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The Latest from the AngelsWin.com Blog - And That’s the Way It Was: AngelsWin.com’s 2013 Spring Training Fanfest Roundtable with the Media

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TEMPE, AZ, March 16, 2013 — AngelsWin.com talks with Joe McDonnell (FOXSportsWest.com and; FoxSports.com), Jeff Fletcher (Orange County Register), Alden Gonzalez (MLB.com), and Victor Rojas (Fox Sports) about the highs and lows of their jobs, their favorite sports moments, and their best and toughest interviews.
Moderated by David Saltzer, the Senior Writer for AngelsWin.com, the guests were asked to lift the veil behind their keyboard or microphone and to reveal some of the inner workings of the Press Box. They were asked the questions that fans want to know. And, unlike when providing most of their content (where they need to remain neutral and impartial), the members of the media were able to humanize themselves and their job.
With over 50 years combined media experience, the round table discussion ranged beyond baseball and Southern California. The over 200 guests attending the AngelsWin.com 2013 Spring Training Fanfest Dinner got a rare glimpse at the men behind the curtain—the men who provide the content for all the for their fans, and got to see in them in a totally different light.
Be sure to add the following to your Twitter Feed to get all the latest news about the Los Angeles Angels and sports in general.
AngelsWin.com @AngelsWin
Joe McDonnell @joeontheradio
Jeff Fletcher @JeffFletcherOCR
Alden Gonzalez @Alden_Gonzalez
Victor Rojas @VictorRojas29

Please click below to watch the AngelsWin.com 2013 Spring Training Fanfest Roundtable with the Media. It is a must watch for any sports fan, and especially every Angels fan.

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Unfortunately Mike DiGiovanna couldn't make it due to surgery he was recovering from, but here's an interview we had with Mike 4-5 years ago.


AngelsWin.com Interview with LA Times Mike DiGiovanna




Interview conducted by Chuck Richter


I had a chance to hook up with the Angels long-time beat writer Mike DiGiovanna, as he's back from Tempe, AZ, taking a 'spring break' from spring training. Besides covering the team throughout the year, Mike has also been aired on Angels pre-game shows, Angels Talk and features an Angels Q&A with fans' questions that are sent in, which can be read in the LA Times Sports page or online at here.


So with no further ado, and introductions complete, here's the Angelswin.com interview with the LA Times Angels beat writer and columnist, Mike DiGiovanna.


Q: Angelswin.com - You've covered the Angels through 3 different owners (Autry's, Disney & Arte). What differences do you see in the way they ran the Angels operations?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - The differences are huge. I began covering the Angels in 1995, at the end of the Autry era, and at the time, the Angels were in a major cost-containment mode. They didn't really pursue high-priced free agents, high-priced draft picks (with the exception of Darin Erstad in 1995, but they had no choice; he was the first overall pick) or expensive players from Latin America; in fact, they pretty much shut down their academy in the Dominican Republic. But they did benefit from some wise draft choices by former GM Bill Bavasi and player personnel director Bob Fontaine, who helped develop players such as Tim Salmon, Gary DiSarcina, Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Troy Percival and J.T. Snow, who formed the nucleus of a competitive team in 1995.


After Disney took over in 1997, it was almost as if there were three different owners during the company's tenure. Early on, marketing seemed to drive most of their decisions-they changed the uniforms (who can forget periwinkle blue?), put cheerleaders on the dugout (a complete disaster) and renovated the stadium. I guess one out of three ain't bad. The stadium, even with the gaudy fake-rock formation in left-center field, turned out well. In general, Disney, in those early days, chose style over substance. Then, when it became clear that approach was alienating fans and not translating to on-field success, Disney went for the big splash, signing Mo Vaughn to a six-year, $80-million contract. They also began pumping more money and resources into their Latin American program, and investments into players such as Francisco Rodriguez eventually paid off. But when Vaughn, outside of one decent season (2000), turned out to be a total bust, Disney crawled into a financial shell and seemed unwilling to take a gamble on another high-priced free agent. GM Bill Stoneman and Manager Mike Scioscia came aboard in 2000 and stressed building the team from within. Team President Tony Tavares-the face, and the fist, of the Disney regime-was phased out, and Paul Pressler quietly began making decisions, such as killing an Erstad-to-the-White-Sox deal in 2001. By the end of the Disney regime, the Angels were getting it right, supplementing their really good home-grown talent with complimentary, but not high-priced, free agents such as Scott Spiezio and Brad Fullmer, and that led to a World Series title in 2002.


