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Newark Bears News Speaks with Juneís Fan Club Player of the Month, Mike Piercy!

"Itís been a priceless opportunity being here and I wouldnít give it back for the world."

Newark Bears News spoke with Mike Piercy, the Newark Bears Fan Club Player of the Month for June 2003.

 

Newark Bears News:  

Congratulations on winning the player of the month trophy!

Mike Piercy:

Thank you.  I appreciate it, I really do!

 

NBN:

What drew you to baseball?  When did you start playing?

MP:

My dad. [When I was] about 3 or 4 years old, my dad was a baseball player in the area.  On Sundays you could do your chores -- wash dishes, vacuum the floors -- or go to the ballpark and watch my dad.  It was easy [to decide which I'd do]!  The veterans, they would always teach me things, and play ball with me.  I looked forward all week to the grape sodas and hot dogs [at the stadium]!  My uncle would buy me as many hot dogs as I wanted, as long as I sat down and kept quiet!

My brother always was able to keep the scorebook.  I tried to work my way up to being able to do the scorebook, but they just wanted me to sit down and relax!

 

NBN:

When did you start playing in organized leagues?

MP:

When I was about 7, I started playing t-ball, then I came up through little league, senior league, Babe Ruth; I didnít play in high school, went back to it in college and got drafted [by the Pittsburgh Pirates] in my junior year in college.

 

NBN:

Where did you go to college?

MP:

I went to Bloomfield College and transferred to Kean University.

 

NBN:

Were you an outfielder in college also?

MP:

Yep, centerfielder, pretty much the same thing.  I came up through little league playing first base and shortstop.  I played right-handed in little league!  I was always left-handed, but people tried to switch me to right-handed because you could play more positions if you were right-handed.

 

NBN:

Youíve now played with three teams in the Atlantic League [Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, and Newark], which is independent.  How does it compare with the affiliated leagues youíve played in?

MP:

To tell you the truth Iíve learned a lot more in this league because Iíve had the chance to be around the veterans that have played the game.  Iíve learned so much from Lance Johnson, Iíve learned so much from Rickey.  Being here, Iíve been able to be around the best players, the guys I grew up watching.  Iíve pretty much patterned my game on those guys.  Learning from those guys is [an incredible] opportunity.  They taught me so much about just going about your everyday business and having fun playing the game.  Itís been a priceless opportunity being here and I wouldnít give it back for the world.  Everybody wants to be on an affiliated team, but this is such a [valuable] time to learn.

[On affiliated minor league teams, guys like Henderson or Lima] wouldnít be so accessible to learn from.  In this environment, the atmosphere is a little more loose.  In an [affiliated] organization it's a lot more pressure filled, so a lot of the guys you need to learn from arenít as accessible.  Theyíre separated from you most of the time.

NBN:

Is this league comparable to a particular level in the affiliated leagues?

MP:

Without a doubt, this is the best league Iíve played in.  From a lot of the guys that have been to the big leagues and been all the way to the highest levels you can play the game, a lot of them say that this league is better than AAA.  The league is well-respected amongst the scouts, and theyíve built up a nice reputation for themselves in this league.  I feel that if you can play well in this league, you can play well anywhere.

NBN:

What are your fondest memories of your baseball career so far? 

MP:

Thatís a hard one, thatís really tough.  I think it was in Bridgeport, when we made the playoffs in 2000.  We had a tough series with Long Island, and I ended up scoring a couple of crucial runs.  That whole year was a lot of fun for me.  It was the first year I was around veterans, guys who knew how to play the game.

After we showed Mike the scorecard and play-by-play from the first game of this season on www.NewarkBearsFan.com, Mike said he'd like to change his answer, and told us his fondest memory would have to be when Rickey Henderson -- his childhood baseball idol -- told him in the bottom of the 8th that heíd be pinch hitting for Rickey.  Mike got credited with his first RBI as a Bear, as he singled in that at-bat and drove in Al Benjamin from second base.

NBN:

Who is your favorite MLB player, or manager, current or past, and why?

