On November 8th, Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley came to Bryant to give a speech. Before he did so, I had the honor of interviewing him. This was made possible by both The Archway and Eckersley and his staff. I want to thank them all for giving me the opportunity to do so and it was a pleasure to speak with the Hall of Fame pitcher.
Matthew Carvalho: The first question I want to ask you is what is it that compelled you to go from playing baseball to deciding to analyze and commentating for the game and how difficult was that change?
Dennis Eckersley: Well that’s kind of what a lot of guys do. I mean, I don’t know if they do it well, but it’s sort of if you’re lucky enough to get a chance to do it. Nowadays, nobody leaves that job if you think about analysts and play-by-play guys. So, to even get an opportunity to do it is one thing, and to be with the Red Sox is another too. But it was something that I wanted to do, and I’ve had this passion for the game and to be able to watch it and explain it and be involved with it, it keeps you in the action sort of.
Carvalho: Now you mentioned doing it with the Red Sox. Does it feel any different doing it with them because you used to play for them? Is there a different vibe going into that?
Eckersley: Yea, that’s why I came back to Boston to begin with and I’m from California. I ended up playing for the A’s for almost ten years, so I could’ve gone that way, but there’s something about Boston. There’s a reason why I’m here. I came back here and then got this opportunity, and not only that, but being with a team that wins all the time is not such a bad thing.
Carvalho: As a Hall of Fame and Cy Young winning pitcher, what did it take for you to make it and stay in the majors?
Eckersley: Perseverance, because it’s not always going to be- I mean there’s a lot of failure involved. It’s not going to be, you know, having good years every year. There’s a lot of physical things, you hope that you don’t get hurt to have a full career. So, I was lucky to be blessed with a good arm and played for good teams. I didn’t have the greatest stuff, but I overcame that with, you know, adapted very well. You’ve got to make adjustments because you’re not going to always throw hard. You have to go through so many periods. To have a long career, like I said, one, you have to be lucky that you’re healthy, you have to play for good teams, and you have to persevere because, it’s just, failure is a lot to overcome sometimes. It’s hard to reflect on what happened now when it was so long ago. I always feel grateful that I was lucky to have the career I did.
Carvalho: It must have taken a lot of perseverance to make it to the hall.
Eckersley: Yea, but you have no control over that. I never thought I was going to be a Hall of Fame pitcher, but it just so happened. Everything sort of just, looking back, you know, because I went from starting to relieving. I never would’ve wanted to do that. You want to start your whole life. I never thought that the relieving would be- I would get the accolades from doing a job like that because the relief pitcher evolved and became so important and I was kind of on the ground floor of that. So, I had sort of a blessed career.
Carvalho: Definitely changed the game.
Eckersley: Yea, and the game is still changing as we speak, especially bullpen wise.
Carvalho: Going off of what you just said with changes to the game, a lot of people have been getting sick of long games. A lot of people were even talking about that eighteen-inning game with the Red Sox. What are your thoughts on people getting sick of this and do you think there should be more rule changes to the game?
Eckersley: They’re trying to implement a lot of things slowly to make the game quicker. They haven’t done everything they’ve talked about yet, you know, the pitch clock and all of that. They do it in the minor leagues, but they haven’t done it up there. Whatever way they can try to take a minute here or a minute there, it’s all good. They need to do whatever it takes and I’m all for it. You got to get the batter in the batter’s box, right? Let’s go! They’ve tried to do that before. So, I mean, I’m all for it because I don’t blame fans, the game is slow to begin with and it just takes too long.
Carvalho: Do you think speeding it up like this takes anything out of the game? The whole like four-hour Red Sox – Yankees games or things like that?
Eckersley: I don’t know what it is about the approach to the plate is different when you’re playing a team that’s your rival, you know what I mean. There’s some big games that take longer than other ones. So, any time they could make the game quicker, they go to do it because people are getting annoyed with it.
Carvalho: So, we’ll end this with one more question. With the Red Sox winning the World Series, as a pitcher yourself, what did you see from the bullpen, from all the pitchers on that team? What was special about them to win the World Series this year?
Eckersley: Well I think a lot of people stepped up. Maybe they used it as a chip on their shoulder because everybody thought, “How’s this bullpen going to do it,” and they pitched, they threw strikes. I mean, that’s what happens when you win, people step up, and they did. They should be proud of them.