Baseball, punk rock and skate parks: Q&A with Angels bullpen coach Scott Radinsky
The Los Angeles Angels recently hired Scott Radinsky as their bullpen coach. He joins the club alongside former pitcher Charlie Nagy.
A big-league reliever from 1990-2001, Radinsky has also devoted much of his time to his other passion: Skatelab, a Southern California skate park still thriving today after he co-founded it in the 1990s.
A recent visit with Radinsky at Skatelab led to a candid conversation about his various careers and the lessons he's learned throughout nearly three decades in the game.
Q: What's your answer when somebody asks you what you do for a living?
Scott Radinsky: My wife gets kind of mad at me because I answer randomly sometimes, like "Well, I play baseball sometimes, I play in a band sometimes..." or "a little bit of everything," you know, "whatever I want!"
Q: How did you become a part of founding Skatelab, which is still going strong in Simi Valley?
Radinsky at work at Skatelab.
Radinsky: I think it was 1995, we played a gig in a place called Sugar Hill Skate Park in Fresno. We thought it was a club, and we loaded in at 2 o'clock, brought our gear there expecting to load in and do a sound check, and it was a full-blown skate park. And I remember sitting there going "Holy s---, I haven't seen one of these since the '70s!"
I was blown away by the kids, the energy, the music ... it was awesome. There was nothing like that in the mid-1990s. I went to the guy at the front desk, who was this surfer dude with long dreadlocks, and we got to talking. A few hours later I watched the place transform into a club and I thought this was the coolest thing in the world. All the kids who were skating ended up hanging around, a bunch more people showed up and it wound up with this great vibe for the show. We went back to the hotel that night, next morning I woke up and said, "I have to go talk to that guy again."
I tried to pry as much information out of him as I could. Now, being a part of one of these places I understand not wanting to give away all your information, and he kind of downplayed it. I came home and I had this buddy who was a collector of skate memorabilia and worked at a skate shop here right across the street. I told him, "Man, I just saw this cool idea; we should do something like that in town." We went through the proper channels with the city, went to lunch with the mayor and he thought it was a great idea. Once we had his approval it was easy to get the planning commission and all the other people and we jumped through all the hoops and found a cool landlord that was totally into it. It was about a nine-month process to get it all going, and it's evolved over the last 18 years as of ... yesterday, actually.
Q: Is there a difference mentally between how you prepare to travel for music and touring and playing gigs versus traveling as part of a baseball team?
Radinsky: Well, with a baseball team you're grouped up with 25, 30 different people on a professional level, everything's free, first class ... it's different. You get to town, unload your bag into a room and I'm there for three or four days.
We're the mom and pop type of band, we carry our own gear, we drive ourselves around ... it's a different city every night so you're constantly on the go. But when you get to town and see these genuine, real kids that came to the show, it's like the party comes to you every night. And then it's over, and then you move on to the next show. It's totally grueling, completely different. I'd say they're both equally exhausting, though.
Q: You can't really express emotion on the mound because if you do, that's usually a bad idea -- whereas on stage you do whatever you want.
Radinsky: Yeah, I look at myself and think "Man, what an idiot I look like, jumping around on stage," but when I see ten kids in front of me, fists in the air ... we're not some big band, it's an intimate thing in a small club and the kids are right there in your face. When you're on stage with five of your friends bouncing around it's really like an out-of-body experience. In baseball, it's very contained, you can't wear your emotions on your sleeve. Yeah, there's excitement you show at times here and there, like a big strikeout, but for the most part it's all about keeping things professional and not showing those emotions. So it's definitely a different release, thought they're both exhilarating.
Q: You've been a pitcher, an MLB pitching coach and a minor-league coach since retiring as a player. What exactly does a bullpen coach do?
Radinsky: I've been a bullpen coach for a couple years with the Cleveland Indians, I've been a pitching coach as well. A bullpen coach in today's world is I think a little bit different than it was maybe 25 years ago, when it was an old catching guy, a buddy of the manager. It's evolved into a pitching guy ... I don't want to use the word "extension" of the pitching coach, although the pitching coach is ultimately responsible for the staff. But I think when you have a good tandem, a good two guys, it's a collaborative effort. That was my previous experience, when I was with the Indians and Tim Belcher, who basically said, "We're side-by-side here, you speak to whomever you need to," and that's why I'm excited knowing Charlie and the relationship we've had both as former teammates and with the Indians. We are on the same page, I know his personality --- he has no ego.
Scott Radinsky, lefty pitcher.
Baseball is a game of "hurry up and wait" -- you get to the ballpark, you're waiting during batting practice, you come in from BP and you're sitting around waiting for the game. Well, add another two hours onto that for the bullpen guys sitting out there on the other side of the fence. So the anxiety builds up with those guys, and the more you can create a calm atmosphere and environment helps. When that phone rings and you look and you see those eyes of panic ... when you can keep things calm there is no panic. Guys just get up and think, "Okay, I'm just going to get loose and go into another game" and not s--- themselves, you know?
Q: Mike Scioscia tends to rely upon the same handful of relievers in the same roles. That probably makes it a little easier since you know who's coming in when with the core guys.
