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July 6, 1998

Mark McGwire


Q. We were just talking about Coors Field with Walt and Andres. You played here. Do you find the guys who maybe never played here before overcompensated to swing a little harder?

JAY ALVES: Do you find the guys that come in here for the first time overcompensate for the ballpark, swing too hard?

MARK McGWIRE: You can. I mean, if you go to Boston, you can't try to swing and hit it over the green monster. You have to realize that Coors Field has a gigantic outfield, where balls will fall in. Normal singles in most ballparks will be doubles, if you have speed. It's a great hitter's ballpark. You know, hitting is staying within yourself. You can't worry about if the ball carries really far here. I mean, you still got to hit it, right? So that's what it comes down to.

Q. I know most people probably don't want to ask you about home runs. If I get this stuff out of the way. How do you look at the Central Division race?

JAY ALVES: How do you look at the Central Division race for the Astros as for the Cardinals?

MARK McGWIRE: Well, we're not in a good position right now, twelve and a half games out. Do we have the potential of catching them? Oh, yeah. Second half is the weirdest time of the year. Everybody has seen gigantic leads dwindle down to one or two games. I hope the Cardinals will catch Houston. We start off Thursday playing Houston if we come out, play hard, we can send a message, say we're for real, want to come back.

Q. How big is that series for St. Louis?

MARK McGWIRE: I think it's pretty big. 12 and a half games out, playing four at home in St. Louis, it's pretty big.

Q. Of all the remarkable numbers in baseball this first half, is there anyone as remarkable as Juan Gonzales, 101 RBIs?

MARK McGWIRE: No. Absolutely unbelievable. I was watching the game last night. It's so remarkable. Anybody to have over 100 RBIs by the All-Star break, you know, tip my hat to them. It's fantastic. What can you say? He's a great, great hitter. He won the MVP, what, in '96? He's on his way to another one. But, you know, the sad thing, if somebody said who was the 1996 MVP in the American League, I bet you nobody really knows Juan Gonzales. Every year, year in and year out, he just puts up the numbers every year. It just seems like he doesn't get the notoriety that he should. That's why this game, it's a great game right now. I think that's why a lot of fans are coming back because all the great things are happening. It's just fun to watch him on TV. I'm sorry I can't watch him in person anymore. But I will here (laughter).

Q. Home runs tend to overshadow everything else. What part of your game do you take the most pride in?

MARK McGWIRE: Well, I think I've taken a lot of pride in becoming a better hitter. I'm a better hitter overall. You know, I know I've hit the home runs, but I'm pretty happy where I'm sitting a little over 300. Hopefully I can keep it up. My mind is very, very strong. I've learned that this game is 99.9 percent mental. If you get in that box and you're mentally prepared, gives you a better chance. Doesn't mean you're going to get a hit every day, but gives you a better chance. Understanding this is a game of adjustments, you have to make adjustments every pitch, every at bat, every day. You just can't sit on one thing at one time.

Q. Hearing you say that the game is mental, how much mental does it become from the pressure of the media and the home run hitting situation as you pursue the record?

MARK McGWIRE: Well, when I'm playing the game, it's not a problem at all. I mean, that's my -- every other player that plays this game, it's their own domain. It's what we know how and what to do. The media stuff, it comes with the game. I am overwhelmed with all the media attention I've been getting this year. But I understand it. But, you know what, like I've been doing for the last few weeks, you know, I've been talking to the media first time into a series, get it over with, go out and play baseball. You know, that's what I'm here to do. I'm here to play baseball. That's what I try to do every day hard.

Q. You seem to have a positive approach to this home run hitting contest. Some other guys don't.

JAY ALVES: You seem to have a good outlook going into the home run hitting contest. Some others don't. Can you talk a little about that.

MARK McGWIRE: I think it started in '92 when I accepted that I was a home run hitter in the game. It was the first year at San Diego that I really enjoyed hitting in a home run hitting contest. It turns out it's probably the most fun thing to do in the All-Star Game. I mean, it's just -- I enjoy it. Why guys are backing out, I'm sure they all have their own reasons, but I enjoy it. It's something I do. It's something I've accepted that I am.

Q. People have been talking already for half a season with you, asking a lot of the same questions you're going to hear this week. Have you dreaded this part of things or have you come to, in some way, almost enjoy talking about not talking about it?

JAY ALVES: Have you dreaded talking to the media every day, especially this week?

MARK McGWIRE: Well, I don't know if I'll ever enjoy it. That's just not me as a person. But I've come to realize that I have to do something about it, and I have to talk about it. I think the way we set things up in St. Louis, it takes a lot of pressure off me. I think it takes a lot of pressure off the media. It's just something that I'm going to have to deal with the second half of the season. I think what we've set up is good for me.

Q. We all marvel at how far some of your shots go. When you hit one and you know it's going to be a long one, how does that feel to you?

MARK McGWIRE: Well, surprisingly some of the longer ones I've hit, I didn't really realize that they were going that far because a lot of people say, "What's the feeling?" Actually, there's really no feeling at all. I mean, I know when the ball meets the bat that it's left the ballpark. My swing is nice and easy, short and compact. It's really effortless. Because of that, there's really not that hard feeling that I think some players have. It's a nice, easy thing.

