Column flashback … 2009 (Devin Setoguchi)

Setoguchi emerges as bright star
Sunday, April 12, 2009

By ED ODEVEN
SPORTS SCOPE
Published in The Japan Times

In his first full NHL season, San Jose Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi has established himself as a formidable offensive force for the league’s top team.
 
Before the start of the 2008-09 season, first-year Sharks coach Todd McLellan, a former assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings, opted to put Setoguchi on the team’s first line alongside two standout veterans — Joe Thornton, a center, and left wing Patrick Marleau, the captain.

The move paid off.

The Sharks went 9-0-1 over their first 10 home games at HP Pavilion, which is affectionately referred to as the Shark Tank. They went 32-5-4 at home this season. And they wrap up the regular season with a road game against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

San Jose (53-16-11) has earned 117 points and will enter the playoffs as one of the favorites to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Detroit, the reigning champion, is a legitimate contender again, possibly the team the Sharks will meet in the Western Conference finals if both teams advance to the penultimate round of the playoffs.

According to Setoguchi, the Sharks ought to keep the same approach they’ve had since Day One.
 
Key contributor: San Jose right wing Devin Setoguchi has 30 goals and 33 assists in his first full NHL season. The Sharks lead the league in points (117). SAN JOSE SHARKS
“I think we’ve got to keep going and doing the little things right,” he told The Japan Times by telephone from San Jose, Calif., before a recent morning practice.

“We need to continue to work as hard as we can in every game. If we work hard, our skills will take over.”

Exhibit A: The Sharks are 6-3-1 over their past 10 games.

Setoguchi, who turned 22 on New Year’s Day, is No. 3 on the team in points, with 30 goals and 33 assists in 80 games. He has a respectable plus-17 rating, 10 power-play goals and three shorthanded tallies.

Thornton leads the team with 85 points (25 goals, 60 assists), while Marleau has 37 goals and 33 assists.

Overall, the Taber, Alberta, product is pleased with his productivity this season.

“When I am playing my best,” he said. “I am using my speed as much as I possibly can to get in and out of spots to get to loose pucks. I think I’ve got a good shot as well. I key on it as much as I can during a game.”

McLellan described Setoguchi’s shooting skills as extraordinary.

“He’s quick,” McLellan told NHL.com. “Where he’s good is he’s tenacious. And he releases the puck. He’s prepared to shoot it all the time, which when you put a young player on a line with two dominant bodies like Joe and Patty, a lot of times they’re dishing it off and not prepared to take the puck and go with it. . . . They want him to shoot. So it works well for him and he’s learned how to use that.”

That’s been evident all season. In the season’s first 40 games, Setoguchi had 19 goals and 21 assists. Over the past 10 games, he has four goals and three assists — solid numbers — and a good sign with the playoffs just around the corner.

Setoguchi has also learned the value of paying attention to details during pregame meetings.

“We always do a goalie report before every game,” was the way Setoguchi described a key element of those meetings.

He added: “So we kind of know what to expect before every game. In a game, it happens so quickly, so you have to read the goalie and get the shot off as quick as possible.”

I asked Setoguchi to describe the thought process behind taking a shot, and he blurted out these words: “It’s a spur-of-the moment (thing) during the game. You’ve got to make it count.”

So who’s the toughest goalie you’ve ever played against?
 
“Probably (New Jersey’s) Martin Brodeur,” he said, referring to the league’s all-time leader in regular-season victories. “He’s a great goalie and if you get a chance on him you’ve got to make sure you put a good shot on net or else he’ll make a good stop.”

* * * * *

The Sharks selected Setoguchi with the eighth overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft. Team officials believed his offensive ability would translate to big numbers at the next level.

In the minors before joining the big club, Setoguchi proved he could get the job done. In 189 games, he scored 105 goals and amassed 212 points, playing for Saskatoon and Prince George in the Western Hockey League.

Setoguchi made his NHL debut on Oct. 29, 2007, and scored two goals against the Dallas Stars in a 4-2 victory. And they were far from meaningless goals; the words “tying goal” and “winning goal” will forever be etched into Setoguchi’s memory.

