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October 26, 2001

Luis Gonzalez

Mark Grace


Q. Mark, you took a pay cut to come here, are you happy you did so?

MARK GRACE: Yes. Very much so. When I was let go by the Cubs, one of the first calls I got was from Joe Garagiola of the Diamondbacks and he set up a meeting to a Suns game with Colangelo and after five minutes with Mr. C, I knew I wanted to play for him. Obviously money was not an object, so it was a great situation for me, and I knew coming here that I would have a chance to win the World Series, and that's one of the big reasons I signed here, and sure enough, here we are.

Q. When you envisioned making your first World Series game, do you think did you think it would be 90 degrees outside?

MARK GRACE: Well, in all honesty, for a lot of years, I really never envisioned playing a World Series game. So, the opportunity has presented itself, and it's 90 degrees out, and just if you only -- if you only understood how great this is for me, after a lot of years of not making the World Series, the opportunity has presented itself, and, yeah, it seems kind of strange that the Fall Classic is in 90 degrees, but I would not have it any other way.

Q. Curt Schilling just told us that aura and mystique are two dancers at a nightclub. How long has he been planning that -- (Laughter.) In all seriousness, how difficult is it not to be in awe of a team that has won four of the last five World Series?

MARK GRACE: On stage,"Aura".

LUIS GONZALEZ: The mystique is obviously there. They have had so many great teams in the past, but we are not intimidated. We are a veteran club. We are not running nine rookies out there; we are running a veteran team out there. A lot of us have played in the American League or at different teams in the past of Yankee Stadium. We know the magnitude of the fans over there, and you can go man-for-man through our locker room. And with all due respect to Seattle, this is the team we wanted to play. These guys have been the best four of the last five years or five of the last six, whatever it may be, and they have been on top. We wanted -- for us to be the best, we had to beat these guys, and that's the way we wanted to go.

Q. You guys have been off for several days now and we are now close to 24 hours before show time. How do you feel, exactly? We are talking about nervous energy a little bit?

MARK GRACE: I've had a lot of trouble controlling my anxiety, I guess you could say. I'm very excited about this opportunity, as I explained before. I waited a long time for this opportunity, and to have to wait five or six days, however many it's been, it has been tough. I'm not sleeping much and now, I can promise you this much, I ain't going to get much sleep tonight either. It's going to be so exciting for me, and I'm going to have to -- I'm going to have to really keep my emotions in control, as far as not going off the deep end and having to be thrown in a straightjacket and whatnot, because this is what I have waited for, for a long, long time. And 24 hours and counting; like I said, I won't be sleeping tonight. I'm going to let Tonya know in advance, I'm going to be sleeping on the couch. That's where she usually puts me, anyway.

Q. Could you speak to the idea of facing Randy and Curt on consecutive days and what adjustments you have to make?

LUIS GONZALEZ: Well, we're happy we are on their side. I mean, it's never fun when these two guys, they have been dominant all year. The Yankees have got a great pitching staff. These guys, you look at their post-season numbers every one of those guys from top to bottom have put up tremendous numbers. I think one thing you'll find with our team, we respect the guys on the other side of the field, whether it's the Yankees or whoever we are playing. But at the same time, our ballclub has a lot of quiet confidence, and we are not intimidated by anybody, by no means. So we feel like we've got a great shot at doing this. The other people, the reporters might not feel like we have a chance, but the 25 guys we have got in our locker room, our coaches and our front office and everybody, we are leaning on each other. We feel like we've got a good chance at doing this thing. Nobody expected us to be here anyway from day one. We were picked third or fourth in our division and we took that as a personal challenge. Everybody was saying we were going to break down; we're a bunch of old guys. Well, I guess the old guys are standing at the top of the hill with the best two teams, and we'll find out who is the best team at the end of a week and a half.

Q. How many of the Yankees World Series games have you worked watched on TV, and what idea does that give you of how you have to beat them?

