Remembering 2012: Q&A with Joe Thurston
A Conversation with Joe Thurston
Revolution infielder and a veteran of parts of seven Major League seasons, Joe Thurston talked with the York Revolutionary Times this past season about his time in the big leagues, his approach and a famous family member.
YRT: Everyone always wonders about big league life, what it’s like to be in the Major Leagues. And you got to experience that for parts of seven seasons. What’s the best part about being in the Major Leagues?
JT: Great teams, great teammates and just playing at the highest level. Every part of it is great. I can’t really pinpoint just one thing that sticks out the most. Obviously in 2009 I was up there the whole year with a great team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and we made the playoffs, so to have big league playoff experience on a winning team, playing with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and all the different guys on our team; and Manager Tony LaRussa, that was something special.
YRT: With the electricity of a MLB stadium at playoff time, how hard is it to calm yourself down and go play in that environment?
JT: One thing that helped was that Tony LaRussa would tell us to always pick our guys up every time we’re in the dugout, every time they come in. ‘Pick your guys up, make sure they know that you’re behind them.’ We started that season in L.A. – that’s a hostile environment. They’re great fans and they love their team. They’re talkin’ mess, doing whatever they can to get you out of your game and if you’re playing, you hear it. So when the manager tells you stay focused by staying behind your teammates, that’s what helped out.
YRT: Albert Pujols…man or machine?
JT: Um, both.
YRT: What is it like to be around him everyday and see one of the best go about his business?
JT: To be around him everyday and watch him do his work, it’s awesome. He’s a great player, great hitter and plays the game the right way. He’s smart, he knows how to prepare himself. He makes the adjustments you need to make to be a great hitter. That’s what the game is all about – making the adjustments.
YRT: What was your favorite Major League stadium that you played in?
JT: St. Louis, that was definitely the best. They have the best fans that I’ve ever experienced. Every game, it didn’t matter if it was a Sunday night game or a Tuesday day game, we had 35 to 40,000. Just great fans; if you play a great game, make a great play, they applaud you. Even if you’re on the opposing team, they still let you know. And that’s what baseball is all about. I played with the Red Sox so I’ve been to Yankee Stadium and I’ve been to Boston. Those fans are great too – they’re loud, they’re hostile. But St. Louis was a different thing, those are true baseball fans. New York fans, Boston fans, it’s a, ‘we’re better that you’ type of atmosphere. But St. Louis is ‘we love the game of baseball, and we know the game of baseball.’
YRT: How does Philadelphia compare to that?
JT: Philly, they’re up there with New York and Boston. Hard-nosed, they love their team. They love Philadelphia sports, and that was an awesome thing to be around as well. It was a ‘you’re coming into our hometown, we’re gonna get you’ type of atmosphere. It’s all fun and games, it’s fun, it’s part of baseball, it’s part of competing.
YRT: So did you have a least favorite place to go?
JT: No, I mean, if you’re in the big leagues, you’ve got to be happy wherever you go. You’ve got to be excited to be there, baseball in the big leagues is so much better than anything else. If anything, I’d say I didn’t like going to Wrigley because of the dugouts. The dugouts are small, the locker rooms are small. It’s the oldest place around, it’s tradition and all of that which is fine, there’s just no room anywhere, you can’t get ready. Like if I’m coming into to pinch hit or pinch run, there’s no room for you to get loose. I wouldn’t say least favorite, because the city, the stadium are awesome. But I couldn’t move.
YRT: Is the day-to-day life in the big leagues different that the minors, or do you prepare the same way?
JT: I think it’s the same. You prepare to play the same way wherever you are. It’s the same game, you’ve got to pitch well, hit well, play defense well, run, all the things. Baseball is baseball no matter where you play it. It’s how well you repeat the same pitch, the same swing. That’s why guys are so successful at the big league level, because they’re able to do the same thing over and over, but still make adjustments when they need to. Here you have to be the same way, you’ve got to prepare to win, prepare to do well. You want to be successful when you’re here. I’m not playing just because I’m playing, I want to do well.
YRT: You’re from Northern California, what’s life like back there?
JT: It’s awesome, I love Northern California. My hometown is Vallejo, We’ve got great athletes that come out of there. My cousin is C.C. Sabathia, we grew up there and played in North Vallejo Little League.
YRT: Did you play with or against C.C.?
JT: I played against him, but then in all-stars we were teammates. And then in high school ball we were teammates.
YRT: What was C.C. like back then?
JT: Same guy, awesome guy. Competitive, a great person. Always wanted to work hard, always wanted to be the best. A lot of people only see the baseball side of him, but he’s just a great human being, period.
YRT: Any other relatives in pro sports?
JT: Yes, I have another cousin, Josh Childress, who plays basketball. And Ralph Brown is a cousin on my mom’s side that played DB for the New York Giants. I don’t know him well, but C.C. was my close cousin.
YRT: Any player you tried to emulate when you were a kid?
JT: Ozzie Smith, I liked him. I liked Brett Butler a lot because he liked to bunt, and I like to bunt.