“I’ll never forget that,” he told reporters after the game.

Setoguchi played in 44 NHL games last season and finished with 11 goals and six assists.

He also played 23 games for the Worcester Sharks of the AHL and had a 19-point campaign, including eight goals. He began the season on injured reserve after injuring his ankle. All in all, it was an educational process for him, learning to take the good with the bad.

Along the way, Setoguchi’s rookie season served as a strong reminder about the importance of the offseason.

“There’s a lot of things that you need to work on as this is the top league in the world,” he told me. “I am working on my overall strength in the summertime.”

But when the puck drops for a game, Setoguchi maintains a singular focus, an intensity that has served him well since he first learned to skate as a youngster in Alberta.

“(I need to) just be focused to play like every game is my last,” Setoguchi said. “If you do that, the result is going to be pretty good if you are putting in the effort.”

* * * * *

Setoguchi’s father, Dale, a second-generation Japanese-Canadian, was an accomplished player in the 1970s. In fact, Dale, originally a defenseman, was named the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s MVP as a forward in 1979 while playing for the Taber Golden Suns. He also played one season for the Snow Brand team in Hokkaido.

Dale Setoguchi was an avid supporter of the Philadelphia Flyers, but the first hockey jersey Devin ever owned was a Sharks sweater.

(Of course, the Sharks would like to think of that as a good omen. And why wouldn’t they? Setoguchi seems to be a good-luck charm for the team, as evidenced by the success he had — the team went 12-0-1 when he had two or more points — from the get-go in this his first full NHL season.)

“I started playing hockey with my older brother Dennis when we were 6 and 5 years old, so starting Devin also at a very young age was automatic,” Dale Setoguchi wrote in an e-mail. “I coached him from the beginning until around the age of 13. I could see he had some real, natural ability and a tremendous desire to play the game. But it wasn’t until junior hockey scouts started to notice, that I realized he had potential to play at a high level.

“One of my concerns was if his size was going to be a factor, but luckily he grew to be (182 cm) tall. Once he was drafted by the San Jose Sharks, his dream to play in the NHL was within reach.”

Setoguchi grew up on a 283-hectare potato farm in a small town called Taber, in southern Alberta. It was there where he learned hockey pucks, not potatoes, would be his meal ticket.

At the time, he also developed a strong admiration for fellow Japanese-Canadian Paul Kariya, who broke into the NHL in the 1994-95 season with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and has notched 384 career goals. The veteran left wing, now a member of the St. Louis Blues, has been sidelined since November following surgery on his left hip.

“Growing up, I just always wanted to be like him,” Setoguchi said of Kariya.

And that’s why it’s a big deal for him to follow Kariya’s career path and to play against him in the NHL.

“No, I never talked to him before, but just growing up, it’s just one of those things. I’m half-Japanese, he’s half-Japanese. I always liked him as a player,” Setoguchi said during our phone conversation. “Of course, I’m going to take pride in my background. Only a handful of players have been able to play in the NHL with that background.”

Naturally, San Jose’s Japantown residents have been big supporters of Setoguchi since he broke into the NHL. He said he’s enjoyed the fans’ never-wavering support and doing interviews with the local TV stations and the Bay Area’s Japanese print media outlets.

Setoguchi also admitted he hopes to be an inspiration to younger Japanese-American, Japanese-Canadian and, yes, Japanese players from his paternal homeland who have a dream to play in the NHL some day.

“It feels good to have people watching it, following it and hopefully they want to make a career of it,” said Setoguchi, who has talked on local TV in San Jose about his grandparents’ stay at an interment camp in western Canada during World War II.

But now, with the season swiftly switching gears to playoff mode, Setoguchi is keen to keep the focus on hockey.

“When you step on the ice and play with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who are two of the greatest players in the game, they have helped me elevate my game and kick-start my career,” he said.

“I want to be in the league a long time and I owe a lot to those guys for the success I’ve had this year.”

