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October 25, 2000

Al Leiter


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Al Leiter.

Q. You've shown an ability to work as deep as needed into games of this magnitude, which is impressive considering your early history of arm troubles. How have you evolved into that type of player?

AL LEITER: Thank you for the kind words. I think what I realized is that by throwing as hard as you can on every pitch and trying to overthrow and see if you can throw the next pitch harder than the last, it didn't work early in my career. I'm not going to go over my career, but I had some arm injuries. I realized I had to learn how to pitch. I think through a period of years, realizing that if you can change speeds and locate your fastball and be a little unpredictable and throw breaking balls and fastball counts, et cetera, and watch hitters and see how they adjust to you and understand that every hitter ... And also, too, the importance, my walks have gone down a great deal. Basically, I realize that if it means it's a 3-2 count, I'd much rather give up a single. Of course a single, than walk. Just basically pick an area where I don't think the guy can drive the ball out of the park, and hope he gets an out. If the guy makes a single, so what?

Q. Two questions. First, does it change the way you pitch if you're down 3-1 versus being tied 2-2? And the second question, regarding the jet noise, if you think that actually helps you guys because the other teams aren't used to it?

AL LEITER: I think one thing that I've been able to do, for whatever reason over the last few years, is that I don't think of the consequence or what it means as far as a series or a game or the importance of having to win. What I really have been focusing on is executing the quality pitch, knowing the hitter, knowing his strength and weakness, letting the ball go, and knowing what I want to do. Whether we're down or up, I still want to do my share to help the team win. Whether it's good enough on that given night, give it all you have and see what happens. The jet noise, I don't think it's that much of a distraction. I think most players at this level have the ability to tune that stuff out.

Q. You said before '97, before you pitched Game 7, you watched tapes to remind you. Are you going to do anything special tonight? Also, why do you think you're such a successful pitcher in these big games?

AL LEITER: Thank you. Well, I hope I can nail one more start tomorrow. But I think, again, it's not to be repetitive, but I really, really have gotten to a point in my career where I just think about whoever that first batter is tomorrow. I've already envisioned the line-up. I know what I want to do. There are certain things that I might make adjustments, certain hitters in the line-up, as far as location, pitch selection. That's all I focus on, instead of thinking of anything but making a quality pitch, whether it's a slider on the hands, or throwing a curveball away, change-up, fastball, bounce a fastball, whatever it is. That's what I continue to think about. In that particular World Series, my Game 3 in Cleveland wasn't very good. I did go over some tapes, saw what I did wrong, made some adjustments in Game 7. I came to a realization of that start that I needed to throw more curveballs, which I did. The first patch of the game was a curveball to Omar Vizquel. I won't forget it. Didn't seem like much, but it was a big deal at the time, because I didn't throw many.

Q. You've had a tremendous amount of success this year at home. Is it something other than just the ballpark and you being used to pitching here? Or is there just an intangible for pitching at Shea for you?

AL LEITER: I think just being home. Really, I'm almost certain about this in my career, when I was with Toronto and Florida, my home record is unbelievably better in my career over the last whatever, seven years, eight years. I think really there's a lot to be said for being comfortable on your mound, the perception that you get from your catcher behind the stands, the fans behind you. Just the whole confines of what you're comfortable with. I like this place. It's a pitcher's park. It's got a lot of room in the outfield. And it being grass, it's always a plus, slows the ball down in the infield.

Q. Can you talk about the characteristic of the Yankee hitters and what you can't let them do, what they like to do? They're known as patient hitters when they're working well.

AL LEITER: That's what makes the Yankee line-up so difficult, is the fact they really don't care to go two strikes on you. Every one of them will feel very comfortable, or seems to be comfortable in going deep into counts; therefore, having pitch counts go high, making possibly the manager make an early move because of high pitch counts. Also, there's something to be said for the psychological edge in knowing that if a hitter doesn't mind going 1-2, 0-2 and still fouls off tough pitches, you still have to pitch. I think that's what makes this line-up so difficult to face. Every pitch seems like such a grind. There's really not an easy out. Really, as far as the Yankee line-up, I think it's not really science here. It's moving the ball in and out, knowing certain weaknesses some certain hitters have and exploiting it. Really, it comes down to -- great pitchers execute quality pitches more times than not. If you don't do that, a good hitter's going to hit it hard.

Q. You left a couple games with leads already in the post-season. Understanding that the team comes first, how important or frustrating is it to not have that post-season win that everybody keeps talking about?

AL LEITER: I could care less. What is most important is to be on the winning team and to get the 27th out and the last win of the baseball season. I've done that twice, in '93 and '97. I know in my heart that I've thrown well enough to have a win next to my name, but I would far rather have a winning team and a championship than a great post-season record and no championships. It's such a selfless time of the year.

Q. Until last night, do you believe that there was a Yankee mystique about them in the World Series? And do you think perhaps it has been deflated a little bit now that you've finally beaten them?