MARK GRACE: I've watched all of them. I think in order for us beat the Yankees, we have to play well. That's a very redundant statement, but in order for us to beat the Yankees we have to play the same type of baseball we played down the stretch to hold off the San Francisco Giants. We have to pitch well, obviously. We know we can do that with Randy Johnson and Schilling the first two games, but one of our big strengths is our defense. We are a very good defensive ballclub. You saw how we beat the Braves in the LCS. They kicked the ball around and gave us a lot of opportunities, and we kicked the door in because of that. If we play poor defensive baseball, we are in big trouble. The Yankees will hammer us. So pitching, we know we are going to throw the ball well. Defensively, I think we are the No. 1 team in baseball, defensively, and then offensively, you can't expecting to out and just hammer the ball against guys like Mussina, Clemens and El Duque and all those guys. But if we can find a way to scratch a couple runs, three runs, usually Randy and Schilling bring those games home. They are tremendous front runners; they both won 2-1, 2-0, 1-0. So if we can scratch a few runs across , if we can do the things that have gotten us here, we'll be World Champions.

Q. Are hitters conscious that a closer of Rivera's quality is sitting down there waiting, and if you are conscious of that, does that effect your at-bats early in the game?

LUIS GONZALEZ: I think we all -- it's no secret how dominant he's been in the past. Of course, you want to try to get to their starters. I think, you know, there are different teams, where teams, say, if we can hold the pitch count up on some guy and get into their bullpen; we are looking at it the other way around, trying to get their starters early and try to stay away from their bullpen. Just like Atlanta, they had Smoltz in their bullpen; so we tried to take advantage of that. We have a closer in our ballclub that's been quietly doing a nice job for us, Byung-Hyun Kim, who has been doing a good job for us. So if we are ahead going into the ninth, we like our chances, too. These guys are all human. He is hittable. He's been untouchable, but in the playoffs. But in baseball, anything can happen on any particular day. A lot of us we have seen them very few times, but anything can happen.

Q. For both of you, is there any time in the season that stands out as a turning point, where the clubhouse really came together as a team?

MARK GRACE: There's more than one particular time. There's quite a few. I would say, one series that really stands out for me was a series up in San Francisco. I think we beat -- we swept San Francisco and we beat them 2-1 in like 12 innings. And then we beat them 1-0 in like 140 innings (laughing), it was like an 18-inning game or something like that; and Durazo got a base hit and won that game and we ended up sweeping them. I remember that as -- because we really took off after that. The other time that I can remember is that we were in Florida and we lost two-out-of-three to drop into third place, probably in July, maybe, or early August. And then we had to go to Atlanta, to play the Braves and we swept Atlanta and got right back into first place and we never looked back after that. Those two stand out for me. I don't know, with Gonzo, just about every game stands out for him because he hit a home run in about every one of them.

LUIS GONZALEZ: The Atlanta game did stand out. We had a lot of guys contribute. I think what Bob does and our coaches do with our ballclub is we have mixed and mingled so many different lineups. You look at all of these top teams and everybody has had a steady lineup, but we have used everybody. I think that has benefitted us in the playoffs to make our bench that much stronger, and on any particular night we are not surprised to come in there and see who is hitting second or lead off or fifth, sixth, whatever in the batting order. Because Bob, he's told us from day one, he's going on hunches, and he's not your typical manager that goes from the book. I mean, he looks at matchups, and sometimes he just doesn't go by that. He just goes on hunches sometimes and it's been able to work for us all year.

Q. Can you discuss the anticipation of playing the World Series at Yankee Stadium in light of what's happening in the world, and do you have any security concerns?

MARK GRACE: I guess I can start. I think that, as far as security is concerned, I think that's going to be the safest place in the country, now. That being said, as far as September 11, yes, New York and Washington D.C. were extremely affected by those events, but so was Phoenix, so was the whole nation. We were all crushed by what happened, and as professionals, after a week of time off because of those events, we had time to gather amongst ourselves, and people were indirectly or directly involved, as far as guys on this team, with people lost or people affected by that. What we did was as professionals, we owed it to our fans and we owed it to the game of baseball to go out there, and play the best possible baseball we could play. And that's going to be our attitude when we go to New York, is we're going to go to Ground Zero and we're going to go and meet some real heroes, the firemen and the policemen that have been there. Then we are going to go to Yankee Stadium, and I'm going to be a little geek. I'm going see the monuments and I'm going to stand on the mound and stand in the same box that Babe Ruth stood and all the great Yankees. Then my focus is going to be, "What am I going to do against Roger Clemens tonight? I've got to try to find some way to beat him because he beats everybody." But that's going to be our focus, and we can't let anything distract us from our goal.

