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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ROY SMALLEY

I'm a sucker for helping others. I appreciate when people take a moment, organize and get help to people in need.  That's why I have written about Yankees like Paul O'Neill, promoting his Right Field Charities, David & Erin Robertson's High Socks for Hope, Ty Hensley, a young Yankee prospect with an important cause... suicide prevention (HERE) and now, something special again. It’s called Pitch In for Baseball, a foundation run by former New York Yankee shortstop Roy Smalley. When I read about Roy's cause to help get all kinds of donations to victims of Hurricane Sandy, I just needed to pick his brain and find out exactly what he wanted to accomplish. It turns out his foundation raised over $150,000 worth of baseball equipment for those kids in the New York and New Jersey areas affected by that storm, a huge accomplishment.  I’m happy to say I was moved and I’m a big fan of Roy Smalley’s now… you should be too.  Here it is, Bleeding Yankee Blue’s interview with Roy Smalley. Enjoy this, I did…


BYB: Mr. Smalley, tell me about Pitch In for Baseball. What is your mission and tell us also about your latest crusade to help the victims of Hurricane?

Roy Smalley: Our mission, to put it simply is to put baseball equipment in the hands of kids who want to play ball but don’t have the resources to do so.  We source new and gently used baseball and softball equipment and distribute it to youth baseball organizations and communities in need.  We accomplish this through equipment and cash donations from individuals and organizations everywhere.  Our recipients include underprivileged and under served communities and those affected by natural disasters.  For example, we have donated equipment to RBI Programs (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) across the country, to school districts impacted by budget cuts and to Park and Recreation departments in under served areas.  We have re-supplied baseball equipment as part of disaster relief to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, tornadoes that decimated Joplin, Mo and Henryville, In, and the Tsunami that hit Japan.  Our current project is our largest and most challenging in our eight-year history.  We will re-supply equipment to over 5,000 kids in New Jersey and New York who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.  This effort has already begun with deliveries to Island Park, Rockaway, East Rockaway and Bayonne to name a few.  We have received requests recently from Jersey City and Staten Island as well.  It is a huge effort for us and will ultimately require substantially more in the way of equipment and financial contributions from generous donors out there who would like to help.  We see the happiness on the faces of the kids and the relief on their parents faces knowing that their kids are returning to some sense of normalcy—their baseball season—when normal has seemed impossibly far away.  We know what we and our supporters are doing is very important.

BYB:  Truth be told, I loved it when you were with the Yankees. As a kid who wanted to one day play shortstop for the Yankees myself, I appreciated you there in that position in 1982. Tell me how different it was playing in the Bronx compared to Minnesota with the Twins?

Roy Smalley: Playing shortstop in New York was a phenomenal experience.  The biggest difference between playing for the Yankees and the Twins was the intensity and notoriety that comes from playing for the Yankees.  Everything about the Yankees is hyper-intensity, the fans, the media. It was different compared to Minnesota.

BYB: As an athlete, did you always want to play baseball? If so, did your dad playing have everything to do with that?
(In Photo: Roy Smalley, 1953)
Roy Smalley:  I played all sports growing up, but I started on a mission to play major league baseball when I was 5 years old.  Idolizing my dad had a lot to do with that early on, but he never pushed me into it.  It became clear to me by high school that baseball was the sport in which I had the best chance to have an athletic career.

BYB: As a kid, who did you idolize in baseball besides your dad?

(In Photo: Gene Mauch)
Roy Smalley:  My uncle was Gene Mauch who was like a second father to me.  I also pretty much idolized all big league players.  I was drawn to shortstops, of course, but I’ve always loved and studied great hitters.  For me, that started with Ted Williams and Stan Musial and went through Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Frank Robinson, Oliva, Yaz, Yogi... you get the idea.

BYB:  What was the best part about playing for Billy Martin?

Roy Smalley: Well, I first played for Billy in 1975. He was my first big league manager.  What a way to break in!  By the time I played for him again with the Yankees, I was a pretty established player so the day to day intensity he drew wasn’t as big a deal to me.  I was able to enjoy a really first rate tactical manager.

BYB: While on the Yankees, who was your favorite teammate, or, who did you like hanging with, training with, etc?
(In Photo: Don Baylor)
Roy Smalley I liked all the guys on those Yankee teams. Don Baylor and I got very close as teammates in 83 and 84.

BYB: Describe a teammate like Don Mattingly in the clubhouse.

Roy Smalley: When I was there, Don was just establishing himself as the great player he was going to become.  He was quiet and unassuming and just went about his business of refining his considerable skill.  His leadership abilities came out much more after I had been traded in 1984.

BYB: Which guy on the Yankees right now are you a "fan" of,  not just because of his playing ability, but also because they are a wonderful role model and why?


Roy Smalley: I am a huge fan of Derek Jeter.  The professionalism and talent with which he has played the game since his first season with the Yankees is example for players and fans everywhere.  When the Yankees came here to Minnesota after Derek had gotten his 3,000th hit, I made a point of visiting him in the locker room and told him that as a former shortstop and on behalf of shortstops everywhere, we are proud of what he has done and how he has gone about doing it.  That was less about 3,000 hits and everything about the example he is on the field (and off, too).

BYB:  Back to your cause with Pitch In for Baseball... What can you tell the Victims of Sandy still struggling through this cold winter.

Roy Smalley:  We, at PIFB, are just happy to bring some sense of normalcy to their families by way of their kids being able to play ball this year when they thought they wouldn’t. We’d also like to let them know that even after they are not front page news anymore, there are many people out there thinking about them and about how we all can help in some small way.

BYB: Final question. Have you ever seen Bleeding Yankee Blue? It's our website for Yankee fans. What do you think?

Roy Smalley: Congratulations on your website.  I like it very much--very extensive and complete.  Quite impressive.  If I may, I would ask your followers to visit our website, as well, and get involved with us helping kids play ball.  We can be found at pitchinforbaseball.org  Thanks so much for your interest in us.  Who knows, with the help of  Yankee fans, we may be supplying equipment to the next Derek Jeter or Don Mattingly.

He's right! Mr. Smalley, What a pleasure to help promote PIFB and if you readers would like to donate, again, be sure to go to pitchinforbaseball.org and do what you can. You can also text "Give Gloves" to 80088 to make a $10 donation.

I applaud Roy Smalley and thank him for taking to time.  I also want to thank Doug Drotman who is always great getting us quality interviews with former New York Yankees, we appreciate you Doug!

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