Some of us went over to Walter Reed Medical Center today and talked to some of the vets there. It was all similar injuries — it was mostly from IEDs and stuff like that. The stories were so similar. We were telling them how most of the time you go into a hospital and you just want to get out, but those guys were in totally different spirits. They’re so thankful at what the doctors are doing and amazed at the work the staff has done on them and all their brothers in there. It was an eye opening experience, and it was good to see how well those guys are doing. They were in such great spirits and they’re happy to be alive. The ones we saw were doing real well.
You know they’re watching you on TV, and you want to make sure you’re giving everything you can because they don’t have the opportunity to do the same thing, especially in the situation they’re in right now. All of them were so thankful we came in. You feel guilty in a way. They’re sacrificing their lives and bodies out there for all of us. It’s sad that so many people have forgotten about them. I think more people need to open their eyes, especially people in our shoes who have some fame and notoriety, and they need to get down there and donate some of their time and see those guys and talk to them.
They were so happy to see us. One of the guys who was leading us around was tearing up towards the end. He was like, “You brought Chicago to me — I miss home. We thank you so much.” We felt guilty. We didn’t do anything — we’re just playing a game. You have to realize as a player how much your play and winning ballgames means to these guys, especially the troops overseas.
Who went? It was Dempster, “Bussy,” Heilman, Theriot, Koyie and Hoffpauir. We were there a couple hours at least. We just took our time in every room and hung out with the guys. They told us some stories about experiences over there and how they got hurt and stuff like that. They were really open. It was hard. They keep reminding you how happy they are to see you there — it gives them a break. They see their families all the time and they see a lot of the same faces. They really seemed to appreciate us stopping by.
I wear a bracelet in support of the troops. My buddy was over in Iraq three years ago, and he had a year stint there. He was able to get out of there scot-free. He’s older, and he’s doing recruiting stuff in San Antonio now. Ever since he went over, I’ve worn this. Sometimes it’ll break, so I have to order a couple more off the Internet. It’s something — I want them to know they’re always in my heart. Now I have a couple more faces to put the bracelet to.
A lot of them were Cubs fans. We met a Houston fan. They didn’t care. They were happy to see us. Otis put together some shirts and hats. It was kind of an unexpected thing. I just felt like going over there. It was a good thing — we were able to get them some signed balls. There were a couple guys who were huge Cubs fans and they had pennants on the doors and their parents had Cubs hats on and we took a lot of pictures. We had a great time.
I told Theriot he better hope I have a good day at the plate or I might not show up as Alex the Lion at his son’s birthday party. I ended up hitting a home run late that game. I went over to one of those jungle gym-type places where they have birthday parties or whatever. I put on a pair of shorts that I thankfully brought, and put on the Alex the Lion costume from Madagascar. I sat there for five or 10 minutes trying to put the head on, trying to figure out how I was going to see out of this thing. I couldn’t see anything. I almost had to look out of the mouth so I could see the kids. I didn’t want to step on any kids — I didn’t want one of them crying.
I didn’t scare them. It was the whole Madagascar theme. I ended up getting in there and the kids loved it, and actually Freel split some time with me. It was one of the most miserable things I’ve ever done. We’ll leave it at this — I give a lot of credit to the people who are mascots. This was an air-conditioned room and I was like dripping with sweat. I couldn’t imagine being in the Phillie Phanatic costume in the middle of summer. I have a whole lot of respect for mascots.
Guys are sticking up for Milton. MLB was basing its argument on Milton bumping the umpire, and if that’s the case, and the bill of his helmet did happen to graze the umpire’s hat, I never saw the umpire move back or anything. I don’t think anyone thought Milton would get suspended. It’s unfortunate he did. It is only one game.
We recognize as players the era we play in, and that any time you have a good year and hit a couple home runs, people will talk about performance enhancing drugs or things of that nature. That’s something we’re prepared for. If you happen to go on a tear or hit five or six home runs in a week, people are going to assume it’s a steroid issue. I think we’ve got to be happy as an organization and happy as players who are part of the Players Association that we’ve taken steps to try to clean the game up. Most of the issues that have been talked about — besides Manny Ramirez — have happened in the past. That’s something we can be proud of as a group. We’ve done our job to clean things up, and if you use and you’re caught, you’re going to be suspended.
Theriot’s thing is hamburgers. He eats a lot of Drumsticks. Have you seen those ice cream things? I’ve seen him eat French toast. I just follow him around and try to eat whatever he eats. He’ll occasionally take his shirt off and go in the weight room but he just works beach muscles. It’s not functional stuff that would help you on the baseball field. He goes in there and does bi’s and tri’s and chest, and then checks out his spray tan in the mirror. Maybe we’ll start getting on Theriot a little more. He gives me a high five the next day when he sees something in the paper I said about him. Font gets upset. Theriot’s off to a great start, and not on the juice.
The last two days here, you really have to struggle to bang through the long days. I think you can smell the end. You treat the New York trip almost like it’s Opening Day. I think it’s a good thing we play these exhibitions. The travel will be tough for us but we’ll probably go through worse travel trips in the middle of the year. It’ll be good to play in front of a packed house for two days. It’ll be nice to see the stadium — we’ve heard so many things about it.
Now, you see everybody dress up nice. Font got his new outfit from “Gap for Kids” and Theriot’s suit is from “Men’s Wearhouse.” When you see those things, you know it’s time to go. Guys are excited and ready to get out of here. The new luggage tags are good, Otis yelling at everybody is another good sign. Like I said before, guys are excited and they want it to count. This trip will help us regain our focus. You have those Opening Day jitters and hopefully we get them out of the way and roll into Houston and start playing good baseball.
I love watching Patton pitch. He’s 24 years old and attacking the strike zone. The only problem Lou has with guys from a pitching standpoint is when they’re not throwing strikes and that’s not what Patton is all about. He’s about pounding the strike zone. I can see why any manager or any pitching coach could fall in love with a guy like that.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s with us the whole year. He’s not your typical Rule 5 guy. I think he can have a big impact on our team. You listen to his attitude and talking to him, he was so excited about spring. He was talking to me about how in Spring Training he does what he has to do physically in the weight room and out on the mound to prepare himself for the season and once the bell rings, it’s time to get after it. To hear that kind of attitude from a young kid — he has a lot of confidence in his stuff and that’s what you need to pitch up here.
He’ll be a good addition if he’s on our team. I think he’s going to have a long successful career. You can just tell. It’s not just a guy’s stuff, because there are guys with great stuff, but they don’t have the right attitude. He’s got the right combination and it’s exciting to see a player like that.