Grateful and gutsy, he now zones in on the one thought that has defined the Sharks’ 2008-09 season: capturing the Stanley Cup.

“We’re expected to win,” Setoguchi told reporters in November.

The reason?

“We’ve got a great coach and great players on our team. I know from our GM right down to everyone in our system, they all want to win hockey games,” he concluded. “We expect to win. It’s a little bit of pressure but we try and strive for excellence.”

Excellence. It’s an appropriate word to summarize the way Setoguchi has played this season.

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Coyotes visit Flagstaff school

Coyotes go back to school to rebuild NHL’s goodwill

Sept. 10, 2005
Ed Odeven
AZ Daily Sun sports column

“Did you have fun?” a man asked.

“Yeahhh!” they shouted in unison.

This was the scene at Killip Elementary School’s gym Wednesday afternoon, where a group of more than 40 students met Krys Kolanos and Matthew Spiller of the Phoenix Coyotes.

The pros were in town as part of the hockey club’s statewide “Coyotes’ Caravan,” a program designated to provide elementary school students with educational and safety material and give them a close-up look at the sport of hockey. Asking players questions and getting their autographs are two popular aspects of the program. (The team also visited Prescott and several Valley-area locations during the past week.)

The Coyotes also visited Thomas K. Knoles and Marshall elementary schools and the Jay Lively Center for an open skate Wednesday.

The after-school program at Killip was split into two groups. The earlier group got to meet the players at around 3 p.m., while the later group had about 20 kids in it.

Bob Heethuis, the Coyotes’ radio play-by-play man, served as the master of ceremonies.

“How many of you have played hockey?” he asked.

A few hands were raised.

Moments later, Heethuis introduced Kolanos, a 24-year-old center from Calgary, Alberta, and Spiller, a 22-year-old defenseman from Daysland, Alberta, to the kids.

Their eyes lit up as Heethuis shifted gears from introductions — he revealed that Spiller is known as “7-footer,” because he’s nearly 7-feet tall with his ice skates and that Kolanos is dubbed “Special K,” because he’s a “special-type player” — to beginning the talk about equipment.

“Who wants to put on equipment?”

Nearly every hand went up.

Heethuis, however, decided it would be more fair to have a different volunteer, a less-eager participant, be part of this show-and-tell segment.

The kids decided on the fellow they call Mr. Trace, NAU senior microbiology major Trace Updike, a 23-year-old after-school counselor.

Kolanos put one piece of equipment after another — shin pads, hockey pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, Spiller’s No. 6 white jersey and a helmet — on Updike. This was happening while Spiller explained what each piece of equipment is used for.

They left the ice skates at Glendale Arena, though.

But plenty of sticks were available for the students. First, they watched Spiller and Kolanos take turns passing a plastic puck on the wood floor and showing a few nifty stickhandling maneuvers.

“Do you guys want to do that?” said Heethuis, who got to ask his fair share of fun questions.

“Yeahhh!”

Several lines were set up. Kids took turns stickhandling, walking or running several feet with the puck near their stick, around an orange cone and back to the front of the line. Some passed the puck (or a street hockey ball), too.

After one kid’s sharp, on-target pass, Kolanos let him know he was impressed. “Nice pass buddy,” the pro said.

Martin Ortiz, 9, flashed a million-dollar smile after Wednesday’s second afternoon session at Killip as he discussed the fun he had.

“I never saw them play (before),” he said. “They are really cool.”

Destiney Evans, 12, agreed.

“They are very fun and I got their autographs,” she said, smiling. I learned a lot about hockey (today).”

Such as?

“I thought the equipment was one big (piece),” she added.

Cole Wilson, 12, and Garrett Wilson, 9, also enjoyed getting their autographs. Cole said he’d gotten autographs only once before — Arizona’s Miss America beauty pageant contestant signed something for him.

Savannah Goodway, who turns 10 on Monday, was asked what she liked about the players’ visit.

“Everything,” she offered.

Dianna Ortiz, 11, enjoyed the equipment demonstration.

“They showed me hockey sticks and named the things they put on (to play),” she said, grinning with delight.

