C.J. Wilson was in New York City today as he was taking in some of the MLB All-Star Game festivities. He and his team the L.A. Angels are 11 games behind the Oakland A’s in the American League West. He knows that after the All-Star break the Angels need to start playing at a higher level to even get a chance to play in the postseason.
Wilson and I were able to chat about the All-Star Game, his transition from Texas to L.A., and where are some of the toughest places to play.
I was able to chat with C.J. thanks to Head and Shoulders and their “Season of the Whiff” program. For every “whiff” across the league during the 2013 regular season, Head & Shoulders will make a $1 donation to the MLB Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.
Art Eddy: You are in New York for the All-Star Game festivities. How has it been so for in NYC?
C.J. Wilson: I am doing great. It’s a blistering hot day in New York. I am indoors in the air conditioning. I hope you are too.
AE: I am. I take it the heat in L.A. is a dry heat.
CW: That whole dry heat thing is a sham. You go to Arizona and it is 120 degrees. An oven is a dry heat, but if you stand in there long enough you are going to feel the effects. When we travel to go play in different cities you experience heat in different ways depending on the configuration of the ballpark.
Some ballparks aren’t bad. We were in Chicago the other day. The dugout is so small, in Wrigley Field. The dugout was so small that there was no way to escape the heat. It was really funny. We were all sitting there thinking of ways to cool off. We had no room to wave anything at all without hitting each other in the face.
AE: That is hilarious. This week is All-Star Week and today is the All-Star Game. You played the past two years in that game. What is it like to play in that game?
CW: The All-Star Game is cool, but it is also really weird. It is a bit of a circus and you don’t get the same amount of time to prepare for the game. You don’t get to get a scouting report. You show up to the stadium at 5 o’clock because you are coming back from media availability.
After those interviews it is like okay no go in the bullpen to get ready. You are like who is going to warm me up? They are like there is only one catcher. I ask if there is anyone to throw a long toss with and they say there is no time for that.
It is a little bit different, but it is very exciting too. The game is going to be sold out. You got to see some of these guys up close and get to know them. I didn’t know Robinson Cano was the coolest dude on the planet. Now I know that he is the coolest guy. I just thought he was a guy that smiled a lot and was really good at baseball. That is kind of the fun part for the players.
Players enjoy that kind of stuff. The travel is a little bit hectic. For us we played in Seattle, so (Mike) Trout had to fly a red eye from Seattle to New York. He had to be ready for media availability yesterday morning. Things like that is hectic. It is nice when it is in a place like Kansas City, where everyone is about a 2 hour flight away.
AE: Even though the league that wins that game get home field advantage in the World Series is there less of a competitive vibe in that game?
CW: We are all hyper competitive, which is why we are professional athletes. There are guys who are very competitive and they end up having off the field issues. Like Michael Jordan had the golf gambling thing a few years ago. All professional athletes are hyper competitive or they just don’t stay in the league long enough.
Everyone wants to win and everyone wants to do their best. If you make one mistake than you lose the game and you are the goat. That is what happened to me a couple of years ago. That really sucked. We didn’t score that many runs and I think we lost 3 to 1. The game is always fun. You are always trying to win. You are not necessarily thinking about October, but about how can I pitcher really well. You are always trying to do well whatever they are doing.
AE: You are now in your second year with the Angels. How has this year been different from last year for you?
CW: For me it has been a little bit better in terms of my health and my performance. About this time last year was when my season was going south with my elbow. The changes I have made to my mechanics are going to keep me healthy for the rest of my career.
We are down below 500 which is not very good. We have a lot of potential and a lot of talent, but potential is kind of a four letter word for baseball. We are looking to improve on that. We only have so many games left. We got to start winning.
AE: You kind of hit on something I want to talk about. Do you look at the media and read that you and your team are underachieving or do you just not even pick up the paper?
CW: No, we feel that way. We feel like we should be better. Some think that teams and players are oblivious to that fact. We are not totally oblivious. We are not going to read the papers if we are not doing well. What is the point of reading the papers if you are below 500.
If you are in first place by 15 games, well of course you are going to read the papers since they are talking about how awesome you are. It helps boost your confidence. You just have to control yourself and find the best way to play your best baseball. We have been through some good stretches as well as bad ones. We have to play great baseball every day. Players like myself, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols have played on Championship teams. You have to bring your A game every day to win 90 games.
AE: Where is the toughest place to play for you whether it be a hitter’s park or the crowd gets into it?
CW: It goes in waves. Sometimes you will step into a place and you won’t really feel good pitching there. Then all of a sudden you will have a good game. I didn’t used to like playing in Yankee Stadium, but now I do. It goes up and down. I really like pitching in Seattle. I like pitching in Anaheim and Dodgers Stadium.
For whatever reason I don’t do real well in Detroit. It is supposedly a good pitcher’s park. I have given up some weird opposite field home runs there. The dimensions there don’t help me out at all. It is deep in center field, but I don’t give up home runs in center field. If I give up a home run it is straight down the right field line. It is kind of a quirky thing.
AE: How is it to be a “Mane Man” for Head and Shoulders?
CW: Well the cool thing that is going on for the All-Star Game tonight is that whoever is pitching in the second inning strikes out the side then they win 1 million dollars for their RBI program. Head and Shoulders will donate a million bucks to help kids who normally couldn’t play baseball now can. They are going to get equipment, coaching facilities and all that good stuff. Since this is ‘Season of the Whiff,’ so they are doing a strikeout theme this year at the All-Star Game. For this season Head and Shoulders will donate a dollar for every strikeout for the RBI program.
AE: Tell me about your foundation, the C.J. Wilson Children’s Charity.
CW: In baseball you get opportunities to get out into the community. When I was with the Rangers they encouraged us to get out and help out the community. One of the first things I did was a Christmas event. I met this kid at the Children’s Hospital. We had a moment. We were talking for a bit. I met his dad. I didn’t really think that much of it.
He wrote me a letter and included a picture of me and his son. It was really inspirational letter. He said that I was really good at this and that I should do more of this type of work. I took that personally and hit him up to see if he could help me. He had mentioned that he was on a board for a charity.
Since 2006 we have done a lot of events. We had video game tournaments, bowling events, and stuff with my racecar team. We even did a charity concert at my car dealership. It is really cool to have the charity tie in everything with my off the field interest with my on the field performance for a good cause. We raise money for Children’s Hospital and kid’s camps and things like that.