That championship gave Arte Moreno plenty of momentum when he took control of the team in 2003, and the Angels have essentially been a model franchise ever since, spending plenty on free agents, developing plenty of home-grown talent and winning three of the last four American League West titles, all while keeping ticket prices-and beer prices-relatively affordable in comparison to other teams. The biggest difference between Moreno and Disney is the lack of a corporate culture and chain of command, and that has expedited the decision-making process, to the Angels' benefit. If Disney owned the team when Vladimir Guerrero expressed interest in playing in Anaheim but needed an answer quickly, it could have taken Stoneman more than a week to determine whether he could pursue the slugger and, if so, what kind of contract he could offer. All that process took under Moreno was one phone call, and Guerrero's deal came together within a day or two.


Q: Angelswin.com - Mike, in all of your years covering the Angels as the club's beat writer, what are some of your fondest memories?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - Just off the top of my head . being in Camden Yards in September of 1995 the night Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record . center fielder Jim Edmonds' amazing over-the-shoulder, diving catch near the warning track of David Howard's fly ball in Kansas City, probably the best defensive play I've ever seen . J.T. Snow making a similar catch down the line in foul territory in the SkyDome in Toronto, when he said he gauged where to dive by looking at the eyes of fans in the first few rows who were tracking the ball . that spring-training game in Scottsdale in 1995, when reliever Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams hit two Giants with pitches, sending both to the hospital for X-rays, gave up a home run and threw two wild pitches, all in one inning . the class with which Jim Abbott carried himself during a 2-18 season in 1996 . the day-in, day-out intensity and determination of guys like Darin Erstad, Troy Percival and David Eckstein . just about any conversation I ever had with Tim Salmon (and there were many), because he was probably the most approachable player I've ever dealt with and conversant on a wide variety of topics . visiting Ramon Ortiz's house in the Dominican Republic . Adam Kennedy's three-homer game in the ALCS-clinching win over Minnesota in 2002 . Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, when the Angels came back from a 5-0 deficit with Scott Spiezio's three-run homer, Erstad's solo shot and Troy Glaus' game-winning double . seeing Angels team photographer V.J. Lovero get doused with champagne and beer by just about every player in the clubhouse after the World Series clincher; I met V.J., who also worked for Sports Illustrated, at Cal State Fullerton in 1982, played softball with him for many years, and we remained friends through our work in baseball. He was battling cancer in 2002 and passed away in January of 2004, but I will always remember his sheer joy that night . Vladimir Guerrero's nine-RBI game against the Red Sox in 2004 . Josh Paul failing to tag A.J. Pierzynski and rolling the ball back to the mound in Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS in Chicago, still one of the biggest bone-headed plays I've ever seen . Garret Anderson's 10-RBI game in 2007 ... I'm rambling, so we'll leave it at that.


Q: Angelswin.com - What is your most memorable Angels player interview?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - My most memorable interview wasn't with an Angels player, it was with a coach, former batting instructor Rod Carew. It was the spring of 1996, after Rod's 18-year-old daughter, Michelle, had been diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of leukemia the previous fall. Normally a very private, very reserved and, at least with the press, sometimes distant man, Carew had begun to open up to the media in hopes of finding a bone-marrow donor for Michelle. For a story I was writing on Rod and Michelle, Rod allowed me to accompany him on a five-hour drive from Tempe, Ariz., where the Angels were for spring training, to Orange County. It was an emotional journey, with Rod breaking down in tears several times as he spoke of Michelle and how brave and strong she had been and how he couldn't handle the thought of having to bury his daughter. Rod also talked extensively about his childhood, how his father used to beat him regularly, and how, when he was 23, he gave his mother an ultimatum: "She could have the father or the son," he said. "She took the son." That shed some light on why Rod was so reluctant to talk about his past during his playing days, and why he was suspicious of reporters. It also made me realize how tough it must have been for him to go public with his bone-marrow plea, and to finally open up to reporters. Over the next day or two, I visited Michelle in the hospital, and then interviewed Michelle and Rod and his family in their Anaheim Hills home; Michelle, at the time, was able to come home from the hospital for short visits. There were plenty of tears, as Michelle recalled the night she went into septic shock and was convinced she actually died and came back to life, and her parents spoke of how difficult it was coming to grips with the possibility of losing their daughter. But, remarkably, there was laughter, too. Michelle, despite her predicament, had an amazing sense of humor. Michelle was also so proud of her dad for opening up to the press and trying to help not only her but so many other cancer victims. Sadly, about two months later, Michelle died. I only met her once, but I'll never forget her.


