With 35 homers and 35 stolen bases in 1998, SHAWN GREEN became the first Jay and the ninth American Leaguer to register a 30/30 season. Green Provided these insights in this interview with PLAYBALL! Executive Editor JOHN IABONI.
BLUE JAYS OUTFIELDER HAD A HOT 98 SEASON
PLAYBALL!: You were born in Des Plaines, Illinois. How long
did you live there and what prompted your families move to
GREEN: When I was one, I moved to New Jersey. Then, when I was five we moved to California. (Why?) Just because of my dads work in sales with Johnson & Johnson. He got transferred.
PLAYBALL! Where did you grow up in California?
GREEN: I lived in San Jose until I was 12 and then we moved to Southern California to an area called Tustin. Its about an hour from Los Angeles, right near Anaheim where we play the Angels.
PLAYBALL: When did you take up residence in Newport Beach?
GREEN: I Guess Ive lived there about three years now. Its really nice there and I like it a lot.
PLAYBALL: How did your interest in baseball begin?
GREEN: Just when I was a little kid my dad used to throw me balls in the back yard. I always loved to hit and play. I guess like a lot of kids, I took it seriously from the get go.
PLAYBALL!: What other sports did you play in your youth?
GREEN: I played basketball and soccer. I actually played in a soccer tournament (the Robbie Tournament) in Toronto when I was like nine years old. I think we got to the quater finals. One of our key players broke his leg in the tournament, but we did pretty real. We had a real good team. There were a lot of good teams around the San Jose area.
PLAYBALL! Which Major League players and teams did you
watch as you grew up?
GREEN: I followed the local teams. When I lived in San Jose, it was the As and Giants. When I moved (to Tustin), it was the Angels. My favorite players were Rod Carew, Don Mattingly, and Ricky Henderson.
PLAYBALL! Did you aspire to be a Major League player and at
what stage did you think that goal was within reach?
GREEN: From the time I was a kid, that was always what I wanted to do. Maybe in high school it started to become more of a reality. Thats when I was getting coming around to the games.
PLAYBALL!: After your standout high school career, you
received a scholarship from Stanford. Take us through your
thought process as you went from high school All-star in 1991 to
signing with the Blue Jays.. did you elect to do that right away?
GREEN: It took a while. It took the summer. Actually, I had broken my thumb, so had I of signed I couldnt have played anyway. I think that kind of dragged the process a little bit. It was a tough decision at the time because school was important to me and I wanted to get my education. But, at the same time, I really wanted to play. I think it came down to the fact the Blue Jays were a real good organization and they had put some faith in my as a first round pick. So I wanted to give it a shot and figured I could probably finish school, slowly, but surely.
PLAYBALL!: What positions did you play throughout your
career and when did you settle into playing the outfield?
GREEN: At high school, I played mostly outfield, but also some first base. And I pitched a little bit, but not that much. Being left-handed, I couldnt really play anywhere else except first base which was fun but since I was able to run balls down, they stuck me in the outfield.
PLAYBALL!: You climbed the Jays ladder quickly from
Dunedin in 1992 to Knoxville in 1993 which included three games
with the World Series Champion Blue Jays. What do you
remember about your first taste of the Majors-and of that
incredible Blue Jay team?
GREEN: That was a lot of fun to be a part of, they were such a good team to be around and experience that. Obviously, I didnt play that much at that time, but it was still exciting to get in there for a couple of games and get some at-bats. Defiantly, it was pretty exciting time for the first few times you step on the field. I watched the playoffs (that season) from afar. By then, the Blue Jays had gone eight or nine years having good seasons. It was obvious they were the team to beat in baseball so I was real proud to be part of the organization. At the time, it seemed so far away to get to play at the Big League Level, but things happened kind of fast. There were a lot of changes, and before I knew it, I was here.
PLAYBALL!: In 1994 at Syracuse, you blossomed winning the
IL batting crown, earning All-star honours and Rookie Of The
Year. You also had some games (14) in the Majors... That was
quite a turning point in accelerating your career...
GREEN: That was my best season in the minor leagues for sure. Things started clicking. I started to hit for a little more power, which I hadnt done in my first few seasons. I started learning how to hit a little bit and think of what was due to having Bill Buckner as the hitting coach. He took me under his wing and worked with me a lot and taught me some things. And, if you get a chance to play, I guess things eventually will click and thats what happened to me that year.
PLAYBALL!: From 1995 to 1997, you were with the big club
and earned a reputation for better second halve performances than
first halves. How do you account for that?
GREEN: It takes a certain amount of at-bats. I mean, its not a specific number, but it takes time for me to get my swing going and the fact I was platooning and not playing all the time made it last longer before I clicked in. But once it clicked in, it was able to stay with me for the rest of the season.
PLAYBALL!: What kind of mental psyche do you need to put up
with the ups and downs of a baseball season?