MP:

Favorite major league player?  Iím playing with him [Rickey Henderson] right now!  [Bill] Madlock took the words right out of my mouth when he said itís just amazing to watch his concentration on every aspect of the game.  Sometimes heís taken for granted by people.  Heís given so much to the game that people are spoiled by it.

NBN:

How do you prepare for games?  Do you have any rituals before or after the game, mental exercises?

MP:

I take so much flak from everyone!  I just listen to music, Iím singing before the game, everybodyís trying to talk to me, but I have the headphones on!  [I listen to] a lot of hip-hop music.

NBN:

The same ritual as Jose Lima...

MP:

Yeah, but everybody's gotta listen to his music!  He doesnít have headphones, heís got it on the clubhouse stereo.  Danny Clyburn does the same thing [as me], heís got his headphones on, heís in the corner, got his bat...

NBN:

How do you keep the intensity up if youíre not playing every day?

MP:

In the past Iíve changed my approach, but Iíve got to give a lot of credit to Madlock.  When he first signed me it was supposed to be as a defensive replacement.  I really wasnít supposed to play much, but heís done such a great job of getting me in there almost every game, keeping me sharp and in the flow of the game.  You get comfortable going in in those situations, and so your approach doesnít change much.  Some people have trouble [coming in off the bench], but this year Iíve had some success because of Madlock.  Rickeyís also been on top of me on those late in the game at-bats, and those at-bats when you feel like it doesnít mean so much, [standing] at the top of the dugout yelling, ďbear down, bear down, donít give up the at-bat!Ē

NBN:

When you come in late in the game to pinch hit or pinch run, how are you able to stay warm?

MP:

I have stretching exercises I do to keep warm [when Iím in the dugout].  I donít do them all the time -- you gotta know the situation [in the game], and adapt to those situations.  And you know your manager and the kind of decisions he makes, how his mind works.  Most of the time Iíll know, before he even comes to me and says it, what Iím going to be doing, so I get warm and get loose for that.

NBN:

Would you rather be an individual record holder, or be on a championship team?

MP:

Iíd rather be on a championship team, because those memories will last forever.  I had the pleasure of winning two championships.   I won the championship last year, and I won the championship the year before with the Brooklyn Cyclones.  Those players Iíll always remember, Iíll always remember those moments.  Those were just great teams to be on. 

NBN:

And that would be more special to you than a stolen base record, or a batting title ...?

MP:

Yeah, I think if you went down there and asked Rickey, I think [heíd tell you that] he cherishes the championship more than he cherishes anything.  Theyíre so hard to get, theyíre not easy to get at all... and you never forget the people you won them with.  Sometimes, when youíve got an individual record, itís easy for people to forget about it unless someoneís getting ready to break it!

NBN:

What do you do in the off season? 

MP:

I havenít been fortunate enough to play ball in the off-season.  This off-season I worked security.  In the past Iíve done a little bit of everything -- personal training, substitute teachingÖ  Hopefully this year Iíll get a chance to play winter ball.  Other than that, I just work out, try to get ready for the next season.  [You hope] somebodyíll see you, and give you a chance to go to spring training and win a job with one of the affiliated clubs.  Until then Iím happy doing what Iím doing. 

NBN:

What would you be if you werenít a ball player?

MP:

If I werenít a ball player, I would probably be an entertainer or an actor or something like that.

NBN:

In your experience, what creates teamwork and comraderie amongst members of a baseball team?

MP:

Good relationships with your teammates.  I donít think you all have to love each other, but you have to have fun being around each other.  If you have a lot of fun in the clubhouse, like we had at the beginning of the year, good things can happen.  When youíre not having so much fun, it turns into a job, and when it feels like a job, youíre not going to get a lot done on the field.

NBN:

Is that partly a function of the turnover?

MP:

The turnover has a great deal to do with it.  But [the key is] to stay fresh.  When you have too many new guys, nobody knows anybody, and it becomes a job where you just want to get to your work and get home.  When you have fun being here, you donít have to go off and try to win, and when you lose a lot youíre not having a lot of fun. 