Carlie Worrell, 10, summed it up this way: “It’s cool getting to see them practice.”

Earlier in the day, before they ate cheeseburgers at Buster’s Restaurant & Bar, I sat down with Kolanos and Spiller for a casual interview.

We started our talk by discussing the day’s activities. I asked them what it’s like to visit schools and meet kids.

“They had a few giggles when we dressed up the principal (to) put all the equipment on her and stuff,” Spiller said, referring to Knoles principal Mary K. Walton. “I think they really had fun with that.”

Kolanos said the students asked him and Spiller a variety of questions, ranging from their age, to their positions, to their daily routine, to how long they practice, and “everything there is to know about hockey.

“The kids were so excited to ask as many questions as possible,” Kolanos added.

The Coyotes’ training camp officially commences with a team meeting today.

Indeed, they are eager to get back on the ice after the bitter lockout forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 NHL season.

“I think guys are really excited,” Spiller said. “It’s going to be a new league out there, new rules, and it’s going to be awesome for the fans, I think.”

Now both Canadian natives look forward to playing for the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes’ first-year head coach.

“He’ll be around to answer questions and he’s going to give you his two cents and it’s going to be a great experience for everyone,” Kolanos said.

From the archives … 2002

Pay-per-view prep hoops? An idea worse than New Coke

Ed Odeven
Arizona Daily Sun sports column

Random remarks while anxiously awaiting tonight’s big football game between Flagstaff and Sinagua at the Skydome …

Pay-per view has made Don King one of the nation’s leading scam artists. He routinely promotes fights while lining the pockets of both boxers. Well, we all know boxing’s so-called integrity vanished long before New Coke failed miserably.

Now, pay-per view is seeping its way into the prep ranks. St. Mary-St. Vincent High School of Akron, Ohio will be airing its boys basketball games this season on Time Warner’s Ohio cable system — that’s if you’re willing to shell out $4 to $7 per game. LeBron James, who has already been anointed the next great basketball player (or as some pundits say, the reincarnation of Michael Jordan), plays for the Akron school.

This is a blatant case of a greed. It’s a bad idea, a bad precedent. We do not need pay-per view high school games. These games should be televised for free or not televised at all. Period. Shame on St. Mary-St. Vincent for agreeing to do this.

Just how bad have the Atlanta Thrashers been since they joined the National Hockey League as an expansion team in 1999? They’ve only won three games in a row twice. Now, in the midst of their second such streak — the first occurred in December 2000 — the Thrashers are a favorite topic for sarcastic headliner writers.

“Get this: Thrashers on a winning streak,” proclaimed The Associated Press in a Thursday headline.

By beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday, the Thrashers (4-9-1-1, with 10 points) no longer have the league’s worst record. That dreaded distinction belongs to the lowly Buffalo Sabres (3-9-3-0, with nine points).

Is a superstitious coach getting this team on the right track?

“When we were in Florida, there was a boat show across the street, so I went to it,” Thrashers coach Curt Fraser said. “We won that night (for Atlanta’s first victory of the season). So, when we came back home, I had to call a guy at a boat dealership. We won again.”

Tonight, Fraser will be sitting on a bench at Phillips Arena, not in a boat, when the Thrashers play host to the Phoenix Coyotes.

The St. Louis Browns pulled a wild stunt in 1951, when 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel was employed as a pinch-hitter — well, for one at-bat.

Now, it appears the Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League may give Manute Bol, a 7-foot-7 former NBA center, a chance to play.

Indianapolis general manager Larry Linde confirmed this week that Bol has signed a contract with the team.

“A company told us they have a size 16 skate and our equipment guys have been putting together extra-long sticks,” Linde said. “All I can say is we hope to have Manute in uniform and sitting on the end of the bench.”

Bol, who is not known for taking slap shots on the ice but rather swatting shots on the court, is on a crusade to raise money for Ring True Foundation, a charity he founded to help Sudanese refugees.

The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons have already played one memorable, exciting game this season, a 37-35 game the Falcons won on a last-second 47-yard field goal by Jay Feely.

