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OPEN MIC: Jeff Bagwell

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It¿s a rare and special thing when a player is able to join the organization which he grew up rooting for, playing in the same stadium he used to attend games in as a kid. For , that was certainly the track he appeared to be on. A 1989 fourth-round draft choice out of the University of Hartford, the Boston native Bagwell had a bright future waiting for him at Fenway Park, smashing drive after drive off of the fabled Green Monster. But for Bagwell, that cobblestone avenue of dreams met its abrupt end on August 31, 1990, when the — in the midst of a heated race with the Toronto for the AL East pennant — decided to cash in the future for the present and acquire reliever Larry Andersen from the Houston . The wily veteran righthander helped Boston to a division crown that season, compiling a 1.23 ERA in 22.0 innings down the stretch, but Andersen was long gone from Beantown by the time Bagwell was getting his first look at his 1991 NL Rookie of the Year plaque. Four All-Star selections, one Most Valuable Player award and nearly 400 home runs later, it would certainly appear that the got the better of that deal — just one more craw in the sides of fans who¿ll swear the Curse of the Bambino isn¿t just some urban legend.
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FOXSports.com caught up with the star first baseman recently to talk a little bit about his Boston roots and just how he developed his strange squatting batting stance:
You were drafted by the in 1987. Did you think that Boston was going to take you? Nope, I thought I was going to get drafted by Montreal. They told me they were going to draft me and make me into a catcher. Well, it didn¿t work, and they didn¿t do it. Did you catch at all in high school? No. (Laughs) I was a third baseman. But that¿s what the saw in me, and they thought I could do it, so I guess it never panned out for them. That¿s for sure. It kind of sounds like the story with , where he only became a catcher after the drafted him. Well, it worked out pretty good for him though. It goes to show you never know, looking at these young kids and trying to figure out if they¿re going to be suited for your ball club. For Montreal, I guess that¿s what they thought, but the never thought about that. You were selected to the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park. What was that experience like? Well, it wasn¿t my first time there: I¿d played three All-Star Games there in college ¿ in fact, the day I got drafted, I played an All-Star Game there. But the All-Star Game was awesome; I had a great time. We [the ] get a chance to go back and play three games there this season, so I¿m looking forward to that too. The big story about that day wasn¿t the game itself, but the appearance of Ted Williams. Did you get to speak with him at all? No, but I¿d met Ted before that. He was great. He was very passionate about the game and hitting and things like that, so that was one of the great thrills of my career, to talk hitting with him along with some other Hall-of-Famers as well. You grew up as a fan. Who was your favorite player? Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz was the man when I was growing up. I guess that¿s the easiest way to say it, he was the best player on that club during that period, that time all through the 1970¿s and the early 80¿s. I think he¿s a pretty good guy to have as a role model; I met him in 1994 and had a chance to talk a little bit with him. I haven¿t been able to talk to him that much, but it was very enjoyable and I was very nervous with him. You have one of the more unorthodox batting stances in baseball. How did you develop that? It happened around 1994. I was trying to just spread out so my head wouldn¿t move around; it wasn¿t intentional, that¿s for sure. I did it all alone, and I tried to emulate essentially what Tony Gwynn did and keep my head in the same place. But, obviously, mine wound up being totally different than what Gwynn came up with. Did you get any advice from Gwynn on that? Yup, that¿s actually how it started. But, again, it didn¿t wind up anything like his. I do everything the wrong way; I drop my hands and step backward, and most guys raise their hands and step forward. What do you think you would be doing if you weren¿t playing baseball? I have no idea. I was a marketing major in college, and that¿s all I know. I was there — at the University of Hartford (Conn.) — to play baseball, and it worked out pretty well for me. Could you see yourself behind a desk with a suit on, five days a week? No, I don¿t. And, fortunately, I won¿t have to do that, so it¿s nice. What¿s the funniest thing you¿ve ever seen on a baseball diamond? One of the funniest things I¿ve seen could be the guy in Chicago in 2000 that ran out to the mound and took all his clothes off. That was kind of interesting. They brought him up through the stands, naked. That was pretty funny. Bryan Hoch is a contributing writer to FOXSports.com. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.
Tagged: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Astros, Dodgers, Nationals, Mets

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