President Obama Talks Baseball with Bob Costas

Uploaded by whitehouse on 15.07.2009

Mr. Costas: Mr. President, we know of your basketball background.
What kind of baseball guy are you?
The President: Well, you know, I am a big baseball fan.
I didn't play organized baseball.
And I grew up in Hawaii.
My earliest memories of baseball were actually the Hawaii
Islanders, which was a minor league team.
Mr. Costas: Pacific Coast League.
The President: Pacific Coast League.
And an old rambling ballpark that was about maybe six blocks
from my grandparents' apartment.
And we would go in there and, you know,
get boiled peanuts and watch the night game.
And me and my friends -- this is when we were nine,
ten years old, eleven years old.
We'd run out and try to grab the rosin bag at the end of the
game, cause havoc onto the field.
So those are my earliest memories of baseball.
But I never -- partly because when I was really young,
I was living overseas.
You know, I never got involved in little league and didn't have
the chance to become part of an organized baseball team.
Mr. Costas: You remember the first major league game you ever attended?
The President: When I was 11 years old going to a Royals game because my
grandmother's brother lived in Kansas City.
And I still remember going to that game.
Had a great time.
Mr. Costas: I'm trying to do the math.
Eleven years old.
That would have been in the 1970's.
Early 70's?
The President: This would have been '72, '73.
I have to confess.
I do not remember who was playing for the Royals back then.
Mr. Costas: So it was just before they got good.
It's just before George Brett and Whitey Herzog and Hal McRae.
The President: Brett wasn't playing yet.
I don't even think I have any idea who was in that line up.
Mr. Costas: They were only a few years into expansion.
The President: But I remember having a great time at the game.
Mr. Costas: So you're wearing your White Sox windbreaker.
Your team's three and a half back in the American League Central.
The President: They've come back.
I mean, at the beginning of the season,
we were all feeling a little fearful.
At this point, I think they've got a real chance.
Mr. Costas: Optimistic about the second half.
The President: Always optimistic.
Mr. Costas: You're a man known for his even demeanor.
What's up with your man Ozzie Guillen?
The President: You know, Ozzie, it works for him.
What can I tell you?
We were trying to figure out who curses more,
Ozzie Guillen or Rahm Emanuel.
And from what I understand, I think Ozzie takes the prize.
Mr. Costas: And from what I'm told, in order to out-do Rahm Emanuel in the
profanity department, you got to go some.
The President: You got to go.
But it works for him.
I heard he just insulted Wrigley Field.
Mr. Costas: Right.
The President: You know, he says what's on his mind.
That's a good thing.
Mr. Costas: And you wear that Sox windbreaker and make no bones
about it.
You're a south sider, you're a White Sox guy, not a Cubs guy.
The President: Listen, I'm not a Cubs hater.
You know, there's a certain type of White Sox fan that actively
roots against the Cubs.
So when the Bartman --
Mr. Costas: Right.
The President: There were people who celebrated on the South Side.
I'm not one of those guys.
I wish them well, unless they're playing the White Sox.
But I do think that there's a different quality to what used
to be Comiskey Field versus Wrigley.
You've got to really love baseball, you know,
when you used to go into that old field.
Mr. Costas: The old Comiskey Park.
The President: Right.
If you were in the nose-bleed seats,
it looked like you were about to fall into the park.
You'd get vertigo.
You know, Wrigley's so civilized.
You know, there's white wine interspersed with the beer.
Mr. Costas: It's a little gentrified.
The President: Little gentrified, exactly.
Mr. Costas: Were you around 30 years ago this month for
Disco Demolition Night?
The President: I was not.
Mr. Costas: You were not?
The President: I was not in Chicago.
Mr. Costas: Can you prove you were not in the ballpark that night?
Can you prove you didn't rush the field?
The President: Is this Hannity?
Have you been associating with --
The President: I've read about it, though.
It looks wild.
Mr. Costas: It's crazy.
Center field was on fire.
The President: That's what I hear.
Mr. Costas: It's like you're saying, things could get a little crazy in the
old Comiskey Park.
The President: And, you know, the neighborhood was a little tougher.
Mr. Costas: I heard you flew in with Willie Mays,
gave him a ride on Air Force One.
The President: Unbelievable.
