Recently, I got the chance to speak with the World Series Champion Third Baseman Will Middlebrooks. Will is quite possibly one of the funniest and nicest guys I have ever spoken to.
Joe (Me): You played in a lot of great baseball stadiums which ones were your favorite and least favorite ones?
Will: Biased answer… Fenway Park. Absolutely zero place compares. It’s a baseball cathedral. It will be there forever. You can literally feel the history when you walk in that place. You’re seeing the same sights and smelling the same smells as Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris. All the legends stood at that same home plate right where I stood. That’s crazy to me.
Least favorite is hands down Oakland Coliseum. It’s a baseball field stuck in the middle of a football field. It’s old. It’s falling apart…. the ball doesn’t travel at night. Just not an enjoyable experience.
I have been to Fenway and even though my white Sox lost I still thoroughly enjoyed my experience. As for Oakland, I feel bad because they don’t have the city funding for a new stadium as they have more pressing issues but it defiantly sucks playing in a football stadium.
Joe: Out of all of your time in the majors, what was your favorite memory?
Will: Team memory was winning a World Series in 2013. That group of guys was so special. After the marathon bombings earlier that year, we came together and put the city on our backs. Did it for them. It’s was really humbling to be a part of that.
Personal memory was hitting 3 home runs on one game. In Toronto, also in 2013. Had a double also. My last at-bat I just missed hitting my 4th homer. Got caught on the wall in left-center.
Joe: That had to feel amazing winning the World Series. It’s what every player dreams about. As for your personal memory. Do you remember the pitchers that you homered off of?
Will: R.A. Dickey twice and Dave Bush for the third.
Joe: I see you love the knuckleball.
Will: I hit his fastball for the homers doubled off the knuckle ball.
Joe: In your time in baseball, who was the hardest pitcher to face?
Will: That’s a tough one. So many good arms. I always had a hard time with Max Scherzer. I guess everyone does, really. The ball just comes out of his hand differently. Sneaks up on you and almost feels like it rises. Then his slider is just wipe out. Disappears.
Will: One more memory/cool fact to add. I was the last player to ever homer off of Mariano Rivera.
Joe: I had him [Scherzer] on my fantasy team last year and he did some heavy lifting for my pitching staff. As for Mariano, how did that feel to know that you took a legend of the game deep?
Will: At the time I didn’t quite grasp how special it was. But the more time that passes, the cooler it gets.
Joe: More of a modern thing in baseball. Do you like bat flips?
Will: I do like seeing raw emotion. It means you’re invested and you care. There’s just a right and wrong time for it… and no need for it to be excessive. But hitting a homer in the big leagues is one of the hardest things to do in the world. So enjoy it. Just don’t disrespect the game.
Joe: I feel the exact same way. No need to pimp a homer when you’re up 7.
Will: Or down 7.
Joe: Who did you model your game after?
Will: Cal Ripken Jr. He was my favorite. I was a tall shortstop just like him and eventually moved over to third base. I always loved how tough he was.
Joe: Did you move to third base voluntarily or was it because someone along the way recommended it?
Will: I grew. I was 6-2 when I got drafted. Grew two inches, and filled out. So they moved me over.
Joe: I have asked a lot about guys you played against, but what about the best guy you played with?
Will: I have to go Dustin Pedroia. He’s tough as nails. Dustin always played the game the right way. He was an awesome teammate and was willing to do anything to win. He prepared to win like no other. Made everyone around him better.
Joe: He sounds awesome; Like a leader.
What was your pregame routine with the usual pregame meal included?
Will: I was the least superstitious player of all time. I ate whatever our chef made. I always liked to get to the field early. 1 P.M for 7 P.M game. Workout, Do my video study of pitchers, Hit in the cage. Defensive work, Batting Practice on the field, Eat and then Dominate.
Joe: That doesn’t fit baseball not being superstitious.
Will: I didn’t step on the lines if that counts.
Joe: This gets a little more personal. What are the psychological effects of suffering injuries like you did and at the rate you did?
Will: So yea… that was super tough for me. I put in so much work to get where I was, and I just kept having awful injuries. The worst one ended my career in 2018. Mentally, it all made me stronger. I knew I could overcome anything and make it back to the show. I did it multiple times. But it definitely wore on me over time… Major League Baseball is hard to compete in when you’re healthy… and I was trying to play with them while never really being 100%.
Joe: I feel bad because they are uncontrollable but it’s part of the game. Sucks but a risk that a lot of people take.
Will: For sure. I knew what I signed up for.
Joe: What did winning a World Series at such a young age do for your outlook on a year to year basis and on baseball as a whole?
Will: It showed me what it took to have a winning culture…what real leaders looked like…. how to win big games by doing all the little things right… and ultimately how to be a great teammate/how to get the most out of everyone around me.
Joe: What has become your favorite post-career hobby?
Will: Golf and smoking/grilling meats. I played golf a lot growing up but not much while I was playing baseball. Picked it back up in 2019. I’ve always enjoyed grilling but I bought a Traeger smoker and it’s been a game-changer. Doing ribs, briskets, turkeys. It’s a new fun challenge. And tastes amazing.
Joe: I love grilling but that’s a skill that comes in time.
Last little tidbit before I let you go. Which pitcher do you think you had the most success against?
Will: No idea.
Joe: I feel you. I did a little research and albeit in a small sample size, you were 2-2 with two home runs and seven RBI’s against Roy Oswalt which I found interesting.
Will: Yeah, once when he was in Texas, and another when he was in Colorado. The 3-run homer off him was a pinch-hit. And the grand slam was off a 64 MPH curveball. He totally fooled me, and I got lucky.
Joe: Thank you so much for doing this interview.
Will: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to see it get published.
Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara