New Yankees hurler Sonny Gray, acquired in a trade with the A’s last week, takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What is your mound mentality?
A: I think guys know I’m gonna kind of try and come right after ’em. Even in games like [Thursday], where I’m struggling and I walked four guys, I don’t think anyone thinks I’m nibbling. I’m still trying to come right at guys. It’s just sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. I love the one-on-battle, and then that battle’s over and there’s another one-on-one battle. And sometimes you get him, sometimes they get you. You just hope you can get ’em a lot more than they get you.
Q: You’ve been described as a bulldog and an assassin.
A: (Chuckle) They called me the Baby-Faced Assassin in Oakland. I think both of those labels are huge compliments. So just to have any of those terms kind of associated with you from anyone’s mouth is a cool complement.
Q: You and your father Jesse dreamed about you being a professional baseball player. He died in 2004. I’m guessing not a day goes by that you don’t think about him.
A: Yeah, you see in my hat, I have a couple of things written in my hat, he’s always there (turns over hat).
Q: I see the “DAD” written on this side. What’s that other one? “FAH”?
A: It’s a term from college. It means F–k All Hitters (laugh).
Q: When did you put that up there?
A: It’s been there forever.
Q: It’s never been written?
A: I never told anybody what it means (chuckle).
Q: I can use that, right?
A: Yeah, I mean, if you can use it in a good way (laugh).
Q: How proud would your dad be knowing you’re a New York Yankee?
A: He’d be one of the biggest fans that you’d ever meet. He’d always follow me and my sisters wherever we went. He’d be sitting on the front row of every game. That was just him.
Q: Explain how at 14 you threw four touchdown passes for Smyrna High the night your father Jesse passed away after a morning car accident at age 41.
A: I’ve always had a good support group. … It started with my dad and with my mom [Cindy]. … But I grew up with some close friends and some people that have always been close to me and still are to this day. That’s just what me and my dad did. I grew up at baseball fields, and playing football, and I didn’t miss things. So, if I was sick or if I was not feeling great or there was something bothering me, the outlet for me my whole life was a baseball field, the outlet was a football field. It was, for me, the easiest thing to do, not only for myself, but for my mom and for my sisters and for everyone else was if I could take three hours, 3 ¹/₂ hours, however long a football game is, and like, take everyone’s mind off of it, take my mind off of it. I’ve said it numerous times, like if my dad was alive that day, or if he could have told me one last thing, he would’ve wanted me to go out there and play. That’s just how I thought of it. There’s no way he would have not wanted me to play.
Q: Were you aware Brett Favre had done something similar when he lost his father?’
A: No, I wasn’t. I grew up playing sports, but I didn’t really grow up watching ’em all the time.
Q: You won two state titles as a quarterback. Which quarterback were you like?
A: We were in a spread offense. We had a lot of plays in shotgun. We threw the ball a lot. I ran a little bit. I could run, but our offense wasn’t me running the ball … maybe like a Brett Favre. Nowhere near as good, nowhere near as good (chuckle).
Q: Were you a gunslinger?
A: We threw the ball a lot, yeah, and I had a decently strong arm.
Q: Were you recruited at all?
A: I was recruited to play football. Had the opportunity to play at Vanderbilt, had the opportunity to play at some other smaller schools, but I never really went that route. I would never have stopped playing football in high school. I loved it way too much. A lot of times I tell people that’s my favorite sport, even to this day, is football. But always knew I would have a better opportunity in baseball.
Q: Describe your 2 ¹/₂-year-old son Gunnar.
A: All Gunnar wants to do now is every morning he wakes me up and wants to play baseball. In the hotel room or whatever, he just wants to hit the baseball around. If he wants to continue to do that when he gets a little bit older, then that’ll be cool, too.
Q: Describe his personality.
A: We were walking around Central Park [on Friday], and he stops and talks to everybody. He’ll just walk by you and stop and look at you and wave. He’s got the most energy of any kid I’ve ever met, but at the same time, he will not stop talking. He’s never met a stranger in his life.
Q: How has fatherhood changed you?
A: Everything you do kind of is based around your wife and your son. … It definitely makes you grow up. It’s been awesome. I’ve loved every minute of it.
Q: How have you been able to prevent your size — 5-foot-10, 190 pounds — from being an obstacle?
