MLB veteran Kurt Suzuki fights Father Time while in the midst of fatherhood


PHILADELPHIA >> Kurt Suzuki says he’s not ready to be a full-time dad.

At least not yet.

Sixteen years into a major league career he could never have imagined in his wildest childhood dreams, the Maui man remains as enamored with the game as ever. Though he concedes the end is near and he starts thinking about life after baseball, he’s not ready to go.

Now in his second season with his fifth team – the Los Angeles Angels – the 38-year-old Suzuki continues to inspire teammates young and old who marvel at his work ethic and exuberance.

Even though the Angels have been on a horrific slip-up, losing 12 straight, including an abysmal 9-7 loss to the Phillies here on Sunday on a three-run homer, Suzuki is telling them to hold their heads high. He is convinced that this will soon change.

“It’s baseball,” said Suzuki, who played ball in high school against Shane Victorino early in the series, in which his two hits and single RBI were wasted in the series finale. You will go through ups and downs over 162 games.

“But you have to stick together. The sooner you can get out of it, the better. Everyone is going to hit a patch at some point. It can either make you or break you. But the chemistry that we have in this team, how much we enjoy being together, I think that will help for the good.

It’s the kind of gospel he’s been preaching almost since arriving in Oakland in 2007, before moving to Washington, returning to Oakland, Minnesota, Atlanta, back to Washington and now to the Angels. Along the way, he touched the lives of so many teammates who never forgot his impact.

“He helped me a lot when I was a young pitcher,” said Phillies right-hander Kyle Gibson, Suzuki’s teammate for 61 games from 2014 to 2016 with the Twins. “He used to guide me through the games and impart his wisdom to me when I was an upcoming young man.

“Whether it was getting ready for a start or adjusting mid-start, he kind of showed me the ropes. He has a lot of wisdom in playing the game for so long.

Long enough that Angels starting receiver Max Stassi is now in his second stint with his current backup. “Kurt was in his second year in the major leagues when I was just drafted by Oakland,” said Stassi, who joined the Angels in 2019 after spending seven seasons with Houston. “So it’s pretty crazy to see the circle come full circle.

“I remember how I looked up to him when I was younger and followed his work ethic. But he’s (the) same guy every day. Extremely positive person, great teammate. or badly Whether the team is doing well or badly.

“And the way he takes care of him says it all.”

Trout admires Suzuki

Even Mike Trout, one of the game’s elite, knows that Suzuki is a special breed.

“I’m trying to pick his brain because he’s had so many experiences and obviously won the World Series,” Trout said on what was a frustrating comeback weekend, having grown up in close to Millville, NJ “It can give you an idea of ​​what it’s takes.

“Kurt has been important to us this year with his attitude. He’s a real leader. »

According to Suzuki, hearing such noble feelings speaks volumes. But not from him.

“I tell Mike, ‘You’re the best player in the world,'” said Suzuki, who is content to play once a series, rather than split catching duties like in recent years. “That’s why he’s the best player in the world, because he’s always trying to improve.

“He is so humble. This is the kind of child you want your son to be like. Just a good person, which obviously shows what a great teammate and leader he is. I played against him for 10 years and now sharing the court with Mike Trout is something I need to talk to my kids about.

Of course, Kurt Suzuki has a lot to say to his children – daughter Malia (11) and sons Kai (8) and Eli (5) – especially the thrill of winning it all in 2019. So it was everything he thought it would be when the Nats outlasted the Astros in a seven-game World Series in which the home team didn’t win a game?

“More,” he replied, smiling. “I’ve been injured in the last two games, but I’m sitting there thinking what such a long season it is and thinking how difficult it was.

“I think ‘I don’t even know if I can come back here, so we better win.’ The joy of winning and all that culminates in a World Series is definitely the ultimate feeling in the game of baseball.

Suzuki says he briefly considered getting the upper hand, but it was too hard to resist the lure of coming back and trying to do it again. Of course, then came COVID, turning the 2020 season into a 60-game aberration of a season played in empty stadiums. “That was pretty blah,” Kurt admitted. “You haven’t had this season after feeling like you’ve won the World Series.

“But that’s how it is. We have our rings and the trophy.

It turned out to be Suzuki’s swan song in Washington, as he chose to sign with the Angels in large part so he could finally play close to home. “We’ve been living in Redondo Beach since I got drafted,” the 2004 Johnny Bench Award winner told Cal State Fullerton as the college’s top receiver. “My wife Renee is from Redondo so the proximity is great.

“Not having to ship your car. Not having to pack and move all your life. Just not having to do that, plus my familiarity with Perry and Alex made it sort of obvious to me.

That would be Angels general manager Perry Minasian and assistant general manager Alex Tamin, whom Kurt first met during his two seasons in Atlanta. They’ve developed a relationship enough for Suzuki to admit that they’ve started planning what’s next.

“We’ve already talked a bit about post-baseball,” said Suzuki, whose two hits Sunday propelled him to .226 with one homer and six RBIs in just 53 at-bats. “I’m definitely going to stay there, because I love the game, being around the game and I love helping guys improve.”

Local Player Tracking

Just as he enjoys watching the current generation of Hawaii baseball players make their mark as he, Victorino, Sid Fernandez and others have over the years. “Kolten (Wong) has had an incredible career so far,” said Suzuki, who was an Angels teammate with Wong’s younger brother Kean last year. “Isiah (Kiner-Falefa) is off to a great start careers.

“Watching these guys work, play and compete at the highest level is really awesome to see, said the former Baldwin star. “These kids are so talented. They have a good head on their shoulders. They work hard and they are very humble. Kind of typical of a kid growing up in Hawaii, where you don’t have a lot of stuff.

Earlier this season, Suzuki played first base for a few innings. It was the first time in Suzuki’s career that he played in a different position.

Still, nothing beats capturing. “What’s fun is trying to help a guy out when he’s not at his best to see how many rounds you can get him through,” said Suzuki, who ranks fourth in the MLB seniority, after Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, Joey Votto. and Yadier Molina. “That’s what excites me about catching.

“Anyone can call off a game when the pitcher has his best shots. But it’s a lot more fun when you can help guide a pitcher. It may be a little more stressful and exhausting, but that’s our job.

Except when the guy on the mound is Shohei Ohtani.

“He’s awesome,” exclaimed Suzuki of the reigning American League Most Valuable Player. “He’s got probably the best trick in the league and he’s fun to catch.

“His stuff is so good I feel like he can do whatever he wants. It’s a joy to watch him on the mound and kick. This guy does things you’ll never see before very, very long.

So how long before he says aloha to the game he loves?

“At this point, I’m taking it year by year,” he replied simply, knowing the 2022 grind is only a quarter of the way there. “So be a full-time dad.”

A word of warning on this, Malia, Kai and Eli: don’t hold your breath.


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