Nine Innings is a series of questions with players & personnel from around Major League Baseball. In this edition, Shi Davidi talks to NHL legend and baseball dad Wayne Gretzky.
Wayne Gretzky is in mid-sentence while speaking to reporters when Snoop Dogg rolls up with two offensive-linemen-like bodyguards and interrupts the conversation.
“Great One!” cries out the gangsta rap star.
“How are you, man?” answers Gretzky.
“How you doing?” replies Snoop.
“Nice to see you,” says Gretzky.
“Good to see you,” says Snoop.
That’s how Gretzky, who like Snoop was in Toronto recently for the Joe Carter Classic Golf Tournament, rolls these days, chatting with rap royalty like it ain’t a thang, hockey icon hobnobbing with every different kind of star imaginable.
With a son, Trevor, whose a first baseman/left-fielder in the Los Angeles Angels system, he’s also a baseball dad. In 26 games with single-A Burlington, 22-year-old Trevor has posted a .726 OPS. During Gretzky’s availability in Toronto, Nine Innings managed to sneak in some questions to the Great One about his son and baseball.
1st inning – How do you know Joe Carter?
“This is my third year I’ve been at the event. Everybody remembers the home run (in Game 6 of the ’93 World Series). I was a big baseball fan growing up so I remember Joe playing in Cleveland and Toronto. This is a wonderful event.”
2nd inning – How did Trevor pick up baseball?
“It’s interesting because where we live in California baseball is so popular, kind of like ice hockey is in Toronto, he played a lot of ball growing up as a child, had a lot of good coaches, obviously high school was a big factor. It was really exciting (at the draft), the Blue Jays first pick (in 2013) Phil Bickford, who went to college, he was drafted by the Giants, so it was a fun day around our house. Christian Yelich who’s playing for the Marlins grew up in our area and grew up with my son. We were just around baseball as a family and that makes it fun.”
3rd inning – Did you play much ball growing up?
“Oh yeah, I played a lot of baseball. Every time I see Paul Beeston, he says he could have made my life a lot better and lot easier if I’d signed with the Blue Jays when I was 17. I love the game, I used to love and admire the game as much or more than even hockey when I was a kid. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite as good in baseball as I was in hockey.”
4th inning – What did you learn from how your dad Walter raised you and apply to Trevor as he entered pro sports?
“I tell my kids the same thing, life, doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or a businessperson or a doctor, the people who have the most passion are the most successful. If you have a passion for what you do, you’re going to put in the extra work, the extra hours, you’re going to make that commitment to be successful and be the best you can be. I give my kids the same advice I would tell any other youngster, whether it’s going to school, getting better grades or whether he wants to be an athlete, if you a passion for it man, there’s no end to what you can do.”
5th inning – Did you have a chance to play much ball with Trevor when he was young?
“A lot, we all did. One of the great things about being parents is that you get to play with your kids. We all live our lives vicariously through our kids, I know my dad lived through my life, and I live through my kids’ lives, that’s what parenting is all about.”
6th inning – What’s it like watching Trevor play in comparison to how you felt before a big game?
“When I played I never really worried, the bigger the game, the more fun I had, whether it was Game 3 (of the Canada Cup final versus the Soviet Union) in Hamilton in ’87, or Game 7 (of the Western Conference final) in Toronto in ’93. That’s what you live for, as an athlete that’s what you dream about. When you’re not playing, when you’re not participating, and you’re a father or a fan, it becomes difficult, you get excited, you get emotional, you want them to do well and it’s hard, it’s harder to be a parent or a fan than it is to be the athlete.”
7th inning – What’s the skill in baseball you most appreciate?
“Listen, every sport is different, whether it’s golf, baseball, hockey, football – it’s a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of passion, a lot of love, and the guys who make it, I feel great for them because it’s the greatest living in the world. Everything I have in my life is because of hockey, I got to travel the world, I got to meet a lot of people, got some great memories, great friendships, it’s all because I played the game of hockey. I’m very thankful for that.”
8th inning – What’s it like for you being without the game?
“The most asked question I get is do I miss playing. I say, yeah, I miss playing, I wish I could still play. Unfortunately I’m 54 years old and I’m no good anymore.”
9th inning – Do you still skate?
“I skated for five days in March, I skate once a year for five days, I have a fantasy hockey camp and every year I finish I’m like, ‘Gosh, I like this, I’m going to do this more often.’ I get home, put my equipment in the garage and I take it back out the following year. I’m not very good anymore. When I get out there I love to play, I have a smile on my face for the whole time, but I don’t mean this in an egotistical way, but I want to remember myself as a hockey player when I was 30, not 55. I was much better at 30.”