A: I never think about it. It never bothers me. It’s never been something that I thought of like limiting. … I just go out there and pitch. If someone writes or says this, or “short pitchers can’t do this and they can’t do that,” I just go out there and do it, you know? Whatever you do on the field is ultimately what matters.
Q: Are you ID’d at bars?
A: (Laugh) All the time — 27 years old, and every time I go to a bar or go somewhere, it’s definitely 100 percent getting carded.
Q: That’s a good thing.
A: Yeah. I don’t mind it.
Q: What was the first time you saw Yankee Stadium in person?
A: I came to a Yankees-Mets game when I was 12 years old. That was cool. My first time here as a player I think was in ’14. We did the whole thing, going to center field and check out all the history and all the tradition and everything. It’s one of those places that people come for the first time, it’s a special memory, it’s a cool thing.
Q: You’ll pitch Tuesday in the Subway Series.
A: It’s exciting. I remember when the A’s would play the Giants, it was always such a big deal. It’s always fun to play teams and play games where the fans are really, really into it, and the players are into it as well. So it’ll definitely be a lot of fun.
Q: What do you think of New York City?
A: It’s different. It’s a cool experience. The restaurants are always fun, just different places to eat, different places to visit. I love [Central Park]. Taking Gunnar there and kind of letting him run and do things is neat. It’s a unique way to experience, and I’m glad that I’m going to experience.
Q: If you could pick the brain of one pitcher in the history of baseball.
A: Greg Maddux.
Q: If you could test your skills against one hitter in history.
A: If I had a favorite player growing up, it was probably [Ken] Griffey [Jr]. Facing him in his prime, I think, that’d be a pretty cool at-bat.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: I’m a huge fantasy football player.
Q: I’ll have to advise you.
A: (Smile) Yeah, you need to!
Q: I’m addicted to it.
A: I try to as much like research and stuff — it’s fun. I kind of like learn players from that. Being in Oakland, I was on board with the Warriors. I kind of became somewhat of a fan of those guys. I like quarterbacks, but I also like Jordan Matthews.
Q: He was just traded.
A: Yeah I know, that’s awesome. Vanderbilt guy. I’ve always been a fan of him. I follow Vanderbilt guys pretty closely. … I’m a Marcus Mariota fan, the way he kind of goes about his business on and off the field, seems like an amazing guy. I’ve never met him. Shea Weber, I followed him a lot when he was with the Predators.
Q: How intimidating is Aaron Judge in the batter’s box?
A: First time I faced him this year — fastball away and he hit a just laser to right field. He’s a guy that I feel like as a pitcher, he’s one of those guys that he’s getting everyone’s best stuff every time. If a pitcher’s 90-93 [mph], he’s getting the 93s, maybe even some 94s every time. He’s getting the best sliders that the pitcher has, every one.
Q: How good were you in “Grease” in high school?
A: If you ask me, I was great, if you ask a lot of other people … they always just laugh at my singing voice, but I was never scared to get out there and sing.
Q: Are you looking forward to going to Broadway shows now?
A: I am, I’ve probably been to five or six — not since I’ve been here, but just in my life. It’s something that I’m definitely interested in. It’s a lot of fun.
Q: What is your best single baseball moment?
A: Maybe in 2014, that last game of the year, pitching, having to win that game to get to the wild card. We had some guys on the team who had never been to the playoffs and stuff, so doing well in that game and getting us to the wild card, I was really, really happy after that game.
Q: How neat was it going head-to-head with Justin Verlander twice in the 2013 ALDS?
A: It was cool. It was a fun experience.
Q: And the no-hitter you took into the eighth inning that Ryan Rua broke up with a single?
A: Opening Day , that was cool, too. That would have been awesome. That was a fun game.
Q: Why is your wife Jessica the ideal girl for you?
A: She’s beautiful, and she has a great family. She likes to travel, but she’s very open-minded and can kind of go with the flow, which is doing what we do, you kind of have to be. She’s really, really good with Gunnar.
Q: Who was your boyhood idol?
A: My dad. We were always together, whether it was baseball field, football field.
Q: Two dinner guests?
A: Benjamin Franklin, Michael Jordan.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Cast Away.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Ryan Reynolds.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Justin Timberlake.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: My mom makes some cheesy chicken, I don’t know what it is.
Q: What would you want Yankees fans to know about Sonny Gray?
A: I just go out to there and compete. I love the game, I love the competition, and good or bad, I’m never gonna give up, I’m gonna stay in the fight, and battle it through the game every time.
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