Q: Angelswin.com - Craziest thing you've ever seen in the Angels clubhouse either pre-game or post-game?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - Well, some of the crazy things I've seen are probably best left in the clubhouse, and those who were in Texas late in the 2004 season, after an extra-inning Angels win and a Seattle loss on television sparked a rather interesting celebration in the visiting clubhouse at The Ballpark in Arlington, will know what I'm referring to. But I will pass along this crazy thing, though it didn't happen in the Angels clubhouse; it was in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse in the Kingdome in 1996. After Seattle's 1995 playoff run, the Mariners were struggling in 1996 and there was some tension in the clubhouse. I was in there before a game waiting to speak to Ken Griffey Jr. when Randy Johnson walked in and told David Segui to turn down the music blaring on the sound system. Segui refused, the two got in a shouting and then shoving match, and before I knew it, there were about 12 guys in a huge scrum by Segui's locker, with arms and legs and fists flailing. I was the only reporter in the room at the time, so I knew I was witnessing a big story, so I just stood there and watched. And then reliever Norm Charlton, who was near the bottom of the pile, his head and neck firmly in the grip of some teammate, and his face turning red. Yet, Charlton somehow had the presence of mind to notice me out of the corner of his eye and scream, "Get the (bleep) out of here!" I thought that was pretty impressive. That's veteran leadership.


Q: Angelswin.com - Who are some of your favorite all-time Angels players?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - I think back to my first few years on the beat and realize how lucky I had it, covering such characters as Lee Smith, Chuck Finley, Chili Davis, Gary DiSarcina and Rex Hudler. Both Smith and Finley were from Louisiana and could rip off one-liners with the best of them. I'll never forget that 1995 night in Cleveland when Smith blew a two-run, ninth-inning lead by giving up a grand slam to Albert Belle, the ball landing in a picnic area behind the right-center field wall in Jacobs Field. When asked afterward about the pitch, Smith said, "Two-and-two to the barbecue." Finley was also an All-Pro quipster, among the funniest guys I have covered, and DiSarcina, who grew up in Massachusetts, had that New England, wry, self-deprecating sense of humor; I've never covered a guy who could find so much humor at his own expense. Davis was a deep thinker, a pretty philosophical guy who loved talking about things other than baseball, but he was also hilarious. One day in Toronto he struck out and took out his frustrations on a drinking fountain that was located just down the steps toward the clubhouse in the SkyDome. The next day, the drinking fountain wasn't there, but you could see the outline of where it was on the wall. I asked Chili about it and he said, "That drinking fountain? I just looked at that thing, and it fell off the wall." Don't worry, he paid for the repairs. And Hudler? Well, you've seen him on TV; he was pretty much the same as a player, filled with energy and could talk a mile a minute.


I also enjoyed covering guys who had reputations for being difficult, guys like Dave Hollins, Randy Velarde and, early in his career, Darin Erstad. Hollins had a mean glare that could unnerve you, and when that do-not-disturb sign seemed to be hanging in his locker, you knew not to approach him. But when you got to know him and started talking to him at the right times, he was hilarious, another guy who could easily laugh at himself. When Erstad came up, he would have his game face on three hours before the game, and other writers thought he was not approachable. Once again, as you got to know him, you learned he was very approachable, very talkative and very likeable. Velarde was very quiet and seemed a little bit aloof, but he had that Texas drawl and monotone voice, from which one-liners always sounded funnier. Mo Vaughn, also from that era, was also a fun guy to be around, though he wasn't around much, and I was lucky enough to cover two knuckleball pitchers, Dennis Springer and Steve Sparks, and if you've ever talked to a knuckleball pitcher, you know how quirky they can be.


More recently, the Angels have had a few colorful characters such as Brendan Donnelly and Orlando Cabrera, and though we've only had him for a few weeks of spring training, I think Torii Hunter is going to be a lot of fun to cover.


