The Friars On Base Interview: John D’Acquisto-Part II


Editor’s note: The beginning of Part II of the Friars On Base Interview with former Padres’ reliever, Dr. John D’Acquisto, begins where we left of from Part I, which is when John returned to the big leagues after the strike-shortened season of 1981. ~BB

Billy Brost: You returned with the Angels the following season (1982), but ended up in Atlanta during spring training. Is that correct? Was Joe Torre the skipper there at that time?

John D’Acquisto: Yes that was correct, and if Joe Torre didn’t go to see my dad at Anthony’s Fish Grotto that one night, I would of never of been signed by Atlanta…and Bob Gibson was my pitching coach.

BB: Mr. Torre has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever met.

JD: He is a good friend.

BB: Doesn’t get much better than that. Was he (Gibson) just as competitive with you guys as his pitchers as he was as a pitcher himself, or was he much more laid back?

JD: He was a little more laid back but he liked my slider go figure…

BB: Haha. If Bob Gibson likes anything, you go with it!

JD: I did, and I signed on the dotted line real fast with Gibby behind me and he had his hand on my shoulder.

BB: You played for my all-time favorite manager in Oakland. Was he as much of a pitcher-hater and tyrant as many of his former players say he was?

JD: No, he was the opposite, as long as you did what he asked you to do…I had a great time with Billy Martin. He was great to me and I learned a lot from him about situational baseball and Art Fowler was amazing in his own right. He loved us like his own kids.

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BB: Art Fowler, the designated pitching coach everywhere Billy went.

JD: Art was Billy’s buddy, and they were always together.

BB: Did you feel like Billy burned up you guys in the ‘pen too early? You pitched with Matt Keough, who is what, a second or third generation big leaguer. How was he as a teammate?

JD: No I felt and told Billy,  “You need to pitch me more.”  But with the DH, they let the starters go a little further. Those guys, McCatty, Keough, Norris, Kingman and Langford were innings eaters they loved to pitch and we didn’t really have the luxury of a good bullpen that is why they picked me up.

BB: Have you ever coached at any level? Have you desired to ever get back into the game in that capacity?

JD: Yes, I have coached at the Division One level in baseball. High School at Eastlake, and I was a pitching coach for the US Navy travel baseball team out of San Diego that played against D-I college teams….I still coach a couple of prospects now and would love to get back as a coach in baseball…I have a lot to offer any organization that is willing to have me and I have had a couple of offers come my way recently…

BB: You were the 1974 NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year. What were some of the challenges you faced coming back in 1975 trying to prove you weren’t a flash in the pan?

JD: Getting back from surgery was difficult because I lost 5 degrees range of motion and it tough to have control. I had Tommy John surgery and no one knew it.

BB: That was very early in the development of the procedure. Did you know at that point, that things would never be the same, or were you confident that you’d be as good as before?

JD: I was confident; but more determined to get back and with the Giants not knowing where they were going Tampa, Toronto, etc…It was a personal thing for me to prove everyone wrong.

BB: The game has changed quite a bit since you played. Managers handle both starting pitchers, as well as bullpens and especially closers differently. In your opinion, why are there now so many more arm injuries leading to Tommy John, and sometimes a second TJ procedure?

JD: Training and overuse. It is always a problem. Travel ball teams that kids are playing on, like three along with their high school team is ridiculous…They are training battleships and not PT boats for speed and strength…Bullpens don’t know how to get a guy ready and situations dictate when to get your guys up no more than three times, then you need to sit them down.

Remember I learned from the best, Rollie Fingers…He would tell me to get up and get ready fast…Be ten pitches away from being totally ready and look at your situation, and let your guys know who is pitching and in what spots…So it is imperative that you have a plan… I have seen it so many times that managers and pitching coaches are not prepared for the upcoming situations for a hold or to save the game from being a blowout. Know your staff, know what your staff can do, and establish who does what and when they do it, is very important. I just don’t see it in the way things are handled now.

BB: I spoke to a trainer that rehabs several TJ injuries. His take is along the lines with yours: overuse before kids are fully developed. He also said kids are throwing harder at a younger age than ever before. Arms aren’t build for that kind of stress and force that young. Would you agree with that?

JD: Yes, very much so. I have worked on studies with some of the best and we have found that out also. But if you train the body in a balanced method, it is better for longevity. Take the radar guns and throw them away. Randy Jones threw 76 MPH and won a Cy Young award. I threw 102.4 and won Rookie Pitcher of the Year award and we both had major surgery. So my point is, that everyone is different, and you have to train everyone according to their physiology or body make up. and they aren’t. They are training them one way for everybody and that doesn’t work. People are different and training should be different. Mechanics in pitching are all different, so train accordingly to their weaknesses and strengths. Balanced bodies last longer.

BB: Was San Diego your favorite professional stop?

JD: I had 3 real good years there, plus playing in my home town was great. You would have to be nuts not to like playing in your home town.

BB: Can you tell me about the work you do for MLB and your charitable work? What should someone that isn’t involved everyday with your causes know about them?

JD: What I do for MLB is called a Field Timing Coordinator. It is specific to bring in commercial breaks for the network and taking them back to the game each inning. I am also responsible for letting the crew in New York know when there is a potential for a play review.

The charitable work I do is twofold. I worked with inner city children to promote awareness and life skills through our baseball clinics “The life skills station carries the most weight for the long-term,” said Denny Doyle, chairman of the youth clinic series. “It carries a little more strength and power coming from a Major League baseball player. We realize that puts a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders.”

The clinics are the only place in the world a young player can learn to take a lead from one of baseball’s best base stealers and move on to the pitcher’s mound for instruction from one of the most dominant left-handed hurlers in history. Bert Campaneris and Steve Carlton understood the day they stepped off the baseball diamond that it was only a beginning. Baseball never stopped calling to them.

The transition from player to teacher is a rewarding process. “There is nothing I would rather do than teach someone how to get his glove down or sign an autograph for a young player,” said Robinson, president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. “It is the least I can do to give back to a game that has given so much to me.”

A former Major League Baseball player’s greatest reward is watching a young player leave the field a better player, but more importantly, a better person. Baseball, its value, heritage and heroes, will always endure, and the Alumni Association knows that only by preserving and protecting what is best about the game can we remain a valued member of the baseball family.

I am involved in these clinics in the Phoenix area, and enjoy working with the children and helping them understand the right way to play baseball is through respect of yourself as well as the authority that teaches you, your coaches and umpires as well.

My Dad was involved in the American heart and lung associations. With the Stroke foundation, and I try to raise as much attention and funds for the organization as possible. I am also involved in the Stand Up 2 Cancer charity that MLB sponsors Power To End Stroke is an education and awareness campaign that embraces and celebrates the culture, energy, creativity and lifestyles of Americans. It unites people to help make an impact on the high incidence of stroke within their communities.

BB: How many former big league players are in involved in the clinics?

JD: They are all over the United States, and 200 players, maybe more than that. We have 18 to 36 players here in Phoenix alone.

BB: Are the clinics located just in big league cities, or are they spread out all over the country?

JD: They go all over, and you can request us to come to your city to hold one for you.

BB: Okay, thank you so very much for your time! I truly appreciate it.

JD: My pleasure.

Editor’s Note: Dr. D’Acquisto requested that we share the following quote with our readers:

"“Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself.”"