Friday, May 24, 2013
A's starter A.J. Griffin talks pregame guitar
By Andrew Pentis ESPN The Magazine
Athletics righty A.J. Griffin relaxes pregame with some strummin' and singin'.
In the hours before starts, most major league pitchers are silent and stone-faced. They forgo interviews and avoid teammates.
A.J. Griffin is not most major league pitchers. Before four of his first nine starts this year (4-3, 3.59 ERA), the Oakland Athletics' No. 3 starter strummed and serenaded teammates minutes before taking the mound.
"You don't really see that with starting pitchers very often, but I'm kind of a weird, quirky guy," the 25-year-old right-hander says. "I just like to have fun and enjoy life and not take anything too seriously. We’re playing a game, so we might as well have a good time and enjoy it."
His guitar "routine is not a set routine" and therefore supersedes superstition. He can do one well without the other, he says. “I just play it by ear.” Proof: He won 11 of his first 15 MLB decisions while compiling a 3.28 ERA in 24 outings.
How did this all get started?
In the minors, I was without my guitar a lot because I moved from team to team so much. So before games, I would just put on some crazy dance music and jump around and get pumped up and try to have some fun, try to make a couple guys laugh before we go out and play a game. It has kind of evolved since then.
How did you adapt your routine to the bigs?
I toned it down up here, especially since I was the new guy and you have to respect the older guys and their routines. I don't want to get in the way by dancing around being an idiot when another guy has a quiet routine. I play just to have a good time, and it's a good way to get my mind right before the game.
What kind of guitar do you play?
I actually have six. I have a couple acoustic Ibanez guitars, a mini Martin for traveling and a Taylor acoustic. I also have a couple electrics, but I mostly play acoustics so I don’t need to be carrying an amplifier all over the place.
What type of music do you play?
I have always liked playing Led Zeppelin. And I play Spanish stuff from Maná, a band from Guadalajara. I have a pretty good grasp on Spanish from growing up in El Cajon, Calif. But I also just like playing around, making stuff up on the fly.
How do your Latin teammates grade your singing in their native tongue?
I usually do more talking to them in Spanish than singing in it, but they enjoy it. I probably know Yoenis Cespedes and Bartolo Colon [who conduct media interviews with interpreters] better than some of my other teammates just because I don't have the language barrier.
Do teammates ever join in?
We always have music in the clubhouse. John Jason plays pretty well. So does Evan Scribner. It's just a laid-back thing.
When do you find the time to fine-tune your "performances"?
When everybody is doing batting practice, for me there’s nothing better to do than just hang out and not think about anything before I pitch. I like to chill out, relax and mess around with the guitar.
Is Oakland's clubhouse the perfect atmosphere for this?
We just like to have a good time. We play baseball; we don't work baseball. We're all pulling the same side of the rope to accomplish the same task, but we can't take it too seriously. We play well as a team when we're all loose and enjoying ourselves.
How do you transition into game mode once you get on the mound?
I don't really flip a switch. I just know what I'm supposed to do, and I have a game plan. But even between innings, when there's music playing on the stadium speakers, I'll be singing along.