Q: Angelswin.com - Must have been tough covering the Dodgers for the LA Times in the Angels 2002 Championship season eh?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - Not really . the only thing that was tough about covering the Dodgers in 2002 was that drive to Los Angeles from Orange County. With traffic so unpredictable, there were days it took me 35 minutes to get to Dodger Stadium and days it took me an hour and 35 minutes to get there. And even though I covered the Dodgers that year, I did follow the Angels in the ALCS and World Series, both at home and on the road, so I was there for most of the championship run. I had covered the Angels for seven years before being moved to the Dodgers beat, and the Angels never made the playoffs during that time. Having covered the post-season every year since 1995, watching the Yankees build their dynasty, I always wondered how the Angels would respond to October baseball. I had trouble projecting in my mind how they would do. Would they fold under pressure? Would they thrive? Well, that question was obviously answered in 2002, when guys like Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Bengie Molina, Adam Kennedy, Troy Glaus, David Eckstein, Jarrod Washburn and Troy Percival rose to the occasion, not to mention the fans and those noise sticks. Though I wrote sidebars and not game stories that October, it was still cool to be a part of it. Plus, it was nice to be home in October for a change.


Q: Angelswin.com - Do you root for both the Angels and Dodgers? What team are you more a fan of?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - I don't root for either team, and I am not a fan of either team. As a reporter, we're supposed to be objective, and to root for the team I'm covering would greatly compromise my coverage. I do admit I root for stories, for good angles.


Q: Angelswin.com - In a 1/9 interview on MLB TV's "Under The Lights" Broadcaster Rex Hudler made the comment that even though he doesn't want to say that Reagins is a puppet, that Arte Moreno and Mike Scioscia now have more input into what deals are made. When Stoneman was GM, there is no doubt he had almost complete control. What is the situation now? Do you think GM Tony Reagins has to get Scioscia's approval before making a deal?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - First of all, when Stoneman was GM, he did not have complete control. Moreno, of course, had the final say on any significant free-agent signing, and he was a lot more involved in trade talks then people think. And Stoneman would always get input from Scioscia before considering any trade. So, it would be incorrect to say Stoneman had complete control. With the hiring of Reagins, who had virtually no experience in player personnel moves at the major league level, I think Scioscia and Moreno are even more involved than they were when Stoneman was GM, and I think Scioscia, in particular, will have more influence on personnel moves than he had under Stoneman. Does that make Reagins a puppet? That's hard to say, but I don't think Reagins would have taken the job if he didn't have some autonomy. One thing to remember, Reagins is essentially surrounded by the same key advisers-special assistant Gary Sutherland and assistant GM Ken Forsch-that Stoneman was, and Stoneman is still very much involved as an advisor to Moreno, so the decision-making process in the front office hasn't really changed.


Q: Angelswin.com - With the lease on Angel Stadium coming up sooner rather than later, have there been any rumblings about what the future holds for the team staying in Anaheim ? Have the relations between the City of Anaheim and Moreno improved?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - I haven't heard any rumblings and I'd be shocked, even with the adversarial relationship between Moreno and the city, if the Angels consider leaving Anaheim. The stadium, after being renovated 10 years ago, is in great shape, equipped with all the modern revenue-generating amenities (dugout suites, club suites, Diamond Club, etc.) and is centrally located in a huge metropolitan area, accessible by three freeways. The team has drawn about 3.4 million fans a year for several years. As for relations between the city and Moreno, I wouldn't say they've improved-Anaheim is still pursuing appeals to the name-change court case, which has to agitate the owner-but I don't think they've deteriorated any more since the name-change lawsuit.


Q: Angelswin.com - What has it been like working with some talented writers' from the LA Times over the years? Do you miss Gabe Lacques?


A: Mike DiGiovanna - Gabe who? Just kidding . actually, Gabe worked for the L.A. News Group, not The Times, but we covered the Angels together for two years, and I do miss the little guy and his quirky sense of humor. He has since moved on to USA Today and we keep in touch-we had lunch during the World Series in Boston last October, and he's come up to Baltimore a few times when the Angels are in town playing the Orioles.


As for my colleagues at The Times, I was extremely fortunate to work with Ross Newhan, our former national baseball writer who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000 and retired a few years ago. He guided me through my first interview with a big leaguer, Bert Blyleven, back in 1983, and has been an invaluable resource since I started covering baseball as a beat writer in 1995.


I was also lucky enough to begin covering baseball when Jim Murray was still alive-in fact, the first two World Series I covered, in 1995 and 1996, I sat next to Jim in the press box for several games. I'll never forget being in Yankee Stadium for Game 6 of the 1996 World Series between the Yankees and Braves, and before the game Vin Scully stopped by to chat with Jim for about 20 minutes, and Jim included me in the entire conversation, like I belonged. It was like chatting with the Mt. Rushmore of sports journalism. Not only was Jim an incredible writer, he was as down-to-earth and friendly as a guy can be. As I was writing my game story about the Yankees clinching the World Series that night I kept thinking, "My game story is going to be packaged on the front page of the LA Times with Jim Murray . I am not worthy. " Talk about pressure. There have been plenty of other Times writers who have helped and influenced me over the years, but if I start listing them, I'm sure I'll leave someone out, so I'll just leave it at that.