LUIS GONZALEZ: Well, I kind of echo what Grace has said. Our ballclub, we want to go to Ground Zero, a lot of us, not to look at the crime scene but just to pay our respects to what happened across the nation and to -- the magnitude of this game is so big, the World Series, we want to see the real heroes. I mean, everybody looks at us playing every day, kids and adults, what we are doing, but there are a lot of unsung heroes, the firefighters, people who volunteered countless numbers of hours and we feel like that's the smallest token of our appreciation to go out there and shake their hands and tell these people, thank you. After all of the stuff going on with the media, us trying to work out, get ready for this World Series, we felt like if we could take an hour or two and go out there and show our appreciation and do a small token like that, that would probably mean a lot to a lot of people out there. That's the way our team feels about it and that's why we wanted to do this, to our organization and to us and to everybody across America, these people have all pulled together in New York and from all over the country to come in there, and they have showed what type of city they have. I'll be the first to tell you, earlier in my career, I didn't feel very safe out there, but, after you have seen all of the stuff that's going on, playing in Yankee Stadium with all of the security, these guys have been in the Fall Classic every year. So I think the police and everybody out there, they know how to handle all of the situations out there. We feel pretty confident and safe going over there.

Q. Since Opening Day, I believe you've played in every single one of your team's games, how do you feel now?

LUIS GONZALEZ: I don't think there was a time for me to ever get tired. A lot of these guys were telling me, you need a day off. I've been coming to the ballpark with the approach -- I've been excited every day. We have been in a pennant race since August, with San Francisco right on top of us. It's been fun. I like the fact that my manager and the players have the confidence in me to be out there and know that I'm going to be hitting third. And I kind of like to be the steady guy, the rock in the lineup; that everybody knows this guy is to go to be here every day to play for you. I'm not always going to get hits, but if I can contribute any way I can, be positive by pushing the guys out on the field, I feel like I'm doing my job.

Q. Would you talk about your relationship with Tino, what it was like playing against him then?

LUIS GONZALEZ: Are you talking in high school? I played with him in high school; so this is a very unique opportunity for me and him. When I was in Detroit, I got to play against him there, but the magnitude of this, I mean, the whole -- the whole City of Tampa, Florida, we have had so many great Major League players come out of there, but now we have an opportunity for both of us to step up and see what happens. I hope our city is pulling for me because he has four rings and I don't have any. All I've got is a wedding ring. I would like to add a World Series ring to my other hand. It's fun, and I know our whole city is in an uproar down there in Tampa, but at the same time, I'm sure he's trying to win his games and we are trying to win on our side, so it's going to be a good battle out there.

MARK GRACE: Who was better?

LUIS GONZALEZ: He was better by far, no doubt about that.

Q. Being in the World Series is the dream of all Little Leaguers --

LUIS GONZALEZ: Big Leaguers.

MARK GRACE: 37-year-olds with visions of sugar plum World Series dancing in my head.

LUIS GONZALEZ: He's been practicing "We're Going to Disney World" forever.

MARK GRACE: Yeah, but here it is, exactly, as you said. I really defy anybody to try to wipe this smile off my face, because it's been a long time coming. I've waited a long time for this. I know Gonzo has. He's not as old as me, but there's a lot of guys in that dugout and in our clubhouse that have waited for this moment for a long time that have never been to the World Series. As I said, this opportunity has presented itself, and now, we can't be -- we can't be happy just being here. We have to -- we have to kick the door in and go and win this thing because this opportunity, unless you are with the Yankees, this opportunity may not present itself again. So here we are, and we are the -- we are the best team in the National League, and now we have to go out and represent.

End of FastScripts....

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