In every edition of Sportsnet magazine, Kristina Rutherford talks to the biggest stars in sports. This interview originally appeared in the June 9, 2014 issue.
Is it weird not having long hair anymore?
> First couple days it was. It’s that double-edged sword. I love my hair long; before spring training it was real long, a little shorter than yours, maybe. My hair’s thick, so in the summertime, it gets to be like I’m wearin’ a helmet. It feels good short because it’s easier. I get out of the shower and my hair’s dry, where before it would take 30 minutes.
You didn’t blow-dry it?
> No, never. [Laughs.]
Don’t give me that look.
> No, it’s cool. I probably shoulda done that, but that’s what I’m sayin’, I didn’t feel like puttin’ that much time into it.
What do you do on a day off?
> Most times just relax and hang out with my family, with my wife and my little girl. I try to stay off my feet and give my legs a little bit of a rest.
No hunting or fishing?
> I do that in the off-season, but off-days I’m not able to.
How does hunting compare to hitting a home run?
> Hitting a home run’s better than anything in the world.
> Yeah, that’s one of the best feelings. Don’t much get better than that.
What goes through your mind while you’re trotting around the bases after a home run?
> I try to enjoy it as much as possible, kind of dig myself a little bit. This game, as hard as it is and as much as we have to grind, you gotta be able to enjoy [it], and be yourself at times. When I first came up in the big leagues, people were always tellin’ me what I should be like and what I shouldn’t be like, and judgin’ me. I just show no emotions, because then nobody can say what I’m feelin’.
Are you more comfortable being yourself now?
> It’s a constant battle, trying to be myself.
How would you describe yourself?
> Quiet. I just try to be good people. When I was growin’ up, my Neema would take me to church, and the golden rule is treat people the way you wanna be treated. So that’s kinda how I try to be towards everybody, no matter where they’re from. Just try to be good to people.
Do you like getting recognized around Toronto?
> Nah, I’m not really one of those guys who kind of feeds off of that, like, “Look at me, I’m the man.” I’ve never really been that way. Sometimes I like to fly under the radar.
Baseball doesn’t let you do that.
> No. It’s been a roller-coaster ride.
Where do you live?
> In this city? I live right next door.
In a condo?
Aren’t you a little out of your element there?
> It never really feels like home. Back [in Alabama] I got some land. I have a couple ponds, I fish. I do some huntin’ here and there, for deer, hog, whatever. No neighbours are really close, so I just do my own thing. I got a couple big trucks. I have an F250, jacked up. It’s got a six-inch lift on it with 37-inch tires.
Do you drive a truck in the city?
> No, my truck wouldn’t fit anywhere around here. It wouldn’t fit in the parking garage.
Who takes care of your land while you’re here?
> My brother, Cyle. He’s my third brother and he’s doing an internship to be a school teacher, PE teacher and a baseball coach. He’s the only one of us that’s back at home now. And so he takes care of everything for me.
I hear you have dogs.
> I got dogs, I got goats and I got miniature horses.
> My brother called me one day, said he heard about some Shetland ponies for sale. I said sure, why not? I got two ponies and 10 goats and three Rottweilers and a miniature schnauzer.
Let’s hear all their names.
> I couldn’t name ’em all. The male horse is Smokey Joe and the female’s Deborah. My big Rottweiler, his name is Bocephus. It was Hank Williams Jr.’s nickname.
Do you listen to country music?
> Mostly country now, but growin’ up I listened to a lot of rap music.
Who’s your favourite country artist? George Strait?
> No, that’s my brother’s favourite. Mine would probably be Hank Williams Jr. or David Allan Coe.
What’s your football team?
Is it a good tailgating scene there?
> Oh yeah, every SEC team, it’s all about tailgatin’. This year for the Auburn-Alabama game, I had to go up on a Wednesday to get our spot for the Saturday game. We had eight RVs with a big blow-up screen, a big projector TV.
Do you like speaking with the media?
> I don’t mind doin’ some things. Some stuff’s not cool, [like] questions that don’t make sense to me. I guess talkin’ with the media is tough because a lot of times in this game you can’t say what’s real. You’re pretty much just lyin’ to people, and it’s all good, you know? [Laughs.]
How do you like being in the public eye all the time, with Twitter and Facebook and all that?
> It’s crazy how people can say whatever they want about you. Old buddy that’s sittin’ at his grandma’s house can tweedledee about what I’m doin’. I don’t understand it. I guess you could say I’m kinda old school, like I live in the Stone Age. I got my phone but I don’t really do much on it. The people I talk to, I talk to in person most of the time.
What was it like growing up, the oldest of three brothers?
> I wasn’t a bad kid by no stretch, but my dad, his rules were his rules and I got in trouble with him quite a bit. If my brothers did anything I would get in trouble for it. We were always playin’ sports, we were fightin’ all the time. My mom and dad didn’t really let us stay inside much. We grew up runnin’ around barefoot. I could run full speed on a gravel road, no problem, barefoot. We played in mud puddles, played whiffle ball in the backyard, pretendin’ to be big-leaguers, no shirt on, 110 degrees in Alabama.
If you could, would you play for the Jays with no shirt and no shoes on?
> That’d be nice. When I came up with St. Louis it was 95 degrees, 90 percent humidity. I’m burnin’ up, and I’m havin’ to be in full uniform. That was an adjustment.
You’re a little more relaxed than all that.
> A lot more.
What’s your role in the locker room?
> I don’t say much. I try to stay out of sight, out of mind.
Who’s your closest friend on the team?
> Probably Adam Lind. But I’m friendly with a lot of guys. I don’t really voice my opinion too much. I try to be quiet and do my thing.
That’s funny because this is a very explosive team. Is Brett Lawrie the most intense person you’ve ever met?
> He’s definitely up there, for sure. I can’t think of anybody off the top but he’s very intense.
The team’s had a much better start to this year compared to last year.
> I feel like the attitude’s been good. Last year was tough, with all the hype comin’ into it and media talk and every time you look up we’re on the TV, [and they’re] sayin’ that we’re gonna win the World Series and all this stuff. You’re comin’ in and playin’ against these good teams and you got a little bit of a target on your back like we did last year, and teams are ampin’ up for you a little more and we’re also puttin’ a lot of pressure on ourselves and the fans are jacked up. If we’re losin’ in the second inning the fans are already upset with us. Last year the Red Sox were supposed to be last in our division and they end up winnin’. Hopefully that will turn in our favour this year. You stay positive, good things can happen.
Do you dream about baseball?
> Uh, no.
> Have a good day. I hope I wasn’t too crazy.
This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.