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Whatever Works

Baseball Keeps Him on the Run

April 05, 1999|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Play ball. Today is Opening Day, 1:10 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.

Who's on first?

L.A. Dodger Eric Karros.

The stats:

Age: 31. Born in Hackensack, N.J. Raised in San Diego. Resides in Manhattan Beach with his wife, Trish.

He's 6 feet 4, weighs 222 pounds; his baseball bat, Louisville Model D-113, is 34 1/2 inches long and weighs 33 ounces.

Karros was named the 1992 National League Rookie of the Year.

Question: If you had been able to choose a position, which would it have been?

Answer: I probably would have wanted to play shortstop. That's something that I played growing up. You know, it seems that's where the most action is, but at this level I'm obviously better suited to play first base or a corner position.

*

Q: Do you have any superstitions about baseball?

A: No, no. Not me. I don't have any superstitions. Well, you know, I guess you could call it a superstition. To me, though, that means you're doing the same thing every single time regardless, and it is that extreme. But what I do is I will get into routines when things are going well. Maybe the way I prepare for a game, I do well and then I'll try to do something very similar the next day. But I'm not, you know, wearing the same jockstrap every game.

*

Q: Did you want to be a baseball player when you grew up?

A: You know what? I just played because I enjoyed playing. I never thought that I would ever make it to the big leagues. And when you're a kid, anything you do well you usually want to continue to do. I wasn't playing in Little League going, "Oh, boy. Next stop--the big leagues." No.

*

Q: At what point were you thinking like that?

A: When I left UCLA in '88. That's when I signed my first pro contract with the Dodgers, and that's obviously when I put all my eggs in one basket and said, "All right. Everything's going to be centered around getting to the big leagues."

*

Q: Did your parents encourage or push baseball playing?

A: No. No. The thing about my parents, if I wanted to do something, they always provided the opportunity--and that was whether I wanted to go to baseball camps or go down to the Little League field. But did my dad wake me up Saturday, 7 in the morning and say, "Let's go. We gotta go hit today"? There would have been absolutely no movement from the bed.

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Q: Where do you see yourself after baseball?

A: I see myself just raising a family and doing what I want to do. The only responsibilities I will have are going to be to my family. To be honest with you, I haven't really sat down and tried to put some plan together. I think I would like to stay in sports in some respects, but my kids are going to be very important to me, my wife.

*

Q: Name some memorable jobs you did when you were growing up.

A: It was the worst job I ever had: El Cajon Speedway cleanup crew. Sunday mornings at 5 o'clock. While I was in high school--senior year--for $5 an hour cleaning up the grandstand, underneath the grandstand, in the bathrooms. And let me tell you something, that was the dirtiest job, the toughest job, and it was miserable even at 5 in the morning. By about 8 o'clock it was just hot, and then the things you'd find.

*

Q: Nasty.

A: It was. It was the most disgusting thing, and that lasted close to 10 weeks, I think. It was absolutely miserable. I tell you what, I was hitting into that net, hitting pops off a batting tee . . . every night after that. That was definitely a reality check there.

*

Q: Any other rough jobs?

A: No. That was probably the toughest job I had. The easiest job I had is when I was in Alaska for a summer playing baseball in 1987. I picked up rocks on the infield, and I got paid $3,000.

*

Q: You picked up rocks?

A: That was my job. We were up there playing baseball. You're up there for about two months. Well, they want to give you money too but you can't get paid because then that would make you ineligible to play college ball. You know, they can't pay you so you have to have a quote unquote job. So my job for that summer: I was paid $3,000, and I picked up rocks off the infield.

*

Q: What's something about your work that the rest of us probably don't realize?

A: I would say the amount of time and preparation that it takes to get ready for a season and then to play. I mean, from February until October we're playing just about every single day. And on top of that we're traveling, and it sounds great, but the reality is that come June or July, you're just about spent.

I remember when I was first comin' up, the older guys would be, "Oh, man, another road trip," and I'm thinking, "You have to be kidding. This is great." Now, I am definitely in that same boat.

*

Q: People think the traveling part is glamorous. It is for about two seconds.

A: People say, "Oh, when you went to New York, did you go to some restaurants? Did you go to a play?" "No. I slept. I slept and I played." Put it this way--when the off-season comes around, you think I'm getting on a plane at all? I'm not getting anywhere near a plane. No chance.

Whatever Works runs every Monday. Send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.

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