You know, and he's such a gracious, wonderful man.
And, you know, he was saying how on election night he had watched
and he remembers staying up all night after that,
he was so excited about it.
And I tried to describe to him the fact that what he did,
what Jackie did, that contributed to the culture that
allowed me eventually to even dream of running for president.
And I believe that.
I mean, I think that there is a direct line between those early
pioneers in baseball who, despite great difficulties --
you know, the Hank Aarons, the Willie Mays,
the Jackie Robinsons, set a tone about what was possible for America.
And being able to be part of a team, regardless of color,
that really did eventually pave the way for other breakthroughs
down the road.
Mr. Costas: Was Willie touched by that?
The President: You know, he's just a very gracious man.
And I was touched, I don't know if he was.
Mr. Costas: Your predecessor was a very good first-pitch thrower.
The President: He was.
Very impressive.
Mr. Costas: In fact, one of the best moments of the Bush presidency,
at least symbolically, was that dramatic first pitch after 9-11
at Yankee Stadium.
The President: Unbelievable.
You know, first of all, President Bush is a very
gracious person.
He's a good athlete.
You know, very fit.
And, you know, I'm assuming that over at the Rangers he was
getting some practice.
Mr. Costas: Yeah.
Studied Nolan Ryan.
The President: Absolutely.
But he had a pretty good gun on there.
You know, he threw a good pitch.
I have to confess, I've only thrown out one first pitch in a
major league game.
And that was at the American League Championship game.
The White Sox appeared.
It was the second game.
And I went out there and -- I will take full credit for the
fact that they had lost the first game.
From the second game forward, they did not lose a game straight.
On the other hand, the pitch, although it crossed the plate,
I think probably clocked about 30 miles per hour.
Mr. Costas: Yeah, but that was the change-up.
You had 'em off stride.
The President: Certainly I would have them off stride on the first pitch.
If I threw that same second pitch, I think it would be gone.
Mr. Costas: Now, that night in '01, President Bush warmed up beneath
Yankee Stadium with Derek Jeter.
You're going to warm up tonight with Albert Pujols.
The President: Not a bad bargain.
Although I went into the clubhouse and talked to the
American League and National League Guys.
I was talking to Beckett.
Mr. Costas: Right.
The President: I asked, what's the tip?
"Everybody gives the same tip: just throw it high, man."
Mr. Costas: Right, you don't want to bounce it.
The President: Just don't bounce it.
Mr. Costas: You don't want to bounce it.
The President: So that was my strategy.
I'm treated a little better as a President,
because I was only a U.S. Senator at the time that I threw
out that first pitch.
And there was no warm up, man.
They just handed you --
Mr. Costas: Went in cold?
The President: They just hand you the ball and they say, go out there.
So there was a lot of loft on that ball.
Threw it up real high.
Mr. Costas: What was the most interesting exchange you had a little while
ago with any of the all-stars?
The President: Well, you know, I remarked to Jeter that he's one of the older
guys here, which is hard to believe,
because I remember him as the rookie coming in.
And of course he pointed to Wakefield --
Mr. Costas: Right, Tim Wakefield.
The President: -- who I could relate to a little bit more.
Closer to my age.
Mr. Costas: Don't try the knuckle ball.
Don't try to be a left-handed Wakefield.
The President: Not at all.
And I had a wonderful time talking to Mariano because he
had all his sons with him.
And I asked -- I guess Mariano Junior --
I said, well, has your dad taught you that cut fast ball?
And he said "Yeah, I'm getting it, I'm getting it."
So you know, we may have to keep an eye on that kid.
And then I talked to Ichero.
And I said, now, how exactly do you throw that ball from in the
outfield to home plate like a laser?
Mr. Costas: Right.
The President: And he said, "Soft muscle."
Mr. Costas: Soft muscle.
The President: Soft muscle.
He said, "You don't need to be big."
It was a very zen-like answer.
Mr. Costas: He's a very zen-like guy.
The President: He's an impressive guy.
Mr. Costas: In this morning's New York Times,
they asked some of the ball players what they would like to ask you.
So I'll be their surrogate here.
The President: All right.
Go ahead.
Mr. Costas: Okay.
Mark Teixeira, now with the Yankees, wants to know,
"Who were your favorite players when you were a kid?"
The President: You know, I think that when I first started focusing on Major
League Baseball, it was when the great Oakland A's teams were
coming up back in the 70's.
So, you know, Vida Blue and Rollie Fingers and Reggie Jackson.
And I just loved the mix of those guys.
Later on I ended up liking the Cincinnati Reds partly because
-- you remember that old Superstar show?
Mr. Costas: Mm-hmm.
The President: They would come to Hawaii after the season.
Mr. Costas: On ABC.
The President: Right, on ABC.
And they'd do the obstacle course and stuff.
Mr. Costas: Howard Cosell'd be by the pool in the yellow blazer.
The President: Right.
Mr. Costas: What was up with that?
The President: So those guys did it at my high school.
That was where the event was taking place.
So by that time, I was in high school,
and I was on the basketball team.
And so our basketball team would play against the Reds and
sometimes against the Dallas Cowboys.
But I still remember playing basketball against Johnny Bench
and those guys, which, you know, obviously,
you got to know them and they were real great guys.
Although I will tell you, they kind of pushed us high school
kids around.
They weren't really taking it easy.
You could see that these were some competitive guys, man.
A couple of us got some bruises and chipped teeth playing in those games.
Mr. Costas: So Mark Teixeira's got his answer.
Mr. Costas: Zach Duke of the Pirates wants to know,
"Has your bowling average improved?"
The President: It has, as a matter of fact.
I bowled a 161 recently.
Mr. Costas: Well, that's good.
The President: That's not bad.
Yeah, Camp David's got a bowling alley and the White House has a
bowling alley.
I don't want people thinking, you know, I'm taking off,
you know, from thinking about nuclear weapons to go bowl.
But every once in a while --
Mr. Costas: Well, if you take some time off, you're probably working on your
three pointers, right?
More likely to go to the basketball court.
The President: Absolutely.
Mr. Costas: All right.
Curtis Granderson of the Tigers wants to know, "Are you tired,
and do you ever get stressed?"
The President: Yes and yes.
The President: That's an easy one.
But I do think there is something that sports teaches
you about handling stress.
You know, the notion that I learned a little bit later in
life but I tried to apply when I was playing basketball,
which is, you know, you play your game and you focus on what
you have control over, you do your best with what you've got
and then you see how it turns out.
And you don't get too high or too low,
whether you're up or you're down.
And that seems to work for me now.
Mr. Costas: Prince Fielder of the Brewers, who won the Home Run Derby last
night, says, "Do you ever get to just be by yourself,
watch a little TV" -- and I'm quoting him here -- "and not
talk to nobody?"
The President: I do actually.
And that's my most precious time,
other than spending time with the girls.
But usually, they go to bed -- Michelle goes to bed early.
She goes to bed about 9:30.
The girls go to bed about 9.
And that's when, you know, after I've done the reading -- SportsCenter.
That's when you break out.
And if you can catch a ballgame, open a beer,
put your feet up and be quiet for a while, nothing beats that.
Mr. Costas: Now, we all love SportsCenter, but you got to make sure they
get the new MLB network in the White House, right?
The President: I believe they do.
There aren't too many stations that you can't get in the White House.
You know, if I have to, I can have, you know,
the CIA tap into something.
Mr. Costas: You have that kind of pull?
That's impressive.
And the last one, Michael Young, the Texas Rangers.
His question, "How can I help?"
The President: That's a nice question.
And it turns out that Major League Baseball has actually
been helping us to promote something called United We Serve.
It's based on a simple idea, and that is government can't solve
all our problems.
And when it comes to energy, education, healthcare,
community renewal, having ordinary citizens get involved
and do whatever they think is a serious contribution,
that can make all the difference.
So it's tutoring a kid, mentoring somebody,
working in a school, volunteering in a health clinic.
So we've got a website,
Log on, figure out how you can volunteer in your community,
get involved in community service.
We've got a whole summer of service planned that ends on
September 11th, obviously to commemorate that tragic day in
our history.
And I hope that people take a little time out while you're
having fun this summer to do something for somebody else.
Mr. Costas: We're going to let you go now and warm up.
Are you excited?
The President: I am thrilled to be here.
Having a great time.
And I enjoyed this interview.
Mr. Costas: Thank you, Mr. President.
The President: Thank you.