'LAST WEEK IN BASEBALL' AT McFARLANE WAS A UNIQUE ONE
Player Interviews; Todd and the #73 Ball Unite in 48-Hour Span
Friday, August 29, 2003
For die-hard baseball fans, the season begins in mid-February when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training and doesn't end until the last out of the World Series in October. Even for a casual fan, the 162-game season lasting six months can be an endurance test.
So two days out of that season may not be anything special, but the baseball gods were smiling last week for the spawn.com sports crew. The week started out with an invitation to Bank One Ballpark for an all-access look at the Arizona Diamondbacks on a game day, and a chance to meet Sports Picks roster players such as Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Luis Gonzalez.
Arriving at the ballpark, the crew found its way to the field just as the Diamondbacks were taking batting and fielding practice. Soon, we found Luis, aka Gonzo, and center fielder Steve Finley and asked to speak with them about Gonzo's figure from MLB Series 6. We immediately took the figure from its package and handed it to Gonzo for his opinion. At the same time, Finley, who is a gold-glove center fielder and batting with a .285 average, was asked if he preferred to be made as a hitter or a fielder, should we make one of him. Steve said, "I'd just be honored to have one." (Next year's McFarlane's Sports Picks lineups are not set yet.)
We turned the camera on Luis and asked him what it was like to be immortalized in plastic. "It's pretty awesome, especially the McFarlane collection, because he's kind of the elite," Luis said of his first-ever action figure. "I've done the mini-bobble heads, but this is actually when you feel like you've reached the big leagues when you can get a McFarlane action figurine, it's pretty cool."
When asked to compare his first action figure to winning the 2001 World Series with his bloop single, he laughingly said it was cooler to get the action figure, however the World Series was certainly more memorable. "But my kids can relate to this," Luis added. "My son is 5 years old now, and my wife brought one of these home, and he thought it was pretty neat to see his dad in an action figure to go along with his other action figures. He started to play around with it, then we shelved it, but we now have some extra ones around the house."
Before he headed off to practice, he commented on how amazing it was that his figure included a stain on the batting helmet, right were he grabs it, and that we had the bat with the tar on it, too. Just as the interview ended, pitcher Miguel Batista walked by to check out the figure, and Gonzo commented that he was turning on a Miguel Batista fastball for a base hit. Miguel responded that Gonzo's backside was dirty "because I hit you with the pitch before," cracking everyone up nearby.
Also, Manager Bob Brenly graciously gave a few comments about having his players in toy form. "These three guys are pretty much larger than life, so to see them shrunken down to this size is unusual," he said. "I know Gonzo's got dirt on his uniform, probably hit a double, slid into second base, but I can't figure out how Schill's (Schilling) got dirt on his uniform, he doesn't get on base that often, other than that, very realistic."
Brenly wanted to know where his manager figure was? "You could get that pose where the vein's standing out in my neck after we failed to turn a double play with runners at first and third, one out in the ninth. Make sure you make that vein real big."
The next day, a local TV news crew came to film Todd with his collection of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa baseballs, now joined by the Barry Bonds 73rd home run ball. It was the first time Todd had seen his latest acquisition, despite being nearly two months since the auction, due to his travel and business schedule and the fact that the baseballs are secured at an off-site location. With the news crew filming, Todd spent several minutes describing the cost and significance of each baseball in his collection. Todd told them he is often asked why he paid more for the McGwire ball ($3 million) than he did for the Bonds ball ($460,000). "In hindsight, had I known somebody was going to break the record a few years later, I wouldn't have paid that much for the McGwire ball. But this ball was a record that had stood for 40 years and the whole nation got involved in the story."
A unique aspect of Todd's collection showcases some amazing forethought by Major League Baseball. During the end of the 1998 home run race, MLB stamped all the balls McGwire and Sosa hit with black sequential numbers as a way to authenticate a home run ball when a fan caught it, with each ball being carefully tracked by the umpires. The ball McGwire hit for his 70th home run was stamped "73," representing the 73rd ball thrown to Mark during the end of the record chase. "Who was to know that three years later Bonds was going to hit '73' home runs, it was an omen staring me in the face the whole time," Todd said. "But I needed to get the Bonds ball to keep my collection elite, to keep its prestige and notoriety so I could say that not only do we have the record ball, but we have the second, the third, etc."
Todd has not yet decided what will happen with his baseball collection, though he has mentioned that he would consider displaying them at the Baseball Hall of Fame.