We interviewed Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner in the dugout at Yankee Stadium recently.
Growing up in South Carolina did you like the Yankees?
I’ll be honest with you I wasn’t against the Yankees, it wasn’t that I didn’t like them, but I was more of a Braves fan growing up just because I grew up in South Carolina. I watched the Braves on TV every day when I got home from school and became a Braves fan.
Who is your favorite Yankee player of all times?
My favorite Yankee player of all time would be Mickey Mantle.
What are your hobbies?
Off season I like hunting and fishing, spending time in the outdoors and during the season I don’t really have much free time, but when I do I just hang out with my family and I have two little boys, 21 / 2 years old and 6 months old. So I try to spend a lot of time with them.
How did you become one of the fastest players in the MLB?
I’ve always been the little guy. I’ve always been the fast guy. It’s something that obviously it helps me stay here, helped me get here to be able to get an opportunity to play here and try to do the little things. Take care of your body, stretch, work out, lift weights, run a lot and try and stay in good shape so that I’ll always have that.
What was it like to win the World Series?
One of the best feelings ever. Something I’m sure not only myself, but a lot of kids growing up is something they dream about is to be able to play in the World Series or imagine they’re playing in the World Series in the backyard when you’re playing wiffle ball with your friends or whatever. But it was just an unbelievable feeling. I wish I could go back. I think about it all the time.
What advice do you have for kids who want to become pro athletes?
Always work hard. Don’t be afraid to set goals and try to reach them. Always give it your best and don’t sell yourself short. Don’t let a day go by where you missed out on an opportunity to get better or learn something from somebody.
Was baseball always your favorite sport?
Baseball was always my favorite sport. I grew up in a small town in South Carolina, went to a small school so I was able to play basketball, football, and all the way through my senior year in high school. And I wasn’t too good at basketball, I was pretty good at football, but I was just too small to be able to play anywhere in college so it probably would have been dangerous to try and continue my football career.
Who are your closest friends on the team?
I like to think we’re all close because we basically spend 10 to 11 hours a day with each other, but my closest friends on the team, I’m pretty close to Swish, and a couple other guys I came up with in the minor leagues. We’ve know each other for five, six years. Now Phil Hughes, Dave Robinson, guys like that. The last years have been a lot of fun to be able to play along side these guys.
If you weren’t a baseball player, what would you be?
Wow, that’s a tough question. That’s a question I get asked all the time. I think about it all the time and it’s something I don’t really have an answer for. I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what I would have done if I wasn’t playing baseball, but hopefully I’ll get to continue to play baseball for seven more years and won’t have to worry about it for awhile.
If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
Wow. Tough question. Be able to hit home runs whenever I want to. Be able to hit the ball a long ways.
You scored the last run in the old Yankee Stadium, what was that experience like?
At the time it wasn’t that special for me, to be honest, because it was special because it was the last game at Yankee Stadium and we won the game 7-3 something like that. But I didn’t start in the game, right before I scored that run I pinched ran for Jason Giambi and I think it was in the seventh inning so it wasn’t a walk-off hit, it wasn’t the last run, it wasn’t in the ninth inning or anything like that. So at that time I didn’t even think about it until after the game. It’s something that I’ll definitely remember and it’s something pretty cool to be able to say I played in centerfield the last game of old Yankee Stadium and centerfield in the first game in the new Yankee Stadium and scored the last run at the old stadium. I’m fortunate to be able to play for the Yankees during a really special time when they transitions from the old stadium to the new stadium.
What other ballparks do you like?
Wow, I would say my favorite ball park, other than playing here at home at Yankee Stadium, wow, that’s a tough question. I was going down to Atlanta a year and half ago because it’s close to home, it’s somewhere I always wanted to play. I enjoy Baltimore. We go there a good bit, but I would say my favorite ballpark to go to would be the Angels out at Anaheim. It’s a beautiful ballpark and the weather’s always great out there and it’s a fun place to play. Good environment.
When you’re leading off first base, why do you always put your arm like this?
Because my first movement when I’m stealing second base I want my first movement actually throw my arm to the right and open it up. When I do that my body follows in the same direction and I’m pointing toward second base faster. It’s all about trying to get a quicker jump and make the most out of that first movement and get started in the right direction and that’s something I’ve worked with some people on and feel like it can help me out.
Can you discuss a typical day as a Yankee?
Usually wake up, give or take, around 9 o’clock, hang out with my family and have lunch and usually come to the field. It just depends, usually anywhere between 1 and 2 o’clock and get here and do things you need to do to get ready for the game, get ready for batting practice, go out for batting practice around 4:15, stay out until about 5:15 - 5:30 -- go in, take a shower, have some dinner. Something light. Enough to get you through the game. Get ready for the game at 7 o’clock. Games usually last 31/2 hours and I usually leave here around 11 - 11:30 at night, go to bed around 1-2 o’clock, wake up the next day at 9 o’clock and do it all over again.
Who are your role models?
I would say my main role model growing up was my dad. I really looked up to him and got a lot of good advice from him and really was blessed having a good life at home, two good parents who really cared about me and try to steer me in the right direction growing up and they really helped mold me into the person I am today. I had an older brother who I looked up to and I would say the number one person would be my dad though.
Do you have a plan B?
I went to college for four years and for the last few years of college my dream was always to play professional baseball. And in my last years of college it became more of a reality that I would have an opportunity to do that and I pursued it and it’s something that I’m still doing and having a lot of fun with it. So I did go to college, I did go to school; I just didn’t necessarily have a focus on one particular thing that I wanted to do. Just baseball.
What does it feel like to play for the most historic franchise in baseball?
It’s pretty special. It’s something that probably right now I probably kind of take for granted even though I try not to. It’s pretty special to be able to come here to work everyday and to be able to go out there and play next to Derek Jeter and A-Rod and play defense behind Mariano in the ninth inning when he’s trying to close out a game. It’s a lot of fun.
What does it feel like to make a great play?
Oh, it’s a great feeling because I take a lot of pride in my defense. That’s one of the things I’ve always done, I’ve always really worked hard on trying to be the best I could be out there on defense and make some good plays and anytime you can make a good play, keep a runner from scoring, keep a guy from getting on base. It’s a lot of fun.
Why is your uniform number 11?
A lot of numbers around here are retired. There are not a lot of numbers left. So when I first started coming up it was one of them that was available. It was obviously the lowest one that was available. I think my other option was, I don’t remember, it was something like 39 or 37. I don’t remember what the number was. But I chose number 11 and it definitely wasn’t 37 because that’s retired, but I think it was 38, 39 and 11. I chose number 11 and that’s what it’s been since.