AL LEITER: I don't know if there was -- I think what has given us a little comfort is since I've been a Met, obviously the Yankees had the terrific year two years ago when they won the 125 games and they were basically completely dominant from April right to the World Series. When we were able to start winning a couple games against them during the Subway Series, it elevates a little bit of the confidence in the team, knowing that you can beat them. I think the fact this year, I think we were still 2-4, but we played them very well. We're not overwhelmed by their ability. We respect them, that they are World Champs, and a very, very good team that knows how to win championships. But we feel like we can play with them. We should. We've done it, and we should be here. The fact that we finally broke their record -- if Game 1 was a little different, we easily could be up 2-1. We really fought them tough, even to start in Game 2. We came back against two very good relief pitchers and made a game of it.

Q. At this point of the year, do you ever look back at your 1993 appearance in the World Series for any kind of experience, how that was for you? Or is that so long ago that you don't find that relevant anymore?

AL LEITER: I think what comes most fresh in my mind is the '97 Game 7 start that basically a lot of people had written the Marlins off. I didn't have a very good year. It was very satisfying to know that I went out and did my job and ultimately helped the Marlins win a championship. So I do refer back to that start more so than a couple moments I came out of the pen in relief in '93 and I pitched in three ball games there. But I remember the excitement of coming in relief in Game 1 and getting the win. It was a special moment. But more so in '97.

Q. Is the idea that you talked about, the Vizquel moment, is there any moment from your first start or from the Series so far that you know you're going to remember from here on out? The other question is: You're honest, you're open with the media -- have you learned how to handle the media? Have you learned how to say a lot without giving away too many back-page headlines?

AL LEITER: I don't know where it started. I just understand that you all have a job and this is part of the show. To be able to articulate and give a decent answer, I think once in a while, I've been able to do that. I'm also understanding of being guarded. I know there's been a couple comments that we've made that weren't the smartest that the local papers can run with and put it on the front page. You have to be a little careful. But I'm very respectful of people who cover the sport and give them as much time as I can. I have fun with it. I don't find this as like getting a root canal. I think you're not the enemy. There are players that I broke in with that tried to convince me that you all were trying to angle and find a way to pull one over on a player. You guys all probably periodically have met with some guys, players, that just aren't particularly fond of the media. I don't understand it. I don't agree with it.

Q. Last September, and again this September, you were openly excited about the possibility of a Subway Series, what it would mean historically, what it would mean for the City. Three games into the reality of it, what's been interesting, good or bad, about the atmosphere?

AL LEITER: Well, I think there's been a couple sideshows, one prominent sideshow that has made it somewhat interesting, as far as stories written other than just base hits, good pitches, and good baseball. But I think what really has overwhelmed me -- and this is my third World Series -- is the media attention. I don't know, and I really don't care in some respect of how it's responding nationally. But I know locally here, with all the media that's here, it's really overwhelming. A few of us had taken notice as to how the coverage is, and I think it's pretty awesome. I think it's pretty amazing that certainly in the New York area that it's taken everybody by storm, and it's been a lot of fun. With that said also, too, it's difficult to appreciate something as you're experiencing it. I think, like most things in life, it's always over a period of time that you can reflect back and really think about what has gone on and appreciate it even more. So at the present time, to answer your question, I'm just really more consumed with trying to figure out how we're going to beat the Yankees and how I'm going to have a good start tomorrow. I have to watch all the videos and tapes and things afterward to really see how special this really is.

Q. As the Roberto Clemente Award winner for your work in the community and a man with two young daughters --?

AL LEITER: And a son.

Q. And a son. Can you talk about the Darryl Strawberry situation and baseball players as role models? What are your feelings about Darryl's problems, and what do you see as Major League Baseball's response to that?

AL LEITER: I'm going to say very little -- getting back to being guarded. I think I feel sorry for Darryl. I'm not a counselor, but I guess I understand in some respect addiction, how it can consume and overwhelm and destroy people's lives. He's not alone. Millions of people are affected, I'm sure, by alcoholism and drugs and whatever else. So I feel sorry for him, more than anything else. As far as what baseball can do, I think that should really be answered by people within the baseball office.

Q. I was just wondering if you could give a self-analysis of your Game 1 start?

AL LEITER: Well, I was pretty pleased. Any time you pitch a quality start against a very good team in a pressure moment of a Game 1 World Series at Yankee Stadium, so many things were going through my mind that I had to block out, I was pleased -- certainly not pleased with the outcome.

Q. You've got a brother, obviously, who's a Major League pitcher. Do you feel at all bad that he hasn't had the same post-season stage that you have? Is he following this Series in person? Has he been at the ball games?

AL LEITER: As a matter of fact, Mark is going to be here tomorrow, and I have another brother who played in the Minor Leagues who's actually in this room right now who works for Major League Baseball: Kurt Leiter. Yes, I do. I think not only for my brother's sake, I think all players, if they could ever experience post-season and an All-Star Game, it really becomes a selfless time to where you just want to experience this as much as you can. I've been very lucky in my career to have been part of organizations that have tried and put together good teams to win. Absolutely, I was really pulling for Mark to sign on with us this year. He was released in Spring Training with the Pirates, and I tried to convince him numerous times. And Steve Phillips and the club said if he was willing, that they were going to give him a shot down at Triple-A. He just wasn't interested.

End of FastScripts....

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