I've been up late transcribing Huston Street's interview because I figured it would be timely for AN to get to know one of the most friendly, polite and humble members of our beloved green and gold on the night that he made his big league debut.
There's no truth to the rumor that Jason Kendall told Sammy Sosa, "You better swing at this next pitch, Sosa, or we'll cut off your johnson." (obscure Big Lebowski reference - you'll see he enjoys the film later)
Street mentioned that he will be sending diary reports from the road throughout the season and I'm planning on having his first entry sometime next week.
Until then, enjoy the AN interview with Huston Street during the last week of spring training.
Blez: In a lot of ways, you've been the talk of the camp. Did you expect to rise through the ranks so quickly?
Huston Street: You can't expect it because it's nothing you control. But you're excited when it happens. Last summer I had a good summer and got promoted pretty quick. I made a lot of effort into proving that I deserve that. I worked hard this offseason and coming into camp that's all I really wanted to do was just get better and try to prove that I belong. At the same time, you can't expect anything, you can't worry about anything because whether you get moved up or moved down, it's not really in your control.
Blez: You mentioned your offseason work. What sort of things do you do in the offseason to get ready?
Street: Just a lot of working out. At home I lifted the month of December with a personal trainer Lance Hooten (unsure about spelling) and then I came out here and lifted with API (Athletes Performance Institute) and Mark Verstegen. I just tried to get my nutrition right and get my body in the best possible physical shape coming in.
Blez: Did you learn a lot nutrition-wise from these guys?
Street: You realize how important nutrition is and you realize that your body is your tool and it's a working mechanism that you have to feed the right fuel. You just pick up on little things and realize what works for you and develop a routine.
Blez: What do you consider your most reliable pitch, the one you aren't afraid to throw in any count?
Street: Probably my slider. For me, throughout my career, it's the pitch that I get a lot of people out on. Although now, against lefties more, I'm going more towards my changeup in big pitch situations because I've been getting good results and action with it.
Blez: It's not a pitch you've always had. You recently developed it, right?
Street: No, it's a pitch I've worked pretty extensively on during the offseason and tried to develop it because I knew that I had to have a third pitch to face big league lefties.
Blez: A lot of people seem to through out the term "closer mentality." Do you think it will be an adjustment for you to not be in that role?
Street: No, not at all. I'm really sure if there is such a thing as a "closer's mentality." I think it's just focusing on your job and eliminating the distractions, so whether you're pitching in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth, it doesn't matter. The outside corner is still the outside corner. You're still just making one pitch at a time. To me, whether I'm a closer, starter or set-up guy it doesn't matter, I'm just going to go out there and make my pitches. And however long they want me to stay out there, that's how long I'm going to be out there.
Blez: How did you wind up in the pen? Is it something that evolved to that?
Street: (University of) Texas, that was just kind of where I started. I was a starter in high school because almost all pitchers are at that level because they want their best arms to get the most innings. But then I can to college and we had enough pitchers where we could develop a staff and we could actually have a functioning pitching staff with roles. They said they liked me in the closer role and they liked my mentality and my approach to just going after hitters and it's just one of those things that's just worked out.
Blez: The College World Series, the Pacific Coast League championship and now, in all likelihood, you're stepping up to the big leagues, I don't want to jinx you.
Blez: But how crazy has the past year or so been for you.?
Street: It's been a quick year full of a lot of fun learning experiences. Losing in the College World Series only helped to motivate me to try and excel in pro ball and then having success in pro ball and getting the opportunity to play on the River Cats and win the PCL. I learned so much from that experience and just adapting to the higher level of the game. Then going to the (Arizona) Fall League and learning more there. Now in big league camp and watching all the veteran guys and how they go about their business. Just watching what Zito does to prepare himself. What does Kendall do? How does Kendall set up hitters? Just learning from the guys who had a lot of success in their career. It's been a lot of fun and I'm excited.
Blez: So, do Suzuki and Windsor (Cal State Fullerton opponents of the University of Texas in the CWS) give you a lot of crap?
Street: (Laughing) No, no. There's a lot of respect there. There's a lot of respect between those two teams. It was a great series. Two one-run games, pretty much. It was a hard-fought series. They made the plays, so they deserved the championship. I think that we respect each other for that. When I saw those two guys get drafted, I was excited.
Blez: Because you knew how good they were.
Street: Yes. They know how to play baseball and you want to be around guys like that.
Blez: The other day there was a story in the San Francisco Chronicle comparing you to Dennis Eckersley, or at least his delivery. How does it feel to be compared to a Hall of Fame closer in any way and also donning the same uniform which he became famous in?
Street: Any time you get mentioned in the same breath with any kind of Hall of Famer, especially Dennis Eckersley, it's the ultimate compliment. At the same time, you can't let it go to your head because he's in the Hall of Fame and I haven't thrown a pitch in the big leagues. So I take the comparison and I feel it's an ultimate compliment, but at the same time, you have to keep developing yourself if you want to continue to get those comparisons. You can't just stop there.
Blez: Do you set personal career goals? Do you say, I want to have 300 saves by the time I retire?
