Grady Sizemore: When I Was a Kid
Grady Sizemore was born in Seattle in 1982 and was a three-sport standout at Cascade High School in nearby Everett. He ran for 3,081 yards for his high school football team and set a state record with 16 career interceptions. He was so good in football that he was recruited by Arizona State, Clemson, California and Washington State. But Sizemore, now the center fielder for the Cleveland Indians, also starred in baseball in high school. He hit .457 with seven homers, 20 RBIs and 24 steals as a senior. Since he loved baseball and football, he played both at the University of Washington.
Coming up through the minor leagues he was featured on ESPN following the Double-A All-Star game in Connecticut in 2003. The next year he got to the Big Leagues, playing in 43 games for the Indians. Sizemore, who ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.5 seconds in high school, became a regular for Cleveland in 2005. For the next four seasons he hit at least 22 homers with at least 76 RBIs for the Tribe. His best season was in 2008, when he hit .268 with 33 homers and 90 RBIs. Sizemore hit .248 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs for Cleveland in 2009 even though his season ended in early September after surgery. He is expected to be a key player for Cleveland again in 2010 under new manager Manny Acta.
Sizemore, who lives in Arizona in the off-season, is very involved with the community off the field. He was Cleveland's 2008 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award and he has also been involved in Cleveland's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. He donated his time to help 1,000 youth ages 10-14 in a baseball and health clinic at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Sizemore contributes to the Cleveland Indians Charities (CIC) and has been involved with the Equipment Drive for the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. Junior Baseball's David Driver sat down with Sizemore before a game in 2009 to talk with Sizemore about When He Was a Kid.....
JB: What do you remember about first playing baseball? How did you get started?
GS: I played in the backyard with my dad. He was a big baseball fan and it just came naturally to me. We used to play catch together. He was my coach in T-Ball and Little League. It was something he and I shared.
JB: What position did you play?
GS: A little bit of everything. Mostly outfield and some first base and I pitched a little bit. That was about it.
JB: Who was your biggest influence early on?
GS: My dad was my biggest influence. He coached me up until high school. Other than that you have your high school coach. Early on (my dad) was the biggest influence.
JB: Did you play other sports besides baseball and football?
GS: I played three sports in high school. I knew baseball was definitely one of my favorites. I loved football, too. Those are the two sports I was serious about and wanted to pursue after high school. I also played basketball.
JB: What advice would you give young boys that want to play more than one sport?
GS: It is tough. For me, playing three sports, I was able to be a well-rounded athlete. I could separate from all three and have fun. It is a lot different now than when I was a kid. You are almost forced to play year round and to play on a travel team. It was different when I grew up. Everyone played different sports.
JB: What was your favorite Major League team growing up?
GS: I grew up in the Seattle area so I was a big fan of the Mariners, with (Ken) Griffey, Omar (Vizquel) and Randy Johnson and those guys. I think I was a big fan of Bo Jackson since he played baseball and football. I enjoyed watching the game. But I was much more hands on. I could not sit down and watch a whole game. I wanted to go outside and play. I had to go out and play. I was more active than anything.
JB: What advice would you give to young players who want to play the outfield?
GS: Put yourself in a good position. Obviously speed helps. The biggest thing is technique. You want to put yourself in a good position and not only use your arm but your feet to stop a runner. If you can cut down on the angle and cut down on the route that will save time and put you in a better position. It is about reaction and reading the ball off the bat.
JB: Do you remember your first Major League game?
GS: In my first game I pinch-hit in the ninth inning. I didn't play the field or anything. That is all that I remember. I didn't get a hit so it wasn't so memorable.
JB: Was it difficult growing up in the Pacific Northwest to get plenty of reps in baseball with the colder weather up there?
GS: The season was short, but the summers are nice so the summer was not a problem. Our high school schedule was limited compared to probably most schools.
JB: Would you do anything different about playing sports as a youth?
GS: What I did got me to where I am at. I am happy with that, obviously. I am lucky to be in this spot and I wouldn't want that to change. I had a tough choice to go to (college) or sign a pro contract. When you are 17 you don't know how that will play out. Who knows what would have happened. You are just kind of going with a gut decision. I am happy with the choice I made. I can not complain.
JB: Were you surprised how hard it is make the majors?
GS: I was lucky and fortunate early to have some success and have a team stick behind me and offer me a long-term deal, which secures my spot and probably makes it easier to play. Early on I was up and down and once you get here you don't want to go down. You try to learn every day and get better. You are going to have ups and downs. You try to learn every day and grow as a player.
JB: There is a lot more failure in baseball than other sports. How did you deal with that?
GS: Statistically, you are going to fail more often than other sports. The game is all about failure. That is something you have to learn to deal with. Every player is going to go through that. No one is going to master the game. It is kind of a humbling game and it balances itself out.
JB: How would you like to be remembered as a player?
GS: I go out there every day and I want to play as hard as I can as long as I can. I want to be the guy that is hustling out grounders, taking an extra base. I want to put pressure on the other team and make us better as a team. I hope to have my teammates feed off of that.