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Yes, but the kids table was still right next to the reporters.


If you have not yet listened to this/watched this interview, it is an absolute must for any sports fan. The one comment that ALL of the members of the media made to me coming off the stage was that "these were some GREAT questions!" They loved it and they loved being able to put their pen and paper down and remember why they became sports fans in the first place. I've already spoken with some of the media guys that were not there that night and they are planning on coming next year. This is going to become a great staple for all our future Fanfests.

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Bill Plunkett was missed at the kids table.


Like DiGiovanna, we've done this before with Plunkett too. 




By Chuck Richter - Angelswin.com Executive Editor

We had the opportunity to hook up with the Angels Orange County Register beat writer Bill Plunkett and ask him a variety of questions that pertain to the Angels, his job and a little bit about himself. Enjoy what we thought was an informative feature on several subjects from Bill Plunkett.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - Bill, thank you for taking time away from your schedule to do this interview with us. If you don't mind, tell our readers a little bit about Bill Plunkett the person, the path that you took to become a journalist and what it's been like working for the Orange County Register over the years; 20-plus years now, right?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - My pleasure, Chuck. I've actually only been at the Register since late '99. But I've been in California for more than 20 years, covering baseball (among many other things) in various roles during that time.

I always say the back of my baseball card would look pretty interesting. Grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. Got a degree in journalism at Michigan State (Go Green!). Didn't really intend to become a sports writer, but there was a chain of weekly newspapers in the area that paid $25 or so for stories/photos on high school sports. It was a way to get some bylines and some money. Things might have turned out differently if they paid $25 to cover city council meetings. On second thought nah.

My first job with a daily newspaper was in Gallup, N.M. ("The Heart of Indian Country" it said on the city-limits signs). I went from there to Casper, Wyo., to Victorville, Calif., then Palm Springs for 10 years and to the OCR climbing up through the minor leagues the hard way.

It was a tough way to go, but I think I'm a better writer/reporter for the experience. I've interviewed pro wrestlers and rodeo cowboys, boxers and ballplayers and even an ex-president (Gerald Ford). Nearly had Willie Mays run over me with a golf cart (intentionally), had my picture in a major magazine with President Clinton (Golf Magazine, he was following through on a swing, I'm in the background with my arms folded, holding a notebook hey, that counts). Covered a handful of Super Bowls, the "Bite of the Century," when Tyson took a chunk out of Holyfield and a lot of baseball. That became my full-time role at the Register seven years ago now, three of those spent on the Dodgers beat.

Married with two teenage sons, who were raised to like Springsteen and hit the cutoff man.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - 2002, what a joy that must have been covering the Angels after the 6-14 start. Share with us a little bit about that experience from the regular season comeback wins, the playoff run and of course, Games 6 and 7.

A: (Bill Plunkett) - I was basically the utility infielder on the OCR roster that year. Spent the baseball season going back and forth between the Dodgers and Angels, filling in for both of our beat writers at the time.

The thing that struck me most about that season and that playoff run in particular was how shocking it was to see the Angels with an actual homefield advantage and a huge one during the playoffs.

No offense to the long-time Angels fans out there, but you could look down from the press box and see the creases still in the T-shirts people were wearing to the park during the playoffs. The price tags were practically showing.

Everything has changed since then. I covered many a game in the late '80s and '90s, when the visiting team's fans took over the stadium. Not anymore though the Yankees and Red Sox fans still try.

Three moments stand out from that playoff run that endless inning against the Yankees in the ALDS (fifth inning, Game 4 when they had, what, 30 hits?). It was so indicative of what the Angels had done all season drive starters from the game, feast on the soft underbelly of pitching staffs (middle relievers) and a sign of things to come in the postseason. Then, of course, Kennedy's three-homer game in the ALCS and Spiezio's home run in Game 6 against the Giants. Spiezio's HR -- the stadium just exploded and there was a definite "Oh-my-God-they're-really-going-to-do-it" feel from that moment forward.

Our great columnist Mark Whicker put it this way in his blog recently about that postseason run "It's the month that turned around a franchise, that changed the way a county looked at its baseball team, that altered the way the Angels looked at themselves."


