Before we get to my interview with Stephen Vogt, I need to tell you about the great "radar gun" app you can apparently get for free on your phone if you have a phone. Mr. and Mrs. baseballgirl downloaded it just in time to clock Sean Doolittle's first appearance for the A's this year.
The instructions are to press the Start/Stop button when the pitch is released and then again when the pitch crosses home plate. We noticed that the distance "60.5 feet" showed up in the top right-hand corner of the screen, which means that the app is just a glorified calculator. As I'm sure you recall from your childhood math class, rate = distance/time. So if the distance is constant and the app can calculate the time in between pushes of the button, voila: it calculates a presumed velocity.
No, you don't need to hold the phone up towards the pitch because the pitch itself is not being tracked. It's not a radar gun, it's a "we can do the math" device and all you need to do is to press the button at the precise right time twice. Which, by the way, is absolutely impossible because 1/10th of a second will affect the calculation in a profound way.
Suffice it to say that according to our radar gun, Doolittle's fastball ranged from 47 MPH to 129 MPH on Friday. Fun.
While my upcoming interview with Sean Manaea was lengthy and meaty, the following chat with Stephen Vogt is more of an "amuse bouche". For those few of you who don't happen to speak French, an amuse bouche literally translates as something that amuses your mouth, but in French vocabulary it represents an appetizer.
Why so brief? When I approached Vogt I could see, immediately, from his body language that he was crunched for time and I thought he was going to say no, he just couldn't do an interview today. "I can't do it today" is especially unfortunate to hear when you access the clubhouse exactly once a year, but my schedule should not be the primary concern for a starting catcher getting ready for a long season.
However, instead of saying no Vogt, wearing a somewhat pained and frazzled expression, said he would find me when he had a moment. He came back to me just a few minutes later and said, with furrowed brow, that we could chat for a couple minutes now.
Vogt seemed so hurried that I offered to acquiesce rather than impede (I probably didn't put it in quite so pretentious a way), but he insisted it was fine. So I went forward with a brief interview, focusing on just two areas: the rigors of catching and the joys of acting. I hope it amuses your bouche...
Nico: On the baseball side, you're entrenched as catcher, you've done a little of 1B, a little bit of left field, DH. As you get into your 30s, what are you thinking in terms of when and what the transition would be if the rigors of catching eventually get to be...a lot?
Vogt: You know, I hope that never happens. I want to stay at catcher - that's what I am. I haven't played outfield in a couple years, I played some 1B last year but for me I'd like to stay behind the plate. That's where I want to be. I've taken good care of my body - obviously I've had some injuries but nothing too serious - so for me I'd like to stay behind the plate and hopefully not have to run into that issue.
Nico: Foul tips seem like a magnet for you at times. Can you describe at all, just for fans to understand, what that feels like at the time and after?
Vogt: Yeah, obviously it doesn't feel good! Just because we have gear doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Every time you get hit in the face it rings your bell pretty good. Obviously those (foul tips) wear on you. I read somewhere that a 90 MPH fastball when it hits you is like 2,400 pounds of pressure. So...that's not gonna feel good. You get over it and you just deal with it but there's times you take foul tips early in the game and they're nagging you the rest of the night.
Nico: As a fan, once you're back behind the plate, or two innings go by and you seem ok, to us (the foul tip) is in the past. Is there a residual effect ever, days after, cumulative effect, that kind of thing?
Vogt: Yeah, I mean absolutely. To be a catcher you're gonna have bumps and - everybody's sore, no matter what position you play - but one baseball game in itself is not taxing. But when you play 162 of them in 180 days you're tired. And then you add foul tips on top of that, yeah there's times where you take a good one to the arm or you take a good one to the thigh (thank you, Stephen, for using ‘arm and ‘thigh' as your examples'!) where it's bothering you for a good week.
Nico: So on the non-baseball side, I know you have a great reputation as...let's say an actor, or good performer. Does that go back to...like, middle school and high school, did you do any acting -
Vogt: Yeah, I've been in drama and choir from the time I was in Elementary School all the way through high school. I love performing, I love singing, I love acting. It's something I've always liked doing and I've been able to keep it going a little bit through my baseball career just kind of having fun with the guys, that sort of thing.
Nico: What are your best performances from your childhood?
Vogt: Hmm...let's see...I played Professor Dreyfuss in The Pink Panther Strikes Again when I was in high school. That was probably my most prominent role I was in, but I was in a lot of little plays, I was in music groups -
Nico: Could you see that being your "next career" when baseball's done?
Vogt: I mean I don't know about, like, a professional actor. I want to be with my family when I'm done playing, so for me I'd love to get involved with a church choir or community theatre, something like that just to kinda keep those things going.
Having excelled in the role of "guy who's actually too busy to be doing this right now," Vogt was excused to go pursue some more advice from chickens. Otherwise known as fowl tips.