SSTN Interviews Former Yankee Mike Buddie
May 5, 2022
SSTN: Today we are here with former Yankees pitcher Mike Buddie. Mike pitched for the Yankees in 1998 and 1999. He also pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers. Currently, Mike is the Athletic Director at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Thanks for coming to Start Spreading the News. It is great to have this discussion with you.
I am happy to participate, Paul. It’s just nice to be remembered from back in the Dark Ages!
To begin, please tell us how you became a baseball fan.
growing up in a Cleveland suburb with two older brothers who loved sports, we played everything. I really gravitated towards baseball once I entered high school. But I also wrestled and played football which I enjoyed as well.
You achieved a dream that many (or most) of us can only dream of, reaching the big leagues, and, especially, pitching for the Yankees. (I am 53-years-old, still pitching in baseball leagues, and still dreaming of the call from the Yankees.) When did you know that you had the talent necessary to be a professional? Growing up, I knew I was one of the best players in Cleveland, but I had no idea what the talent level was in Cincinnati, not to mention Texas, California, and other states. I guess it dawned on me when I got to college at Wake Forest. I was able to hold my own against guys from Georgia Tech, Clemson, and then others. Playing in the Cape Cod league also made me more confident that I was a pro-level player.
Which players or coaches helped you the most on your journey to the Major Leagues? I had a lot of help. Coaches like Billy Connors, Nardi Contrares, Rick Tomlin, and others really believed in my ability and spoke on my behalf every spring at camp. Some players who gave me pointers and/or confidence were Grahame Lloyd, Mariano Rivera, and Jeff Nelson.
That is an impressive collection of coaches and players. What is your greatest big league memory? Getting the “W” on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in 1998. It was my rookie year and I was on a team that would win 125 games, and although it was a pretty sloppy 17-13 baseball game, to notch a win in my first game ever at Yankee Stadium was pretty special!
Please tell us how you got into college athletics. When I retired from the game, I was 34-years-old with a wife and two children. I had always assumed I would coach, but college coaches work every night and weekend which I didn’t want to do for a career - I enjoyed being a husband and a father too much. So I began working in college athletics as a fund raiser, and then gradually transitioned into managing people and coaches, which ultimately led me to becoming an Athletics Director.
Working at West Point must be amazing. Please tell us about your experiences there. What makes West Point most special is the caliber of young person that I get to work for every day. They compete so hard, but also have a great perspective on life and service.
Why, do you believe, are people so drawn to baseball and its stories, legends, and people? Baseball is a connective game - often the connection is father/son, but it is also between teammates. It is a team sport, but has unique individual opportunities as well. Plus all of the peripheral connections with baseball: green grass, pristine stadiums, beer and hotdogs, etc. that make it such a memorable game.
There's a lot of talk about baseball needing to be "fixed." Is baseball broken? If you were the Commissioner of Baseball what change(s) if any would you make to the current game? I do think the games have become too long. Aside from a radical move like going to a seven-inning game, there is not much that can be done. Unfortunately, the more money that is at stake, the more analytical and methodical coaches and players become. This slows down the game. The personalities of the game continue to be larger than life and the talent is so amazing so the product itself is as good as it has ever been.
In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about? I would read a book about Mariano Rivera, a great teammate of mine. He has done so much good for the communities where he lives, but not for publicity. He leaves his name off so many great projects because he does them for the right reasons, not personal accolades or gain.
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, "There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was." Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?
Tough call. I faced Bonds, McGwire, Griffey, Ripken, Will Clark and others - and played with the greatest team of all time, but I would have to say that Tony Gwynn was the most pure ballplayer of all of them.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers...
What was your favorite baseball team growing up? The Cleveland Indians
Who was your favorite player? Nolan Ryan
What is your most prized collectible? My 1998 World Series ring.
Who is your favorite musical group or artist? SHINEDOWN Shinedown
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)? I love hibachi food -fried rice and any meat/seafood!
Please share anything else you'd like with our audience. Baseball was a great chapter in my life. It has helped me succeed in every aspect of my life after my playing days ended. It also supplied me with a lifetime of memories and friendships that carry on today. Minor League baseball was so fun because none of us had money or fame - we really just loved playing the game.
What a great tribute to your positive outlook on life and to the game of baseball.
Thank you so much for joining us here at Start Spreading the News. We wish you continued success.
Please keep in touch. GO ARMY!