Street: I don't really set certain numbers. I've got an idea of where I want my ERA to be for a season. I have an idea, but mostly you just have to focus on the now. What am I going to do today? What am I going to do for the next 30 minutes to get better today? Because every day you get a little better or a little worse, you don't stay the same. I think that should be my approach throughout my whole career, to try to get a little bit better every single day. In the end, everything will take care of itself.
Blez: You pitched an awful lot of baseball last year including the Arizona Fall League. Do you get concerned about getting fatigued at all or do you feel better and better the more you pitch?
Street: You've just got to stay on top of maintaining your arm. You've got to do all the arm drills and you've just got to get on a program that you know will keep your arm in shape, healthy and ready to take on a full season. Because this will be my first full professional season, whether it's in Triple-A or whether it's in the big leagues. I've never had a 140 or 160 game season. There's just a lot of maintaining your arm so you don't have to worry about that.
Blez: What's the difference that you see so far in spring training in facing hitters like Glaus and other big league guys as opposed to the Triple-A and Arizona Fall League guys?
Street: The first thing is the talent level. They are more talented. Actually, I shouldn't say more talented. They're more developed. They're more developed in their approach. They're more developed in knowing their swing, knowing what pitches they want to hit, knowing the situation and what kind of pitch to look for in certain situations. Their approach is a lot more fine-tuned. And they're big league guys, so when they step on the field, they have that confidence to them. That, more than anything, is what I've noticed. They're all confident in their ability and they trust themselves. You're not going to intimidate anybody. They've been successful their whole life and they expect to be successful that day.
Blez: This might be a loaded question, but do you feel like a big leaguer?
Street: I feel like I can compete with them. I feel like I'm not intimidated to be out there, but at the same time, I can't feel like one yet because I haven't thrown a pitch up there. Even if you've been up there two or three years, you're a big league ballplayer, but you've got guys like Jason Kendall who've been in the league 10 years. He's a big leaguer. That to me is a big leaguer. Someone who has been in the game and proven themselves over time and had a lot of success with it. That's a big leaguer and you have to earn that. That's something I haven't earned yet because I haven't gone out there and proven myself.
Blez: OK, I have to ask this question because I get this a lot myself because I have a "different" last name. Are you tired of people misspelling your name?
Street: (Laughing loudly) It just comes with the territory. My parents decided to spell it weird and I can't expect people to just know. But it doesn't really bother me that much. (Laughs)
Blez: Has there been anything about big league camp that's kind of surprised you? Like something where you said to yourself, I didn't expect that.
Street: The best part about it is just how friendly everyone has been. And just how the big league guys, the guys I've already mentioned, just go out of their way to help you. You've heard so many horror stories about rookies where guys are just like, "get out of my way" but it hasn't been like that at all. Every single guy is pulling for you and rooting for you. They're taking you off to the side and giving you tips and just help you with the day-in and the day-out routine of just being here and trying to get better and performing on the field. I really appreciate that because those are the guys I look up to and I respect and I'm trying to be like. For those guys to take the time to try and help me, I just really appreciate it.
Blez: You mentioned your slider as your go-to pitch. Who taught you your slider?
Street: My Dad. It's been adapted, but he started by teaching me the arm action on it.
Blez: Who was your baseball hero growing up?
Street: I never really had a baseball hero growing up. My heroes have always been my parents. They're two people I've always looked up to. Not only for their competitive nature, but more so who they are as people and how they treat people and handle successes and failures throughout life. And how they raised me. So much of sports is intertwined with life and interrelated, so I think I've learned more from them than anyone else in my life and they are my heroes.
Blez: What do you enjoy doing away from baseball?
Street: A lot of things. If I'm in Austin, going to the lake. If I'm out here, going to play golf. I'm picking up and playing the guitar. I've got Zito and the guys to help me with that. I've got a lot of interests. I like hanging out with my friends. You get away from the field, you just want to relax and you just kind of want to take it easy.
Blez: What kind of music do you like?
Street: All sorts. If I'm driving in my car, I'm listening to acoustic guitar. Howie Day, Christopher Jack, Matt Wertz, just kind of some off-name people who are just easy listening. That's just my taste.
Blez: What kind of movies do you like?
Street: I'm huge into movies.
Blez: Give me a top five list.
Street: Probably one of my favorite movies is Good Will Hunting. Braveheart is up there.
Blez: Gladiator has to be up there then.
Street: Yeah, Gladiator I like, but I like movies with a distinct message and Gladiator is more of just a thrilling movie and with Braveheart, there's more of a theme and idea behind it. So that's why I put Braveheart ahead of Gladiator. I like the Green Mile. There's tons of movies that I love. You want a love story, Meet Joe Black. You want a funny movie, The Big Lebowski. Great movie.
Blez: Do you have anything that you'd want to say to A's fans of what they can expect from you this year?
Street: I've just been so excited to see the enthusiasm out here during spring training. It's just unbelievable the support you get and how much pride the Oakland fans take in their teams. You know about the Raiders, but Athletics Nation is no joke. It's been a lot of fun and as players we appreciate that.
Blez: And thanks for visiting AN.
Street: That's no problem, it's awesome.