(And for those of you on this Website who criticized Whicker and questioned his baseball knowledge yeah, I'm talking about you, you could NOT be more wrong.)

Q: (Angelswin.com) - Bill, besides the 2002 Championship season, in all of your years covering the Angels as the club's beat writer, what are some of your fondest memories?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - The big games are the obvious ones not just the Angels, but things like Aaron Boone's dramatic home run to sink the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS, Bo Jackson's home run in the All-Star Game at Angel Stadium years ago, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs by the Dodgers in the ninth inning a couple years ago. That certainly tested my deadline skills as a writer.

But it's more the million little off-the-field moments that stick with me. Conversations with various players conversations more so than interviews as you build relationships. Sitting with Preston Gomez in the media dining room and listening to his stories or going out to dinner with the great Jaime Jarrin (Dodgers broadcaster). The camaraderie in the press box.

The places that I've been able to go like the White House with the Angels in 2003.

Because I've covered both the Dodgers and Angels over the years, I've been to every major-league park (except the two new ones about to open in New York) plus a dozen or more that have been bulldozed or abandoned. Having grown up going to games at Tiger Stadium, it was a thrill to go back there as a reporter and go in the clubhouses, the dugouts. It pains my heart to think of them tearing that place down. But having seen what a dump (sorry) it was on the interior, I understood why it was necessary. I've seen the boats on Lake Michigan from the press box at Wrigley Field on a Memorial Day afternoon and I've been inside the Green Monster in Fenway Park (signed my name on a beam). I always make it a point to watch batting practice from the Monster Seats whenever we go to Boston. They are the most unique seats in baseball. It's like you're sitting on the shortstop's shoulder.

Sure beats spending 9 to 5 in a cubicle somewhere every day.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - What is your most memorable Angels player interview?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - Well, I remember calling David Eckstein for some reason during one offseason. I was wrapping up the interview when I heard him say to someone, "No, you go ahead." I asked him where he was. Target. He was at Target shopping for something and was letting people go ahead of him in the checkout line rather than be rude to me and interrupt the interview.

Or there was the time Tim Belcher got bounced out of a start early and wrote his quotes on a piece of paper, taped it to his locker and left. Best recent quote I can think of might have been John Lackey’s five-word summation of his philosophy on treating injuries: "Ice it from the inside." I remember interviewing Garret Anderson when he was a 20-year-old prospect in the Cal League and asking him about the scouting report on him very talented, but a guy who didn't play particularly hard. Then interviewing him two springs ago as his career wound down with the Angels and asking him about the perception of him as a talented guy who didn't play particularly hard. Got some very candid answers from him at that point (and from some of his former teammates).

I also did a project back in the '90s, when the Angels were abandoning Palm Springs as their part-time spring training home (the 'Last Hurrah in Shangri-La' as reliever Scott Bailes coined it on T-shirts he sold that spring seriously). I interviewed Gene Autry and got to listen to his memories of the early days, leading the team on bicycles through the streets of Palm Springs to the stadium. I tracked down Bo Belinsky and Dean Chance for those stories and got some very different memories from them.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - Who are some of your favorite all-time Angels players?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - I don't really have what you would call "favorites." You look at the game and the people in it differently from this perspective.

But I did have a special interest in guys like Tim Salmon, Jim Edmonds and Garret Anderson. I covered them as Class-A players in the Cal League then watched their Major League careers play out.

I can also say David Eckstein and Torii Hunter are probably the two most genuine, nicest people I've run across in pro sports. Darin Erstad and Salmon were always a pleasure to deal with. Erstad had a much better sense of humor than his "game-face" demeanor let on. I asked him once if - after his days playing football at Nebraska - they had taken his old helmet, put it on a cart and used it to carry injured players off the field. (The man has a large dome.) And he didn't beat me to a bloody pulp.

On the field, I enjoyed watching Troy Percival except when I was on deadline. Talk about a "max-effort" pitcher. And Erstad's 2000 season was one of the more remarkable, aberrational things I've seen everything that came off his bat was a line drive. Vladimir Guerrero is a one-of-a-kind player and one day I will tell people about watching a Hall of Famer play.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - In our interview with Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times last year, we asked him what the craziest thing he's ever seen in the Angels clubhouse either pre-game or post-game. What still gives you a chuckle when you look back at what you've witnessed when players are knuckleheads behind the scenes?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - Well, Mike has been around these guys on a more regular basis than I have over the years. The stories that make me laugh the most are ones that I wasn't actually there to see in person like the legendary "Pollo Grande" spring training story involving Ramon Ortiz and an ostrich.