Q. You said yourself that the fans are starting to come back to the game now, especially after the strike in '94. You have a lot to do with that. Do you think this is an opportunity now to reach out to the players that are in the little league, mainly, to get those numbers up, to get the youth back into the game?

MARK McGWIRE: I think so. I mean, I think there's more kids playing baseball today. Baseball is a year-round thing now. If it's what I'm doing or what the great players in the game are doing right now to bring back the fans, I think it is. You know, the players are going to bring the fans back. How we play the game, what we do, that's what's going to do it. I sort of wish we would promote our players a little bit more on a national level. There's really not that much done about that. I know the other sports do it. Why we haven't done it, I don't know yet. But, you know, we're going to bring the fans back, and I think it's a start this year. If it is, it's great.

Q. Your injury problems have been well documented throughout your career. In fact, you started last year, missed the first part of the season. Was there ever a time when you worried that maybe not your abilities but your body's ability to stay healthy prevent you from playing baseball?

MARK McGWIRE: No. The only time is when my foot went out for the third time in '96. It seemed like when I had had it, it seemed like a mystery, but there have been a dozen players in the game that have the same foot injury that I have. Nobody seems to write about it. When I had it, it was national news. If you take away the '93 and '94, where I didn't play all those games, I basically averaged 150 ballgames year, you know. Everybody gets injured in this game. I mean, it's just part of the game. It's the longest -- we play six months of the year. No other sport does that. We play through the hottest time of the year, the travel has been atrocious the last two years. You add all that up, takes a toll on your body. But, you know, I do what I can to prepare myself. I mean, via bad back. I've had a bad back since 1989. It's something I have to deal with. Anybody out there that has had a bad back, you have to deal with it the rest of your life. I swing a bat probably 100,000 times a year, you know.

Q. One more question about the Central. Boone said he thinks the Astros are going to be hard to catch after the break. From your point of view?

MARK McGWIRE: I think we're 12 and a half games out. We started off on Thursday four with straight games. We come out and play. If we're not lucky enough to beat -- we played them tough in Houston. We lost two out of three. But we played them tough. WWe were leading all the games. You know, I know we play them tough. You know, if we win four, I think it sends a message to the whole Central that the Cardinals are serious and everybody else is serious. It's one of those divisions that until September, you know, you really won't know.

Q. Missing that time in '93 and '94 had that changed your perspective, maybe found out you liked the game more than you thought you did?

MARK McGWIRE: It was the first time in my life since I was a little leaguer that I had to sit on the bench and watch a game, you know. Instead of sitting back and moping and saying, "Why me? Why is this happening," I knew it was happening for a reason. What I truly believe is that it made me a better ball player. It might seem weird. But it did. It was the first time that I really started watching pitchers, pitch to hitters, I started watching tapes on how they pitched me. I started watching hitters, how they approached other pitchers. When I came back, I started adapting to my game. I think it made me a better player.

Q. Growing up as a fan of the game, what is it like when one day all of a sudden you hear your name alongside Babe Ruth, Roger Maris?

MARK McGWIRE: It still blows me away, it really does. Considering when I was a kid and all I wanted to do was pitch, you know, it wasn't until my sophomore year in college that I turned into a hitter, never knowing I'd ever get a chance to go to the big leagues. Then the next thing you know, they're talking about my name along with Babe Ruth, Maris, Mantle, down the line. It's overwhelming. I don't think it will really hit me until I'm retired, to tell you the truth.

Q. I was in Cincinnati yesterday. I was surprised by the response from the fans. Seems when you go on the road, the fans are upset when you don't get a home run against their home team. How does it feel?

MARK McGWIRE: I want to go like this, home plate (indicating). I don't know. I don't know where it started. You know, I know the guy on the mound is trying his best to get me out. He throws like one or two balls, the stands are booing. Don't piss him off anymore (laughter). It's another thing that has been so overwhelming this year. It makes me feel good. I wish every player could feel the way I feel. That's really about it.

Q. When all has been said and done, is there a sense of joy to this?

MARK McGWIRE: I have a lot of fun when I'm out there playing, I do. This is the game of baseball that I love to play. You know, I wish I'd hear more players say that. This is a kid's game, that there's millions of kids that were out there that wish they were in our shoes, they're little leaguers, or want to be. I truly appreciate and understand what this game is all about.

Q. Baseball attendance is going well. People are talking about there being a resurgence in the game. A lot of that has to do with the attention you guys are getting. Do you feel personally what you're doing is helping the game, helping bringing it back?

MARK McGWIRE: I think I'm a piece of the pie that's help brought fans back in the game. But there's so much great young talent out there right now, it's remarkable. I mean, every time I watch the game, when I go home, if there's a game on TV, I'm watching it. I love watch everybody play the game of baseball. Everybody has certain talents that they're really good at. Right now, I don't think there's ever been a better crop of young, talented players in the game of baseball.

End of FastScripts….

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