Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is keeping a diary this season for ESPNBoston.com. In the June edition, he talks about the types of conversations catchers have with umpires, batters and pitchers; explains why he doesn't try to hit home runs at Fenway; discusses what he enjoys most about Father's Day; and reveals the reason he has a WWE championship belt. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
As a catcher you may wonder how much of a conversation I have with people when I am behind the plate. With the umpires, I really don't talk to them a whole lot. I mean, you have enough where you have a relationship with them, but not enough where you think you're friends with them. They have a job to do and we have a job to do as catchers. You try to get them on your side. But at the end of the day, they have a job to do and you try to keep it as professional as you can. More than anything with umpires, I just remember the ejections. I got kicked out of the game when I was catching Wednesday night in Cleveland for asking the umpire for a new ball. He didn't like my sense of humor. Those are the moments with umpires you remember.
You also remember some of the really good umpires and some of the older guys who were fun, like John Hirschbeck and those guys who were back there having a good time. Some of the older guys who aren't around anymore would say things like, I remember one time being told, "Do you see my hands? They're on my knees. If the ball is between my hands, it's a strike." Stuff like that which you could never get away with now.
With the batters, I hardly talk to them at all. I say hello to them but that's about it. There isn't a lot of time to talk because they're usually in the box getting ready to hit. People think that there are these long, drawn-out conversations. If it's somebody you know, you might have a little more words with them. But if you don't know them, it's really, "Hey, how's it going? Good luck," and that's it. It's like when you get a hit and are at first base. If you know the first baseman, you'll talk to him. But most guys aren't very talkative because they have a job to do. It's kind of hard to have a full-blown conversation unless it's somebody you know or played with before. Even then it's really just, "How are you doing? And I hope you're doing well."
On the mound with the pitcher, conversations do take place. You talk about anything and everything there. It just depends on who the pitcher is. Sometimes you're out there and you're not even talking about baseball. You're talking about dinner or where you ate the night before, things like that. Sometimes you go out there and try to change their mind about what they want to throw and it's all business. Each pitcher is different. You kind of have to figure that out through the course of time.
On the Red Sox, most of the pitchers are pretty serious. If you go out to the mound with [John] Lackey pitching, usually you don't say anything because he's going to yell at you whatever you say. [Jake] Peavy is very intense and into it. [Burke] Badenhop is really crazy. People don't realize because he seems like this really calm guy. But when he comes into a game, he starts screaming and yelling on the mound. [Craig] Breslow you can talk about molecular physics and stuff like that. He likes that better sometimes. It just really depends on who is out there.
When I'm catching, I like the pitchers to pitch quickly. Why? To get the game over with, plus it gets the pitcher in a rhythm. The faster a guy works, the better a rhythm he finds, usually. Also it puts the hitter on the defensive because most of the time, the hitter likes to set the pace. When the pitcher sets the pace, it gives the pitcher a little bit of an advantage.
My final thought on being a catcher today is I am happy to report we no longer have to paint our nails with white-out to help the pitcher see what we are putting down. We now use stickers. You can just put them on your fingertips before a game and take them off right after. They have white, orange, yellow and pink for Mother's Day that you can use. The white-out was a pain, especially getting it off.
As for some thoughts on the team, I'd say lately our play has been up and down. I think we're getting closer to where we should be. We've played better but it's been inconsistent. We haven't had a consistent lineup because guys have been banged up and hurt. Losing a couple of starting pitchers doesn't help. Our bullpen has been pretty good, but I think we're doing OK. We're not out of it, which is good. For as bad as everyone seems to be saying that we're playing, we are hanging in there and have a chance. With more than 90 games left, there is still a long way to go. Our best baseball is ahead of us and not behind us, that's for sure.
Friday against Cleveland here at Fenway was the most runs we've scored all season in a game. I wish I had the answer as to why we haven't been hitting. If you look across baseball, hitting is down across the board. Pitching has kind of become "the thing." Every guy throws 95 miles an hour and every team has a lefty specialist, a righty specialist and their starters have all figured out more than one or two pitches.
In general, hitting has become harder than it was earlier in my career. David [Ortiz] and I were joking how when we first came up with the Twins there was maybe one guy on a team that threw 95 and you were like, "Wow, this guy throws really hard." Now every guy throws 95 miles an hour. The game has changed. The good or better players in the younger ages are now becoming pitchers because that's where the money is going. The focus of baseball has become pitching.
But as a hitter, I will say hitting at Fenway on a regular basis has been good for me. It's hard to hit home runs here, though. I don't even bother trying here. I did hit my first home run ever at Fenway this season. It would be nice to hit more than one all season, though. When you come here it's kind of weird because you just try to get hits. It's so far out there to right field. When I've hit home runs to left field in the past they're low line drives. I don't hit them high. It will be hard for me to hit a home run to left at Fenway. So I just try to get hits and not worry about home runs here.
Something that happened since my last diary is we had a pretty intense series with the Rays. What I enjoyed about it was it didn't have anything to do with me. People can write what they want but I had nothing to do with it except being on the field. It's fun to have rivalries. But I don't know how much of a rivalry it is for me because it's my first year here. It's not like when you've been on a team for multiple years and you play the same team over and over again. It becomes a little bit different. I had no idea going into the series the history between the two teams. But for the guys who have been here, someone showed a video of all the fights the Rays and the Red Sox have been in and it's a lot. Apparently, there's some sort of rivalry on one side.
Something else that happened was very scary and unfortunate is when our hitting coach Greg Colbrunn experienced a brain hemorrhage last week. I do hear he is doing pretty good, though. All the reports have been very positive. He answers the phone when you call and stuff like that. I think he's getting ready to be moved back to his house in South Carolina, which is a good sign. It's scary because this is the second time I've had a coach experience the same thing. Back in Minnesota, our third-base coach, Al Newman, had the same symptoms and everything. It was scary to see. It's a fortunate situation both times because they caught it, but unfortunate because you just never know when something like that could happen.
Changing gears to Father's Day on Sunday, I am a father of two. I have a son and a daughter. Every Father's Day is fun when you have kids. It means a lot to them. They do everything they can to make you happy on that day. I know they made presents for me. I'm excited to see what they made. They're excited and want to show me and tell me but my wife is telling them they have to wait for Sunday. My son got up Saturday morning and wished me happy Father's Day. I had to tell him, "It's tomorrow, buddy." They're excited and that's the best part.
As you may know by now, I've been ending these diaries with something you may not know about me. For this one it will be my love of WWE. I grew up a wrestling fan. Like everyone who grew up in the '80s my favorite wrestler was Hulk Hogan, obviously. Over the years, I became friends with a lot of those guys like John Cena, CM Punk, and Edge when he was still wrestling. Then I became involved with some wrestling and doing some things in the ring, which was awesome.
I have two belts. I have the TNA Exhibition belt which I won and then the WWE presented me with the ECW [Extreme Championship Wrestling] championship belt for being an ambassador for them. It's pretty cool to have those displayed at my house. I've told people I've played in the World Series. I've played in All-Star Games. I've done everything in baseball that you could do. But the most nervous I've ever been was getting into the wrestling ring because it's those people's livelihood. You don't want to mess it up or hurt somebody. But I did get to beat up David Eckstein in that exhibition match, which was kind of fun. I won.