The craziest things I've seen in a clubhouse actually came during my time on the Dodger beat - which coincided with Milton Bradley's time in LA. I was there for all of his antics, including his clubhouse confrontation with Jason Reid of the L.A. Times during the 2004 playoffs.

One of the funniest things I've seen in a clubhouse came during spring training that year when Jose Lima was trying to make the club. A bunch of the Latin players were sitting at a table in the middle of the clubhouse and Lima was telling a story in Spanish. I have no idea what the story was about, but he got more animated with each twist in the narrative, eventually standing up and stripping his clothes off one by one as he told the story. The punch line whatever it was left him standing in the middle of the room naked with the Spanish-speaking players falling down on the floor in laughter.

Must have been one heckuva story. I've been meaning to learn Spanish ever since.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - Who do you think has emerged as the Angels leader in the clubhouse, player-wise? Is there one player who bridges the gap between the "American" and Latin players?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - There are different kinds of leaders.

John Lackey is definitely one (and would be a big loss if he slips away as a free agent). But a starting pitcher who only plays once every five days can only have so much impact in the clubhouse. The pitching staff is almost a team within a team.

Torii Hunter, because of the force of his personality and his openness with the media, is another kind of leader. Vladimir Guerrero, because of the force of his talent and stature in the game, is a leader, even though he seems to exist on "Planet Vlad" and just goes about his business.

Though I wouldn't say there is any worrisome division between the American and Latin players, I can't think of anyone who bridges that gap per se. In my experience, though, that is fairly typical of a major-league clubhouse.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - How difficult is it finding a translator and/or how much do they speak English if it's just for a post game quote or such? Do the players translate for each other or is it coaches or possibly Jose Mota more often?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - That's actually an issue that Tim Mead and I have talked about often how much responsibility do teams have (to the player and/or media) in situations like that? Most of the teams that have signed Asian players have had translators on staff in one capacity or not. I don't know of any teams that do the same for Spanish-speaking players. They are left to fend for themselves, often as teenagers dumped into some minor-league town (though English lessons are usually offered in one form or another).

All of the Angels' Spanish-speaking players do speak English to some extent. I can walk up to Vlad and have a rudimentary conversation in English (or make him laugh at my feeble efforts to speak Spanish). But when it is an interview situation, he and most of the Latin players feel more comfortable having someone translate and I certainly understand that.

Broadcaster Jose Mota has such a good relationship with the Spanish-speaking players on the team that he is their first choice to translate. He is also our first choice as reporters Jose understands our needs and translates the player's full answer, trying to pass on the conversational nuances. Coaches Alfredo Griffin and Orlando Mercado have often served as translators when Jose wasn't available (it really isn't part of his job description) and they'll often paraphrase or pass on the answer in their own words. That's not really what we're looking for. Video coordinator Diego Lopez has helped us out on a few occasions and done a terrific job. But Diego has his hands full with his own job and is not often available.

I can only remember a couple times when one player has translated for another in an interview situation. Ervin Santana did it for us with Erick Aybar on one occasion last season ironic because Santana had used Kelvim Escobar as a translator in 2007. Santana (who has spoken English in interviews since he came to the big leagues) was mad at the media during his horrible '07 season and refused to do interviews in English for awhile his way of letting us know he wasn't happy with us. An All-Star season in 2008 patched that up and his English was miraculously restored.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - What is your take on the Alex Rodriguez situation. Do you think it's a legit story or has it become tabloid fodder. Why would alleged "anonymous test" results get leaked to the media?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - As for the reason behind the leaks, I have no idea. As a reporter, you never know what a source's agenda might be you just have to be aware that they always have one. I hope you're not saying that the SI reporters should have closed their eyes and refused to report the information once they got it.

The Rodriguez steroid story is definitely a legitimate news story. His dalliance with Madonna? That's tabloid fodder. I do get the feeling that fans are just tired of the whole topic of steroids. There is an assumption that "everyone did it." How accurate that is we'll never know. If anyone is looking for a clean "He did it", "He did not" conclusion to the steroid era, you're not going to get it. There will always be a cloud hanging over that period in baseball history. Good reporting will continue to shed some light on it, but we'll never know the whole story.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - ESPN Baseball Tonight's entire cast has World Series predictions of a combination of the Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Red Sox playing. What is your take on the oft-asked question of East Coast bias?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - East Coast bias definitely exists but it's more a case of convenience than any "We-hate-the-Angels" conspiracy. If ESPN's headquarters were in L.A. (and the Pacific time zone) instead of Bristol, Conn. (and the Eastern time zone), things would be different. And you have to admit, there have been more compelling personalities on those teams in recent years than there have been in Anaheim. The Angels have been good but dull in a lot of ways (which, I maintain, is the way Mike Scioscia wants it).

