By Adam Dodge - Angelswin.com Senior Writer
I was fortunate enough to catch up with the King Fish last Thursday night before I headed to New York for the weekend. We let you know about his event on Saturday, May 9th at Angel Stadium, last week. Here is the entire interview, uncut.
Angelswin.com: What are your thoughts on this year’s Angels team, especially considering all of the tough things that have gone on in the first month of the season?
Tim Salmon: Well, I think it is kind of a fortunate situation in that I don’t think the division is that strong; I don’t think the other teams in the division are going to be able to take advantage of some of the issues the Angels are facing, playing .500, basically. I think that when some of the guys get back and healthy again, it’s going to be real tough on the rest of the division.
Angelswin.com: So, do you see the Angels running away with the division when it is all said and done?
Tim Salmon: I think so. While Oakland has improved a little bit and Seattle has improved, I still don’t think it will be enough. The Angels still have the bulk of the season to make up for what’s gone on early. I think the key is going to be getting Lackey back and Santana back strong to really anchor the starting rotation, which is going to make the difference over the course of the season. And then, of course, Vladdy coming back is going to be huge, too. Barring any further setbacks to some of the other guys, I think they’re in good shape, but anything can happen.
Angelswin.com: Speaking of “anything can happen,” the Angels won a World Series in 2002. How often do you think about the team’s great run that season? Is it something you think about every day? And how does it make you feel still today?
Tim Salmon: I don’t know if I think about it every day, but quite often, if I’m being introduced to someone, somebody tends to bring it up, which is constantly a reminder. But you know, they’re terrific memories sitting on this side of retirement; definitely one of those feats you’re very proud of. You feel very fortunate when you look back to not only play in a World Series, but to win a World Series.
Angelswin.com: I can imagine. The second home run you hit in Game Two — is that the standout memory for you?
Tim Salmon: Yeah, I think so. If you look at that team, every guy on the team had a moment during the playoffs where they shined and help the team win. It was definitely a 25-man effort. And World Series Game Two was my shining moment. I look back at that and am amazed that it actually happened because those are the things you dream about as a kid. To see it actually happen the way it did, I couldn’t have scripted it any better. The fact that it was Game Two and it helped us get that first win under our belt makes it mean all the much more to me. Everything about that World Series was awesome. When you come out on the winning end, there’s not much you can look back on in a negative light.
Angelswin.com: Moving on to your last game as an Angel, on Oct. 1, 2006, against the A’s, were you trying to hit a homer in every at-bat to get to 300?
Tim Salmon: (laughs) For sure. I have always taken pride in the fact that I never gave away at-bats. I always took what they gave me and always just tried to make good contact — you know, hit it where it’s pitched. Probably the most disappointing thing about it was that day I really felt like I was expanding it a little bit. I was trying to do a little too much. I’ve never been a hitter who could hit a home run on cue. Looking back, though, the results could have been the same just by (taking my normal approach) and maybe I’d be sitting here saying “maybe I should have tried to swing harder.” You could sit here and second guess it, but I gave it a good effort. It’s funny because you think about that season and I played the first six weeks of the year just about every day and then pretty much became a bench guy the whole year. If you would have asked me in May — when I think I had six home runs by the end (of the month) — I would have easily gotten 10 home runs. But I hit that spot when Juan Rivera got back where I didn’t see very many at-bats
Angelswin.com: Could you feel the fans really pulling for you that day? Did you feed off the energy in the park?
Tim Salmon: Oh yeah, for sure. I was very much aware of everything. Usually when you’re playing you’re sort of in a zone and you block out a lot of that, but the emotions were running so high that day. It was my last game ever and I knew it. Everything from waking up in the morning to driving to the ballpark for the last time — I mean all that stuff was very heavy on my heart and the way I played and everything the fans were giving, I was very much aware of it. To have the spotlight on you, you know, it’s funny; in my own small way I experienced what Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds experienced during those home run chases. It is really difficult based on my one day experience (laughs) to be in that kind of environment, where the emotions and adrenaline are running so high, to keep that in check and do what you normally do. It is very easy to get into that mode of trying to do too much. It didn’t work out. You know, 300 is a nice round number, but 299 actually gives me a better story to tell.
Angelswin.com: And if I recall, Reggie Willits made the final out in the 10th with you standing on deck. Were you thinking of changing your approach going into that potential last at-bat?
