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October 13, 1999

Al Leiter


Q. What do you expect the scene and the atmosphere to be like at Shea?

AL LEITER: I expect it to be crazy and fanatical, very similar to the last series that we had against these guys at the end of the season, September. And hopefully, they will be very supportive and be that 10th player for us, because they can -- a crazy crowd can somewhat distract and help a home team sometimes.

Q. Do you think the Braves can be distracted and bothered by a crowd?

AL LEITER: I hope so. Yeah, let's face it, they're obviously an experienced team that have been through this plenty of times, and it's really the mindset of a good player that is able to block out all that exterior distraction, whether it be the fans or other things that goes on around you, to be able to just focus on the job. But I think so, especially the way New Yorkers can get a little crazy, maybe a little bit. All it takes is a little distraction of some sort, whether it bothers the pitcher or an at-bat or two or a pitch or two for a hitter.

Q. You've seen this team so much in the last couple of weeks, at this point in time, do you try to change anything in facing them, or do you look at anything differently?

AL LEITER: Yeah, we want to start winning the series. Obviously, every single day and night you face this team, you realize you're facing a great starting pitcher. And as a starting pitcher that's opposing one of their guys, I know I have to be on my game. So you don't give up a three-spot in the first few innings, where they have to scratch and claw against them running down the line. And last night was a perfect example of how this series is going to go. Limit your mistakes, capitalize on opportunities to score runs, and it's going to be nip and tuck, and really, that's what we saw last night. There wasn't a crooked number on the entire scoreboard. And they obviously got a couple more runs than we did.

Q. You said you don't want to give up a three-spot early on, what changed in your performances, other than the results? You went through a period in the first inning where you were really struggling, and all of a sudden, that's like behind you?

AL LEITER: I hope it's behind me. Yeah, the first inning was a problem for me. I know it's a problem for a lot of guys. It's a tempo-setter. It's a feeling in which you get on the mound whether it's on your home park or new park or figuring out your stuff early on, figuring out the umpire's strike zone, deciding what pitches are going to work that night. And usually it's an inning you see the guy struggling, the first inning, usually. I have had a good first inning the last few starts, and it usually propels a starter into 2 or 3 or 4 scoreless innings after that. Especially against Glavine on Friday, you have to be on, because you know he's going to be tough on our hitters.

Q. Did you change anything? Did you warm up early?

AL LEITER: I tried to change a little, because just for one, I refused to believe there was something wrong with my approach or my first inning woes. I just thought it was just part of the game, and I was giving up some runs in the first inning; it just so happened. I make sure I get done with my warm-ups very early. Early in my career, I always felt rushed like, I was still warming up and there was two minutes before the game. I hated that feeling. Now, I kind of stop almost ten minutes before, and I kind of move that back a little bit; so instead of ten minutes, it's six or seven minutes. And it's a mindset, too. It's realizing that the first batter in the game could make the difference between a win or loss, and have the same aggressiveness you do in the 5th inning with second and third and two outs. There's an aggressiveness that goes with every game where it goes up and down. You try to put it in cruise control once in a while if nobody is on, trying to make pitches rather than being aggressive. I think I changed my mindset about that from the first pitch on.

Q. From a pitcher's standpoint, what's it like to play with an infield like the Mets have?

AL LEITER: It's obviously very good. You get an opportunity to see great plays every day up close and personal, right on the mound. Obviously, they save a staff 20, 30 runs, maybe 40 runs a year, just by not only making the play and getting an out. You have a man on second, two outs, Rey Ordonez knocks it down on the infield, and I get a fly ball out. How do you equate that to wins and losses; you can't figure it out, but you know it's saving them. It's happened numerous times for me. Especially the way I like to throw outside a lot, usually Robin and Rey are usually busy for me on the nights I pitch. That's good for me, because between them they have 6 or 7 Gold Gloves.

Q. Do you do anything differently, as opposed to pitching to an infield --

AL LEITER: No, you still have to make pitches. Once you throw a quality pitch and you think it's executed and it's not hit well or it's put in play, it's out of your hands and you hope that you have good defense to get them out.

Q. Yoshii said the other day what makes the Mets starting staff so good is each guy is a little odd and weird in a way. And he said you were the weirdest of all?

AL LEITER: I'll kill him (laughter).

Q. Do you know what he's talking about?

AL LEITER: Well, you've heard of weird Al Yankovich; that's where he got it from. In Japan he's very popular (laughter). I'm left-handed. I guess you can go from there. I'm kind of the very good odd-ball excuse to be left-handed. I like to have fun. I joke around a lot. And let's face it, we're playing a baseball game. Yes, it's serious, yes, I want to win, but I goof around maybe a little bit more than most.