I've never understood why fans get as worked up as they do about a mention (or lack thereof) on national shows. Hey, we local beat writers know a lot more about the team anyway. Why do you need Steve Phillips or Peter Gammons to tell you something they probably got from reading our stories online? (Gratuitous self-promotion alert).

This is a disturbing 21st-century trend, nothing really happens until someone on TV says it happened.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - In this economy, is the OC Register committed to sending a beat writer to all 81 road games?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - Why???? What have you heard??!?!?! Seriously, these are very bad times for our business. Very bad. A lot of people I know and respect, who dedicated their professional lives to newspapers, have lost their jobs in the past year or two. I was saying to someone after the recent cuts at the Riverside P-E that I felt like a cruiser in the game Battleship salvos keep exploding all around me and I feel like it's just a matter of time before I get hit.

The way people get their information and how they read that information has changed drastically and rapidly in the past few years. We can argue about the positives and negatives of that some other time. But the fact is it's not changing back. Newspapers are thrashing around, trying to make the transition and save themselves. At the Register, our emphasis has changed almost totally to a focus on the Web and not the print edition. (We can argue about the positives and negatives of that some other time as well.)

There are no guarantees. All I can say is that maintaining our audience among Angels fans and extending that audience is currently a very important part of what we're trying to do at the Register.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - Back to the Angels before we finish up. When you look at this group of young Angels hitters going into the 2009 season, who in your opinion is the Angels next Tim Salmon, Jim Edmonds or Garret Anderson?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - It's fairly rare these days for players to stay with one franchise for as long as Salmon and Anderson did, allowing fans to follow them through all the stages of their career. But I suppose there is a possibility that the current crop of young infielders Morales, Kendrick and Aybar could have similar career arcs in Anaheim as that group of outfielders.

Kendrick has star potential. Aybar is my pick to have a breakout season this year and take that shortstop position by the throat. I think it's short-sighted on the part of fans who have gotten down on both of those guys based on their play in the post-season last year talk, about your small sample sizes.

Q: (Angelswin.com) - Lastly, you've covered the Angels through 3 different owners (Autrys, Disney and Moreno). What differences do you see in the way they ran the Angels operations?

A: (Bill Plunkett) - The landscape of sports and MLB have changed so much during that time it might not be fair to compare.

I did write once that the Angels couldn't find their way to the World Series with a road map because a map requires you to choose a route and follow through with it. For much of their history under Autry and Disney, the Angels never seemed to have a direction. At least not the same direction for very long.

That has definitely changed under Arte Moreno. There is a clear organizational philosophy. Arte doesn't get the credit for that. That philosophy was established by Bill Stoneman (something for which he doesn't get nearly enough credit) and has become even more defined and refined under Mike Scioscia (who has as much influence on an entire franchise as any manager in baseball). Arte gets credit for recognizing that when he bought the franchise and resisting the temptation to meddle and muddy it up.

I know some fans are frustrated by the Angels' recent postseason disappointments. They've been called the Atlanta Braves of the '90s. Those of us who have been around long enough to remember the years of mediocrity can recognize that as a distinct improvement.

Wow, I haven't had this much homework in years. Reminds me of those old Saturday Night Live skits with Emily Latella on Weekend Update answering viewer's questions except they were always from the same viewer. A Mr. Richard Fedor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey.

"Well, Mr. Richard Fedor - you sure ask a lot of questions for someone from New Jersey."

Thanks for the opportunity to introduce myself to the AW.com crowd.

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Bill Plunkett was missed at the kids table.


Ha!  Bill was giving us s**t on Twitter because we had a roundtable for these guys, yet made him sit at the kids table last year.


I'm going to miss Bill covering the team.  He's a good guy.

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Ha!  Bill was giving us s**t on Twitter because we had a roundtable for these guys, yet made him sit at the kids table last year.


I'm going to miss Bill covering the team.  He's a good guy.


I agree. Really nice guy. I'm going to miss his emails to me about his off-print opinions on the Angels. :)

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