Weíve had some turnover of players, weíve had some guys that were here for a while leave, but those were decisions that as a team we felt needed to be made -- anything we needed to do to win.  But I think itís just been a rough year for us.  I donít think it was so much the chemistry that caused us to lose the first half.  I think sometimes when we needed to make plays we just didnít make them.  We lost some key games here and there, we lost a lot of games with Camden.  We were right there with them and we had a chance to make it neck and neck and we failed to do so.  That can take a toll on you, being six games out.

We had some guys that were key to our team go on to better things, and... they were a very important part of the great chemistry we had.  More than anything else, Iíll attribute it to that.  An organization came to get Jack Santora, who was very important for us, a fun guy to watch play, and a fun guy to play with.  I had a lot of fun playing with him.  Weíd always talk to each other during the game, after the game, going over situations.  Not to mention we had balls of fun in spring training!  And Lima, nobody has more fun than Jose Lima -- nobody! --  and we all fed off that.  Those were two very key components of our team.  We were very sad to see them go, but we were very happy to see them go on to a situation  where they could do very well.

NBN:

Youíve been in the press a lot lately, and a lot is being made of your friendship with Rickey Henderson.  Do you feel all that press has been beneficial to your career prospects?  Is it just a distraction?

MP:

No, itís not a distraction because... I would rather it be chaos and disarray.  I like to think that Rickey sees a little bit of himself in me.  All the attention -- itís been great for me.  But I donít know whether those guys up there pay attention to this stuff.  But, Iím having a ball doing what Iím doing now.  Even my worst days this season there hasnít truly been a day when I havenít had a whole lot of fun, and Rickeyís been a big part of that.  Thatís a blessing -- the fact that I got to play with my childhood idol, I got to learn from him.

A lot of people never, ever get to meet their childhood idol.  Iíve got a chance to be around him [all the time].  Heís a hundred times better than [anyone could have expected].  Whether itís helped me or not?  I havenít really sat down and thought about it.  Itís been real fun, I havenít been distracted by it one bit.  This is a guy I grew up pretending I was when I played whiffle ball in front of my house!  And [now] I get to be in centerfield and look over to [left field]Ö

After about this first month, itís worn off, [so] when everybody says, ďWow, Rickey Henderson,Ē I donít look at it that way.  The guy is probably my best friend.  Weíll talk for hours about anything, [not only baseball].

NBN:

Do you ever give him any pointers?

MP:

No!  I donít think he needs my pointers!  Heís been playing the game so long, that I really never [feel that I can know better than he does].  Itís unfortunate heís not in the big leagues, but if he was, then I wouldnít have had the chance to be around him.

NBN:

You obviously notice that the stands are almost empty every night.  As a local guy, do you have any ideas for how to fill them up more?

MP:

I think it starts with the awareness of the community.  People donít know what this whole stadium thing and the Newark Bears team is about.  Some people think itís semi-pro baseball and itís not.  Iíve lived here my whole life, and I havenít seen one commercial for the Bears.  Itís just awareness -- if people knew there was a team here youíd be able to fill it up.

Throughout the course of the interview, Mike often spoke about his experience playing with the Bears, including these remarks:

"Iíve loved being here.  The fans have been great for me.  It was great for me to get an award yesterday because that shows that people really, truly appreciate what youíre doing out there, and thatís all anybody really wants, for somebody to appreciate what theyíre doing.  Iíve been having a ball here.

"Itís been so hard for me to get here.  I tried to get on the Newark team so many times, and I wasnít able to do so. 

"Iím at my best when chaos is going on.  Anybody who knows me, all my teammates will tell you, I always got some chaos going on.  I think thatís one of my similarities with Rickey.  Rickeyís at his best when thereís ultimate chaos and disarray, and the game is on the line.  Heís the best when it comes down to that situation.  Iím kind of the same way.  Iím not as concentrated as him yet, but then again I donít have his experience and knowledge."

    

 

Newark Bears News thanks The Newark Bears Professional Baseball Club, Inc. for facilitating access to Mr. Piercy for this interview.

Reprints of this interview are available from Newark Bears News Click here to request one.

 

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