Radinsky: Yeah, I think there's usually a couple guys in the 'pen that are for the most part established on every team. But roles change. Everybody's got a role ... today. It might change tomorrow, and not everybody likes their role. But the rest of the supporting cast, if they continue to keep that right mindset and go out there with the right approach, it's almost a carefree, fly by the seat of your pants attitude. You might end up having seven potential setup closer-type guys out there and that's the ultimate goal. Having a guy that sticks to that plan? I do think it's important. I knew for most of my career that I didn't even have to worry about getting loose until after the seventh-inning stretch. That's a comforting thing to know.
Q: The Angels have some talented young pitchers like Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs when he returns from Tommy John. For the young pitchers, being around you and Charlie should benefit them.
Radinsky: Let's hope so. It's just a matter of getting to know them, finding out what makes them tick ... I kind of look at it like a bowling alley. Our job is just to keep you out of the gutter from April to August, or even September/October. It's not rocket science. There's just so much information nowadays and it can either help or hurt, you've got to recognize who can handle what and who can't.
Q: And you get to watch Mike Trout every day, that's not too bad either.
Radinsky: Yeah, my kid is super stoked on that one. (laughs)
Q: When you were in Cleveland you worked with (Angels reliever) Joe Smith and (Astros reliever) Tony Sipp. Sipp was released two years ago, picked up by Houston and now he received a three-year, $18 million deal from them. He's a linchpin of their bullpen, which is remarkable considering where he was a few years back. Smith has had some struggles with injuries and in the eighth inning in Anaheim but he's still a reliable guy.
Scott Radinsky: Yeah. I was with Sipp since 2005 in A-ball. I watched this kid grow, we continued to establish that working relationship and stayed in contact all the way up to last week when he signed his deal and I congratulated him. He's probably the one guy I can say from the beginning, I watched him grow and develop as a pitcher and I can remember going back to a pre-spring training organizational meeting with Mark Shapiro. Tony's name came up and I was the Double-A pitching coach. My first comment was, "This kid's got balls."
Everybody looked at me and chuckled, but I was like, "No, Tony has that ingredient inside that you just can't teach." It's a survival sport; the guys who make the adjustments survive. Tony's obviously done that. In the case of Joe, I met him coming over from the Mets. He came to the Indians, and he was a different cat. Kind of threw sidearm, had some interesting stuff. Interesting story: He had a delivery that was a certain way, and he never really looked or felt comfortable. He'd complain about it. We were in Cincinnati one day and I said, "Hey Smitty, how'd you used to throw?" And he showed me, and I said, "Well what's wrong with that?"
He's like, "I don't know, they told me I couldn't do it that way." I asked him who told him that, and he said, "Someone with the Mets."
I said, "Well, dude, we're wearing an Indians uniform now!"
Sure enough, he got to the mound, went through the sidearm thing a couple of times and brought it into the game. I want to say it was something like 30 straight scoreless outings, that's kind of the delivery he has now too. Success ... struggles ... who's not going to struggle? It's a game of failure. If he throws in 65 games, I'm betting you that 55 of them are going to be pretty good.
Q: Has there been a point where one of your jobs has made it difficult for the other?
Radinsky: No, because I've known from the beginning how it all works. I started baseball the day after high school, the band was a little fun thing. It was about 10 years later when the whole music scene started getting accepted by society, but the only thing that's ever been tough is ... you come home in the winter, play a few gigs for a few months and then all these great offers come in for the summer. But we always have to say no, we're not available. It's really never been difficult, it's just been reality.
Q: Because everybody in the band has a real job, right?
Radinsky: Yeah, we all have jobs. There were times when we were trying to do whatever we could, but now we all have jobs, families and stuff and it's made it so much more enjoyable these last 10 years or so with that approach. I think a big part of what makes it still so enjoyable is because we haven't had to do it for a living. So many of our friends in bands that had to do this to survive ... it's tough, man. You're on the road making no money, then you come home and have to get a job delivering pizzas or whatever ... there's nothing in the end to be working for. So when we go to gigs, band practice, we all like each other.
Q: The band has a few gigs this winter, but does that end when spring training starts or do you still try to find time for shows during the season?
Radinsky: You know, I think if the opportunity presents itself -- there are a lot of off days during the season -- a lot of Saturday day games, and so on ... we'll make something happen. Whenever there's the opportunity. We've already been offered a few things in April, but we had to say no because we happen to be on a road trip during that time.
Q: What are your aspirations or goals for the upcoming season?
Radinsky: I'm really looking forward to the first introduction and being able to establish a working relationship with these guys and see what they can do. I have some familiarity with what they've been doing up to this point in their careers, but my expectations are ... I always look at different chunks of the team. The pitching staff is half the team, and I try to take pride in being the best part of that. I know Charlie's on the same page and that's the ultimate goal -- let's have the best pitching staff in the league. Someone's got to be the best, why couldn't it be us? The potential's there, the talent's there, if the health's there ... it's a great ballpark to pitch in, a great division to pitch in. I know that the environment is going to be comfortable and guys will be able to be themselves.
If they're healthy ... the potential's there. You combine that with some unknown guys that we don't know are on the radar yet, and ... I'm super excited, there's no reason not to be.