Q. Does that help you relax more, especially because you pitch so well in big game situations?

AL LEITER: Yes, no doubt about it. I think by putting pressure on yourself, to think that you have to make a pitch; or "I have to get the big hit"; or "We've got to win," and all of these expressions that is the obvious. I know I want to go out and pitch a great game, but how do you get to that. And without adding pressure or verbally putting words into your mind, to think it's the end of the world, to me, it works totally against you. And, yeah, loosen up a little bit. Have fun with it, laugh, joke. You could still have an inner aggressive feeling inside to want to beat the guy you're facing, but it's still fun. You're still playing a baseball game.

Q. You talked about how a New York crowd can distract the opponent. How about how it can work as a positive for the home team and pump up the home team, what's the greater effect? Distracting the opponent or pumping up the home team?

AL LEITER: Definitely pumping up the home team, no doubt. Let's face it, you're really reaching if you're hoping that your crowd is going to actually win a ballgame for you, just because they're crazy and distracting the opposing team. These guys aren't Major Leaguers -- they're not going to be distracted that much. Even during the course of the year on a Tuesday night facing whomever, and there's 14,000 fans in the stands, it's difficult sometimes to really get fired up and emotional and the feelings that you need to really focus and concentrate and be the best you can be, as opposed to a packed house where they're all behind you, and the first pitch of the game I throw a strike and everybody cheers. That's emotional, and it's a good feeling. And it no doubt elevates everybody's concentration.

Q. When you look at a night like last night with guys like Perez and Gerald Williams and Walt Weiss have big nights and those guys are sort of unexpected stars, does that in a way shift your attention towards the bottom part of that line-up a little bit, not Williams, but the other guys?

AL LEITER: Well, I wouldn't put Gerald Williams as the guy who's not at the top of the order, and certainly Perez has done a great job. And I'm not sure why Weiss hasn't played as much. It's a great team, a great line-up. You put a lot of focus and attention on two or three, maybe four guys in the line-up and it's obvious you look at the 2, 3, 4, 5 guy, and sometimes you can overlook the other guys. But I looked at Walt Weiss's at-bats. The ball he hit at double down the line was a fastball up and in; had he not swung, clearly a ball. He fought off another slider that he just got out of the reach of Rey; so it was good hitting on his part. It wasn't careless mistakes on our pitchers, that we just grooved some cock shots. He was a good hitter. And Gerald Williams, to me, has been a big catalyst for this line-up. He's a tough out and when he gets on base, he's trouble. He's looking to run right away.

Q. What's a "cock shot," where did that expression come from?

AL LEITER: I'm not really sure who thought of that term, but I think it has something to do with right down the middle (laughter).

Q. What's the most memorable thing that somebody at Shea Stadium has yelled at you, positive or negative?

AL LEITER: Positive or negative?

Q. Either one.

AL LEITER: I usually don't hear it. The times you really hear fans is when it's a small crowd and you get the two or three guys that have been drinking from 2:00 in the afternoon and really hate your guts and want to let you know about it. Just the usual stuff that you probably can imagine if the fan is a little upset with you. But really, I'll tell you, a lot of the Met fans have been very supportive after the games. The Arizona series, they're lined up outside the parking lot, and they're all nice, creative signs. And there's a handful of fans that we see all year long that are so positive and really -- they've been on our side tremendously. I think there's the frustration that comes with it, that some guys get a little upset. I'm winning 5-1, and it's the 5th inning, and I go 2-0 on the guy, and some guys start booing. But I think it's a little bit of the frustration of the fact that they want to see their team win, really, and I can understand that.

Q. Earlier you mentioned the critical nature of mistakes and taking advantage of opportunities, two areas, to be honest, in which you guys were a little lacking last night. Were you somewhat disappointed, disturbed by those signs, and is it something you guys have to correct if you want to win this series?

AL LEITER: No doubt about it. In order for either team, and probably more so just for the fact that they've won the series against us during the year, is that you have to play good baseball. And that's executing in all areas. And whether it's laying down a bunt or moving the guy over or not getting caught and picked off or good sound defense, all the things that just by watching a baseball game, knowing that it's good baseball, and we don't do that, we're not going to advance.

Q. Of all the closers and pitchers you've seen over the years, does John Rocker remind you of anybody?

AL LEITER: I'll tell you, I play with Duane Ward, who I thought was extremely intense and got very, very fired up. And I don't know Rocker, other than just from the dugout. And obviously, he's a guy that gets really fired up, but not really, as far as stuff-wise. As a left-hander he's got tremendous stuff. But his intensity, I would say compares a little bit to Duane Ward.

End of FastScripts…

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