Tim Salmon: I was a little bit, because in my previous at-bat, I came up in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on third and less than two (outs) to win the game. I maybe got a little bit too long and I popped up to shortstop. And I remember being so disappointed that I thought “You know, forget the home run; you have a chance to win the game in your last at-bat.” I was really disappointed about that because it would have been more meaningful to me to say that my last professional at-bat contributed to the team winning. The whole time I was on deck I kept thinking “Forget the home run. Get back to basics. Take what they give you.” I was certainly in a different frame of mind than in my previous four at-bats.
Angelswin.com: How gratifying was it for you to play your entire career for one franchise, especially now that you see guys like GA, Ersty and Percy playing in other uniforms?
Tim Salmon: Very gratifying. I feel very blessed. I go all the way back to Joe Maddon, the guy that signed me, in my house when I was in college. From the very beginning, I had that relationship with the Angels. Especially now as a retired player, to have that association with the club means so much more. You know, Garret (Anderson) should have that association. Finishing out the way he will over the next year or two, I think he is deserving of a little bit more than that. The way I went out is the way that Percy, Ersty or Garret, the way they all should have went out.
Angelswin.com: As a player, what was it like for you to face a former teammate? Was it weird? A blast? If I recall correctly you homered off of Chuck Finley in your first at-bat against him.
Tim Salmon: I actually hit a couple of home runs off of him. After all those years playing behind him, I always looked at him as a pitcher as someone who, oh boy, he’d be tough to face. I had all these great feelings of admiration and respect for his talent and lo and behold the first game I hit a home run off of him. Oh my gosh. And I ended up hitting two, maybe three home runs off of him over the years I faced him. It just surprised me. Everyone asked me about it. I don’t know; maybe I had an intuitive feel for how he was going to pitch me. Maybe I just had a good feel for the way he worked and I incorporated that into my game plan. I always approached it with the respect and admiration for the players I played behind. I never went up there feeling like I was trying to hit a home run. It just happened. You just cut around that bases going “Man, how’d that happen?”
Angelswin.com: Finally, what are you doing to stay busy now that you’re retired?
Tim Salmon: Along the lines of the reason I called, one of the things I can do now that I’m retired are some active things I couldn’t do as a player. I’m a big power sports enthusiast. I love riding my quad, my motorcycles and dirt bikes — things like that — boating and Sea-Doos. I wouldn’t say I’m a gear head; I’m just making up for lost time. There are a lot of fun things out there.
I’m actually involved right now with the marketing of the Spyder Roadster. I had a chance to ride it and it is pretty awesome. And we’ll be out at the stadium on Saturday for fans to come and test ride it. I’ll be available for pictures and autographs.
The thing that is really neat about this is you can just use a normal driver’s license. For novice, for beginner types, your wife for example, it is very much something they can jump on and get a feel for and actually get out on the road and drive it. It’s pretty simple to do. If you’ve ever ridden a Sea-Doo or a quad, you know what I’m talking about. The overall comfort sitting on thing really makes you feel like you’re on control. It is very much like that and it’s a street bike. So for those of us who aren’t comfortable riding street bikes, this is a nice alternative.
Angelswin.com: I know you have the Tim Salmon Foundation. When is your next event?
Tim Salmon: We had our golf tournament in February. We’re going to push back the date next year to July. I had always done it February because I had to get it in before I broke for Spring Training and there is always an issue of weather and things like that. Now that I am retired, we can do it any time of the year and now it will pretty much be guaranteed that we’ll have a nice day out and we can make it a great day for all of our guests and sponsors. Even the charities, the kids involved, they wouldn’t be in school then, so we can get them a little more involved.
Angelswin.com: And can you remind our readers with which charities you’re aligned and what they do?
Tim Salmon: Yeah. The two charities are local Orange County charities. One is called Laurel House, which is a teenage crisis home where teens in crisis can be plugged out of their home for up to six months. These are troubled teens. The other (charity) is called Canyon Acres, which is foster care for those kids who have fallen through the cracks with parents who have had a tough time. I worked with these charities for 10 years as a player and have continued to do so since I retired and it has been good.
Check out the Spyder Roadster - http://spyder.brp.com/
You can visit Tim’s foundation at http://www.timsalmon.com/
Laurel House - www.laurelhouse.org
Canyon Acres - www.canyonacres.org