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From where we sit, it looks like it's good to be Eric Chavez. He's young, he's got a good job, kids on playgrounds all over Oakland are wearing his name and number on their backs.
Understandably, Chavez was smiling easy and looking confident when Eric Neel caught up to him before Saturday's game in Oakland. He looked strong, fit and fearless. But how would he hold up under the scrutiny of 10 Burning Questions. Could he fight off the inside heat and protect the outer edge of the plate?
No sweat. He peppered hits all over the yard and took a couple of balls deep. Like we said, it's good to be Eric Chavez.
1. Barry Zito came close to a no-hitter Friday night, is it true no one in the dugout talks to a guy when he's working on a no-hitter?
Eric Chavez: Yeah, we really thought he was gonna do it, so we didn't want to mess it up. You're not supposed to change anything, you're not supposed to change where you're sitting, you're not supposed to say anything to him.
Chavez: I never have, actually. Although in the minors, I did break up two of them.
Are you a superstitious guy by nature?
Chavez: Yeah, last night I was actually kind of mad at myself. I had been doing everything the same, no changes, and for some reason I put a piece of bubble gum in my mouth. I went out to third with a piece of bubble gum in my mouth, and it was the inning they got the hit. I was so mad at myself, I mean, not that it necessarily had anything to do with it, but to me it did.
Have you apologized to Barry?
Chavez: No, no I haven't even mentioned it.
2. If you could, for one at-bat, stand up there and be anybody in baseball history and feel what it felt like to be that player, who would you choose?
Have you ever had the chance to talk to him about hitting?
Chavez: Yeah, he's very forthcoming. He likes to express his knowledge of hitting, definitely.
Who is the pitcher you most hate to lose to?
Chavez: I think Pedro. That day, when we're facing him, my approach is not to strike out. That's it. It's not to get a hit, it's not to do anything else. I just don't want to add to his strikeout list, that's pretty much the only thing I have on my mind that day.
Chavez: Antonio Banderas. My friends used to make fun of me and tell me that I looked like him when I was younger.
Which member of the old-time Oakland A's do you most identify with?
Chavez: There are always a couple of images that stick out in my mind when I think of Reggie Jackson, you know. He just was so into it at the plate. Physically, he just let it go so completely. His swing is kind of violent. Sometimes when I watch images of his swing, I can see myself in it, because I swing pretty hard every time up.
Chavez: We don't care, really. The year we won the division, we played at home and split with the Yankees. The year we were the wild card we went to New York and we were up two games to nothing. I don't think there's an advantage or disadvantage, really. Once you get in the playoffs, I just think the best team is going to win, it doesn't matter where you are.
Is this team feeling pretty confident right now?
Chavez: Yeah, you know, we got our butts kicked a little bit in Anaheim, and I think our morale was low coming out of there, but yesterday was a big win. We're kind of sniffing the playoffs right now, just trying to stay healthy and focused.
You feel like you got your butts kicked in Anaheim last week? I mean, those games were so close, they could have gone either way ...
Chavez: Yeah, I did, personally, I felt like we got our butts kicked. I think they played a lot harder. I just don't think our team rose to the occasion like we've done before. It was fun to see, you know, I was just happy to be on the field with those guys, I just admire the way they play the game.
Chavez: It would be Game 3 against Mike Mussina last year ... are we talking baseball stuff?
That's your call.
Chavez: Well let me say this, if it was just anything -- I got divorced like two years ago, and I would never have gotten married in the first place. But on the baseball side, it was Game 3 against Mussina, we played here, Zito pitched, and they ended up winning 1-0. We were up two games to none and I think I was so pumped up at that time, too emotional. I was overaggressive. I was just so excited about putting the Yankees away, coming home and doing it, I just took myself out of the game. I was swinging at high fast balls, trying to do too much with the pitches.
If it was all taken away from you tomorrow, what would you miss most about the game?
Chavez: My teammates. My mom told me the other day that she can tell by watching on TV how much fun I'm having with my teammates, how much I enjoy interacting with them. And it's true. My teammates would be the toughest thing for me to lose.
What would you be doing if you weren't playing baseball?
Chavez: As a kid, I always wanted to be a firefighter, but I heard it was real hard to be one so I kind of gave that up.
Like it's easy to become a major-league third baseman?
Chavez: Well, I hear their odds are even a little bit tougher than ours.
6. You guys have great fans, and there will be another 40,000-plus here today. Tell me what makes them special.
7. If you had your choice between three super powers -- you could fly, you could be invisible, or you could have the strength of 100 men -- which would you choose?
Chavez: I'd like to fly. Flying is like a big fear of mine. If I could fly myself, and overcome that fear, I'd be killing two birds with one stone.
8. What CDs are in your player right now?
Chavez: I've got a lot of techno, dance. I've got a couple of rap discs. I like a lot of dance music, and I'll mix in a few country CDs once in a while?
Old-school country or new-school country?
Chavez: Old-school, I guess. Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn and stuff like that.
Chavez: Yeah, depending on who's pitching that day -- Huddy (Tim Hudson) is pitching today, so there'll be some country playing before game time. When Mark Mulder pitches, we'll definitely be listening to techno.
9. You're part of a class of great young third basemen, along with Troy Glaus and Eric Hinskie. Do you watch those guys? Do you enjoy being thought of as part of that group?
Chavez: I'm kind of excited about it. Last year, or the year before, I was reading an article somewhere that said there was a drought of good third basemen, but this year, there's a whole bunch of guys. It's just fun to be part of a position that's up and coming?
Chavez: No, not at all. People try to compare me and Troy a lot, but I do nothing but root for Troy. He's from San Diego, I'm from San Diego -- I've got nothing but love for Troy.
Do guys maintain a lot of friendships across team lines like that?
Chavez: Yeah, we get along great. We get along with Mariners players and Anaheim players. You know, I've still got a great friendship with Jason (Giambi) and not too many people like that, but I like quality people and those guys (Troy and Jason) are quality people.
Chavez: Honestly? I've got a couple of aunts who love Art to death. They think he is the hottest guy they've ever seen.
Have you introduced them to him?
Chavez: No! No! Too embarrassing. Never. But I guess, you know, people might be surprised to know he's a heart-throb or whatever.