Now, the teams are engaged in an amusing war of words leading up to Sunday’s showdown.

Saints receiver Joe Horn insists these teams are not heated rivals.

“He’s an idiot,” Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney said. “He gives all football players a bad name when he says stuff like that.”

It’s been a dark week for University of Michigan basketball supporters. The NCAA placed the school on probation and declared that it must forfeit all its games from 1992-93 (back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances) and 1995-99 because former players accepted gifts from a gambler.

San Jose Mercury News sports columnist Bud Geracie offered this off-beat take on the Wolverines’ long-running fiasco with the NCAA:

“The good news, Michigan fans, is that Chris Webber’s infamous timeout didn’t cost you the championship after all,” Geracie wrote.

Q&A with Bob Melvin at the Flagstaff Mall

D’backs a hit on Hometown Tour
January 14, 2006

By Ed Odeven
(Arizona Daily Sun feature)

The baseball season’s just around the corner. Before you know it, pitchers and catchers will be reporting for spring training.

That’s great news for baseball aficionados. What’s more, fans around the state — in Flagstaff and Payson, Safford and Sedona and elsewhere (13 cities all told) — were treated to visits by Arizona Diamondbacks players, broadcasters and coaches Friday and Saturday as part of the team’s second annual APS Hometown Tour.

These visits included autograph sessions, APS Power Training Centers clinics and celebrity wiffle ball games.

Popular ex-Diamondback Mark Grace, now an announcer; new pitching coach Bryan Price; pitcher Mike Gosling; and manager Bob Melvin, the team’s bench coach during its 2001 World Series championship season, signed autographs and greeted fans for around 90 minutes Friday evening at the JC Penney store at the Flagstaff Mall.

“We want to make (the fans) feel like they are part of our team because they are,” said Karen Conway, the Diamondbacks’ community affairs director. “Without the fans we couldn’t do what we do.”

Conway was reminded of this during the Hometown Tour’s stop in Kingman.

“(First baseman) Tony Clark was at a Cracker Barrel restaurant this afternoon having lunch in Kingman,” she said Friday during the autograph session at the Flagstaff Mall, “and there was an older gentleman who came in and said, ‘I just want to give you a hug.’ And Tony said, ‘OK,’ and he gave him a hug. Then he said, ‘I want to let you know that I have terminal cancer and I won’t make it to see another game, but I want you to know that I’ll always root for you. …’

“It’s pretty moving when you hear that and someone in his condition got out of bed and drove all the way there because that’s how important seeing his Diamondbacks was to him.”

After he finished signing autographs, I spoke with Melvin for several minutes and asked about a number of things, including the team’s revamped roster, which features new center fielder Eric Byrnes, new second baseman Orlando Hudson and a pair of veteran hurlers, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and ex-D’back Miguel Batista.

Question: How are events like this APS Hometown Tour important for a ballclub’s visibility?

Answer: “Obviously, it’s very important. We do this every year as do most clubs. You want to try to incorporate the whole state, and we have three other vans or RVs going around the state as well. It’s something we look forward to. We like to see our fans all over the state.”

Q: What do you think you learned about the Diamondbacks in 2005, your first year as the team’s skipper?

A: “Well, what I learned is, we came in second (in the NL West) and we want to come in first. That’s the objective every year: to win.”

Q: Will you manage differently this year?

A: “You have to manage the club that you have. Last year, we were a little more of a power club. This year, we’ll probably have a little more speed and some guys that can put the ball in play, maybe some more hit-and-runs … and try to manufacture some runs a little differently.”

Q: Do you prefer managing a team dominated by power hitters or one that typically plays small ball?

A: “No. It’s my job to manage the team that I have to the best that I can. My favorite style is the one that wins games.”

Q: How important was it to give Brandon Webb a contract extension (he signed a four-year extension, including an option for a fifth year, on Friday)?

A: “It’s big. It shows that he’s a home-grown guy. He’s a guy that’s been in our organization, and he’s a guy that’s incrementally pitched his way up to being our No. 1 guy now. He’ll be our Opening Day pitcher.”