GREEN: Having a lot of ups and downs early in my career helped me because you learn that its part of the game. and you learn to deal with it. It helps you when you get into a slump or something that you know its just temporary and youre going to come out of it. You just kind of relax a little more and that makes it easier to get things on the right track because, if you press and try too hard, it makes everything magnified. And that only makes it a lot harder to find your stroke and the right approach. The guys who are successful know from the get go that theyre going to be fine and they have the ability to play and its just a matter of straightening things out. Everyone doubts themselves here and there. But I think for the most part the guys who rise to the top know what they need to do and how they need to work to get out of the struggles and maintain the good times.
PLAYBALL!: As you reflected upon it during the off-season,
did it sink in just how special the 30 homer/30 steal season was
GREEN: That was a great feeling. Looking back on the season and the way it ended, not only for myself but for the team, we were doing really well and almost made the Playoffs. I didnt want the season to end. That kind of kept me more motivated for the off-season to get off to a good start and work hard to get ready for this season. In the first three seasons that I played up in Toronto, the seasons seemed so long that I was looking forward to relaxing a little bit and taking some time off. But after last year, it was almost like, after a few days I was ready to get started again.
PLAYBALL!: Not only did you score 106 runs last season but
you batted in 100, with that 100th coming with a homer on the
final day of the season. Those were other important achievements
GREEN: Oh Yeah. I wouldnt say I really expected to do that but it was kind of like a goal that seemed pretty far away coming from where I was the first few years. Especially the home runs and the RBIs, those were things that surprised me. Coming into this season, I think it defiantly helps my confidence knowing Ive done it before and feel I should be able to improve on that now
PLAYBALL!: What have been your career highlights so far?
GREEN: From a personal standpoint, getting the 30/30 was the biggest highlight for me. I guess going into the season, I didnt really think much about it. It was something that did not even cross my mind but people would make such a big deal out of it and really it is an honour to be associated with the other guys that are in that club because they are some great players. I think thats something Im always going to be really proud of as the years go by.
PLAYBALL!: Who has influenced your career - both in terms
of before becoming a MLer and now that your in the Majors?
GREEN: My parents (Ira and Judy), theyre both really supportive and my dads always helping me out with my swing and whatever. Theyre both really into it, which was great for me. Theres a couple of players who have really helped me the most and thats Jose Canseco and Tony Fernandez. Canseco took me under his wing last year and he told me from Spring Training that I could do 30/30 and that I had better do it. Until then, it had never really crossed my mind, so he kind of planted the seed and he kept pushing me throughout the season, especially during the down times. And then Tony. I started talking with him more towards the end of last season and this spring I worked a lot with his approach to hitting. He and I have kind of the same philosophy when it comes to the swing and all that, so I try and learn as much from him because hes kind of like the guru.
PLAYBALL!: What pleased you most about the 1998 season?
GREEN: Once the trade deadline hit and we were considered to be out of it, we just really turned it on. And a lot of it was guys picking up the slack, a lot of the younger guys. It was the kind of thing where everybody was contributing it wasnt just a couple of guys carrying the team, it was a whole team from the pitchers on. Every day, someone different was the hero. When its like that, it makes it a lot more exciting and makes for a greater bond because everyone feels a part of the winning streaks and the good times so it helps the team jell. Thats what happened to us.
PLAYBALL!: How much better is the 1999 edition of the Blue
Jays and how realistic are the lofty ambitions this club has now?
GREEN: Were a year older, a year wiser as far as the younger players go. The key is if guys can stay healthy and stay consistent like last year, then were going to be a better team for sure because weve strengthened our pitching staff with the Roger Clemens trade by getting those two left-handers. We really needed a left handed starter and we got probably the best one in the League in Boomer (David Wells) and then we got one of the top lefties out of the bullpen in Graeme Lloyd. Thats huge for us. And the sleeper of the whole trade could be Homer Bush because hes been looking good and hes got a lot of tools. He didnt have the opportunity to play in New York and that filled a spot that we needed to be filled. We traded Roger, of course, whos the best pitcher in the game. But we filled three spots with solid guys and thats hard to do.
PLAYBALL!: Theres a great deal of excitement
surrounding the ballclub this season and with your outfield
alignment. Have you sensed that as well?
GREEN: Oh yeah. The important thing was to see the young guys like Cruzie (Jose Cruz JR) and Shannon (Stewart) looking good at the plate early. Its important for them to feel good about what theyre doing at an early stage and get some good momentum going into the season. Its lots of fun (playing in the outfield with those guys). Weve got three young guys out there and I think we improved a lot defensively and at the plate where were getting better and better. We stick together and help each other out. Were all pulling for each other.
PLAYBALL: What do you like to do away from baseball?
GREEN: I really like being outside, thats why I like California because of the good weather. I enjoy the beach. Ill golf and play tennis here and there. I get into my workouts during winter time. Ill do a little reading. But I try to stay pretty busy. I enjoy movies. I enjoy skiing even though Im not allowed to do it anymore. Its something I kind of miss, but its something Ill be able to do later on in life.
PLAYBALL!: What are your thoughts about Toronto?
GREEN: I love Toronto. Ive got a lot of good friends there now and Im starting to learn the city pretty well in terms of good places to eat, which is something I like to do. Im not used to the cold weather in winter time, so if I am up there its like for a week in January. But in the summer time I love it. When were on road trips, I can wait to get back to Toronto, its home now