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Monday, August 1, 2011

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: CHUCK KNOBLAUCH

Any true Yankee fan knows that Chuck Knoblauch was a key figure in helping to make baseball history throughout the 1990s. Chuck was nice enough to talk to me about that time in his life, his father, and what’s happening with him now.
As a player for the Minnesota Twins, 1991 Rookie of the Year, and multiple World Series Champion with both the Twins and the New York Yankees, how exciting was that time in his life?

Chuck Knoblauch: “Very exciting. Growing up as a kid, dreaming of the major leagues, it was very exciting. I believe that everything happens for a reason; the major leagues is where I became a man from a boy. I went through the good, the bad, and the ugly; but looking back, I wouldn’t change a bit."BYB: What was your initial reaction to being brought to the New York Yankees in 1998?

Chuck Knoblauch: “It was awesome. Everyone was so welcoming during Spring Training, I felt like I belonged right away. I spent a lot of time on hitting with Derek, and O’Neill and Pettitte too.”
Chuck went on to discuss some of the initial difficulties that he had adjusting to life in New York City, being born and raised in Texas. However, he quickly grew to love the city’s people, the culture and atmosphere and found himself becoming a part of the community. He recalls his favorite times in Manhattan were in the summer, when the city was hot, less crowded, and alive with activity.

On playing for Joe Torre, Chuck had a lot to say about the special relationship he shared with the Yankees’ skipper. Calling him a “father figure” as well as a manager, Chuck says that all of the players had the utmost respect for Joe, for many reasons.
Chuck Knoblauch: “It was so easy to respect Joe. There wasn’t much he didn’t experience on the field as a player himself. He could relate to the players on so many levels. So whether you were batting .319, or .220, he could relate to you. He was great at handling all of the different personalities on the team. There weren’t very many team meetings, but when there were, he wasn’t screaming and yelling. Joe was always at an even-keel, and managed with love, desire, and a passion to win. We (the team) played like we did out of respect for him.”

When discussing the clubhouse atmosphere, Knoblauch remembered many of the players and their antics fondly. He talked about how there was a band room set-up for the team, and it wasn’t uncommon to see players or crew members to be back there, having impromptu jam "sessions” during rain delays. He specifically recalls Bernie Williams playing his guitar, and laughed as he explained how Paul O’Neill once tried to teach him how to play the drums.(In Photo: Paul O'Neill)
Chuck Knoblauch
: “O’Neill is a great drummer. I’d always wanted to play, since I was a kid. Paul tried really hard to teach me, and then eventually just gave up on me. It didn’t work out that well,” he laughed.

Chuck was playing for the New York Yankees on Sept. 11, 2001, and he recalls that morning vividly. He said that phone call from his mother had woke him up, asking if he was okay, and if he was safe. Chuck said he was still half-asleep, when he went to the window, pulled the blinds, and saw the devastation of the attack on the Twin Towers. From where he lived,

Chuck Knoblauch: “I had a clear view. I just sat there in amazement for hours. I saw everything. I saw the people jumping from the Towers. I was scared; and even more scared when the Pentagon got hit. I thought to myself, ‘what in the world is going on here?’ I even called Brian Cashman to ask if we were still playing that night, and found out that everything was cancelled for a while. When we finally got back, we played in Chicago. It’s usually a tough place to play, and the fans were all wearing New York shirts and were very supportive. The rest of the season that year was just a blur.”

We’re all familiar with the close relationship that Chuck shared with his Dad, who was a career high school baseball coach. Chuck lost his Dad to Alzheimer’s disease, and this was a very painful loss for him. He’s still able to laugh at some of the good times, such as when his Dad would leave Astros games in the 8th inning so it wouldn’t get stuck in traffic. As a kid, Chuck recalls that no matter how tired his father was after coaching all day, all of his time after work was spent coaching him.

Chuck Knoblauch: “One important thing I learned from my Dad was, is not to talk about anything that you know nothing about. My Dad was a pitcher. He’d day, ‘Don’t ask me about hitting, I don’t know anything about it”.

Chuck’s father was very supportive of his son’s dreams of being a major league baseball player, and would take him to batting cages and other places where he could fine-tune his skills.

Chuck Knoblauch: “He was tough on me. He instilled my work ethic. I didn’t get away with anything.”
As far as Chuck Knoblauch’s life is concerned today, everything seems to be falling nicely into place. He and his wife are expecting a baby girl any day now. At the age of 43, Chuck says that although he would love for his kids to have seen him as a major league player, he’s glad that he doesn’t have the rigorous schedule that would keep him away from his wife and children. The couple also has plans to continue having children; Knoblauch hopes that someday, he’ll have a son that he can name after his father.

As far as appearances, he doesn’t do many autograph signings, but one thing Chuck is doing is getting involved in the early stages of writing a book. Updates will be posted on his website: www.ChuckKnoblauch11.com.

Chuck is also quite active on Tweeter and responds to many of his fans on a daily basis through his verified Twitter Account, @ChuckKnob4real. Through Twitter he says he keeps updated with Yankee news and opinion through Bleeding Yankee Blue tweets. Pretty Cool.

It was a pleasure speaking with Chuck Knoblauch, who was gracious, fun, witty, personable and very easy to talk with. By the end of our conversation, I felt like I was talking to an old friend.

Many thanks to him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with Bleeding Yankee Blue. Oh, and be sure to follow Chuck on Twitter!




--Christy Lee, BYB Staff Writer



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