Q: What do El Duque and Batista add to the mix as far as how they can help the other Arizona pitchers?

A: “It really does. Their experience in big games that we can really count (is a big deal). … El Duque has pitched many big games. Batista has pitched in a World Series (in 2001 for Arizona) and pitched terrifically in New York that time and a guy that we have some history with. We’re glad to have him back, a guy that’s very versatile, has a resilient arm. … He’s a guy that gives us a lot of flexibility, and … a guy we’ll go in as a starter with (in 2006).”

Q: What do you expect the Diamondbacks to do in 2006?

A: “We expect to get better. Like I said, we were in second place last year and the goal is always to win and end up in first place. We’ve made these moves with that in mind, and we take a look at the long term as well. We think we’re in a good position.”

Q: What question marks do you hope to address by Opening Day?

A: “Well, I think we’ve addressed a lot of the needs. Obviously our bullpen is going to be one more year (older) experience-wise and we had some young guys down there that are talented guys that in the early parts of last year struggled some in the bullpen. We think we’ll be that much better. We want to get deeper in our rotation, and we think we’re doing that as well.”

Q: How did you spend your offseason?

A: “I live in Cave Creek, so I’m a local. I’ve been here 13 years. … We’ve been quite active, so with a new general manager (Josh Byrnes) coming in, I’ve been kind of filling him in on what type of talent we have, getting to know him some and developing that relationship. So it’s been a buys offseason for me, but being at home it’s not a problem at all.”

Q: What’s your relationship like with Byrnes (the former assistant GM for the Red Sox)?

A: “There’s give-and-take, and he’s got some ideas, I have some ideas. He’s been very receptive to my ideas, and I’ve been impressed about how prepared he is with our club coming in. The relationship has gone fine. You see a lot of the activity that we’ve made this year has a lot to do with his forward thinking (this included trading talented right-hander Javier Vazquez), not only addressing the current situation but down the road as well.”

Q: In a typical week how many hours are you meeting with him, talking to him, discussing things?

A: “The phone works just as well. I’m probably at the ballpark a couple times a week, and more so here before spring training. I talk to him almost on a daily basis.”

Q: Who’s your favorite all-time baseball player and why?

A: “Johnny Bench. I was a catcher growing up because he was the guy and anybody who was a catcher knows a little something about Johnny Bench (a Hall of Famer). I was fortunate enough to be at an age to watch him play and try to emulate him.”

Q: What’s your favorite game ever?

A: Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, of course.”

Q: What’s your favorite baseball book?

A: “Ted Williams’ ‘The Art of Hitting.’ I used that quite often as a kid, and my dad gave me that book at a very young age. So that was one that was not to far away from me at any one time.”

Rest in peace, Nick

One of the good guys of the news business has lost his battle with bladder cancer. Longtime CNN sportscaster Nick Charles passed away on Saturday at the age of 64.

As an impressionable young sports fan growing up in the 1980s, I knew his face was all over the news, and I saw his news coverage from time to time. I later learned to respect his broad knowledge of sports, his professionalism, his people skills.

Nearly two years ago, I send Mr. Charles an email message, hoping to give him a bit of encouragement as he coped with cancer. His reply (I made sure to save it and re-read it from time to time) encouraged me.

Here’s what he wrote:

Dear Ed,

Words like yours absolutely motivate me. They also validate my life.

Thanks you for touching me with them.

Wish you all the best life has to offer.

Nick

I read those words again today as tears spill out of my eyes. In his humble, direct way, Nick reminded me of this: Kindness is a gift that anyone can cherish at any time. We can never run out of time and ways to encourage one another.

Leadership crisis … in the bj-league

By Ed Odeven
Commentary

What can be done to improve the league? Shake things up in the league office? That’s a necessary step, but don’t expect it to occur, not anytime soon at least.

A fan (read below) weighed in on this timely topic, what with two of the league’s original six teams facing serious problems and possibly both not playing in 2011-12.

