitely want to read this before you buy anything.  And some companies have given me some giveaways for readers, and you could win some really cool things. So stay tuned to MattsBats.com throughout the off-season!

Matts’ Bats Chat with Darren O’Day (Part 1)

IMG_5455Last week, I had a great opportunity to go to beautiful Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland to interview Orioles closer Darren O’Day about his nomination for the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. O’Day was honored for his award nomination at a pre-game ceremony.  During our interview, I also asked him a few questions about other topics, including his upcoming free agency and his unique submarine delivery, which will I will publish in a later post.  This Matt’s Bats Chat with Darren O’Day is about and his work helping military charities and his nomination for the Bob Feller Act of Valor award.

The Act of Valor Award is given out to three people who share the characteristics of Bob Feller: an active MLB player, a member of the Navy, and a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Award winners are selected because they are dedicated to serving our country and share the values and integrity of Bob Feller.  In addition to the Orioles’ O’Day, other MLB nominees this year included Brad Ziegler of the Diamondbacks, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, Adam LaRoche of the White Sox, Jay Bruce of the Reds, Trevor Bauer of the Indians, Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers, Wade Davis of the Royals, Steve Cishek of the Cardinals, Brian Dozier of the Twins, Curtis Granderson of the Mets, Sean Doolittle of the A’s, Charlie Morton of the Pirates, Ian Kennedy of the Padres, and Craig Stammen of the Nats.  The winners will be honored at an award ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in downtown Washington, DC in November.

I asked O’Day what it means to him that he is nominated for an award named after the great Bob Feller.  “It’s truly an honor. When I heard I was being nominated for this award, I went and researched him.  The more you learn about him, the more in awe you are of his decision to take time off from Major League Baseball to serve in the Navy.  He gave up four years of his career to potentially get hurt or die in the line of duty.  Like I said, it’s a great honor to be associated with an award in his name.”  O’Day told me the story about the opportunity he when he was 6 or 7 years old to meet Bob Feller at a minor league baseball game in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.  O’Day handed Feller a pen to sign an autograph for him, and it exploded on him!

IMG_5415O’Day has done many terrific things that earned him this nomination.  One of the things O’Day and his wife, FOX News reporter Elizabeth Prann, have done is organize a “Barbecue for the Troops” event that helps support the USO. O’Day explained the whole process to me. He told me that he sponsored the event at Camden Yards and guests brought donations for the USO. In the event’s inaugural year in 2013, O’Day raised $17,000. The USO is great because it helps deployed troops and their families.

Another activity O’Day and some other Orioles help out with is the Military Sunday Suite. Orioles players donate money to buy a suite every Sunday at Orioles Park for active military members, and they get to meet some players during batting practice, get a t-shirt, and are recognized during God Bless America and the 7th inning stretch. “The sacrifices they make and the things they have to forgo to serve in the military, we couldn’t make up for that.  Tickets to a game pale in comparison to that.  We couldn’t really make up for that, but we try to do something small  and do something nice,” O’Day told me.

That’s not all O’Day does to support the military.  He also supports a cause called Luke’s Wings, and for the past three years he has donated money for every strikeout he records. Luke’s Wings helps families travel to be with injured service members during their hospitalization and rehabilitation. “I like their mission.  When somebody decides to serve in the military, it not only affects them, it affects their whole family.”  “When a service man or woman is injured, they have a lot to deal with, and their families also have a lot to deal with.  Luke’s Wings takes care of their families and provides funding to get them flown out whereever they need to go to see their injured family member.  It makes it a lot easier on the family to take a lot of the financial burden off them.” In 2013, O’Day raised over $2,300; in 2014 he raised over over $3,600, and this year he will donate over $4,000.  “I wish I would have raised more, because that would’ve meant more strikeouts,” he joked.

Finally, once a year when the Orioles face their interleague rivals the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, O’Day and other Orioles players make a visit to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda to meet with some Wounded Warriors in the rehab center there. Most of the patients are going through physical therapy after serious injuries.  “Some of the baseball players can relate on a much smaller level”, O’Day told me, “because we have also had injuries.”  “They have just had a huge change in their life, so we like to go down there and hang out with them for a day.  We get to know them a little bit, and a lot of them are baseball fans, and hopefully get to make one day a little bit better for them.”  He added, “there’s a lot of good men and women who pass through there and I have actually developed relationships where I keep in touch with some of them who passed through there.”

The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award foundation just announced the winners of this year’s awards.  This year they are celebrating Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Hall of Fame Royals 3rd Baseman George Brett, and Navy Chief Petty Officer Gennell Cody.  Although O’Day didn’t win this year, he still has done many great things and I hope to see him nominated again next year.  I will attend the awards ceremony again this year and have interviews with Lucroy and Brett.

In addition, look out for the rest of my Matt’s Bats Chat with Darren O’Day, coming soon.  We talk about more about his baseball career.