It’s already been announced the Tokyo Apache are out of the picture for the coming season and now the Oita HeatDevils are  begging fans to pitch in and donate money to help keep the team afloat. But if that happens, will Oita even have a team worth watching? Considering the fact that the HeatDevils have already been “saved,” just like the Takamatsu Five Arrows, coming off a 10-win season after a disastrous 13-win campaign, and you can really have your doubts.

This is clear: Those in power, in key positions at the league office, have created many more problems than they’ve solved. And this isn’t going to change anytime soon.

To wit:

“How do you shake up the very ones controlling everything and everyone in the league?” a smart source wrote. “It is so disappointing to see them ruin the chance to grow this sport in Japan into the ground. Too darn self-absorbed to admit when they have NO clue what they are doing. And too darn proud to ask for help from those who do have a clue.”

Mike Morgan … a blast from the past

No panic in Arizona bullpen

By ED ODEVEN
Arizona Daily Sun
June 17, 2002

PHOENIX — He’s commonly called Mo-Man by his Arizona teammates. You could also call pitcher Mike Morgan the sage of the Snakes.

Having been in the big leagues since 1978 — a week after graduating from Valley High School in Las Vegas — Morgan has seen his share of ups and downs. He’s pitched in 593 games and played for a record 12 big-league clubs. And he’s gained plenty of insight and wisdom about not getting too ecstatic or too depressed during the course of a 162-game season.

“What we do for a living is a marathon,” he said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

According to Morgan, the Diamondbacks, who start a three-game interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles tonight at Bank One Ballpark with a one-game lead over the Dodgers, are doing just fine and there’s no reason to panic about a bullpen that has been shaky at times.

“Our starters are going to go through a tough stretch,” Morgan said. “They’re human. Our hitters are going to go through a stretch. Our defense has gone through bad stretches. And our bullpen is going to go through stretches.

“Then again, with all of that, we are still in first. We are not going to dwell on it. … and we are ahead of schedule from what this club did last year.”

Morgan has appeared in 25 games this season, all in relief, posting a 1-1 record and a 5.34 ERA. He’s allowed 34 hits in 28 2/3 innings, walking six and striking out 10.

As the oldest player on the team, Morgan understands the impact veterans have for a ballclub.

“For the young guys that are 21-, 22- 23-year-olds, we as veterans have a job to do, too, to plant a seed, because we were there before (the young guys),” Morgan said.

“It’s a mental game. You’ve already got the physical part of it down, and with the mental part of it down, you have adjustments to make.

“There are going to be some tough roads for the Bret Prinzes, and the (Duaner) Sanchezes, the (Mike) Koploves and the (Byung-Hyun) Kims. We have tough roads, too.”

Asked how long he’d like to remain in the big leagues, Morgan responded by saying, “It’s day to day. I’m a day-to-day guy. I’d like to go on forever, but there’s no such thing as forever.

“I definitely want to play one more year,” he continued. “Twenty-five full years. I’m definitely on a mission to play at least one more for sure.”

Morgan was primarily used as a starter throughout his career, and he made 25 starts for the Texas Rangers in 1999. Since joining the D-backs in 2000, he’s pitched in 116 games and made just four starts.

Regardless of the situation, Morgan said he has a job to do out there on the pitching mound.

“I know what I can still bring to the table, and I’m still good at what I do: start, setup, long, close, nothing protocol,” said Morgan, who has held opponents to a .160 average over the past 19 days (4-for-25).

“I’m a guy they can use as a starter, middle man, closer, a get-out-of-a-jam guy. When the manager puts you out there, you have a job to do.”

Never blessed with jaw-dropping velocity, Morgan marvels at the exploits of up-and-coming hurlers like Sanchez, who made his big-league debut in Friday’s game.

“Me being 42, my stuff was never like that when I was 22,” Morgan said. “I never got a chance to throw 95 mph. The hardest I’ve ever thrown, maybe I hit 89 1/4 once, maybe 90 1/4 with the wind behind me.”

Maybe so, but few pros have stuck around for 24 seasons … and counting.