September 16, 2007
Cy Young will have to waitTim Baines gets some answers from Baltimore Oriole pitcher Erik Bedard
By TIM BAINES
Growing up just outside of Ottawa, Erik Bedard was a wisp of a kid, a nice francophone boy from small-town Navan. Baseball was just a way to pass time. He turned down a chance to play on a competitive team when he was 12, not wanting to miss a fishing trip with his dad. A couple of times, he was cut from competitive teams, forced, for one reason or another, to play on the B team. "I was small and I didn't throw hard," Bedard says. "Little League was just fun for me." But he stuck with baseball and he grew and grew ... from 5-foot-4 in Grade 12 to 6-foot-1 and a star lefthanded pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles, who selected him in the sixth round of the 1999 draft (with his $80,000 signing bonus, Bedard paid off some debts and bought a Ford Cobra). The proud Canadian has established himself as one of baseball's best hurlers,throwing his way into contention for a Cy Young award (with a 13-5 record, 3.16 ERA and 221 strikeouts) until a strained muscle near his right rib cage ended his season early.
SUN MEDIA: You were having a Cy Young kind of season, among the best pitchers in baseball, how disappointing was it to end the year early because of an injury?
BEDARD: It's extremely disappointing. Injuries happen so you can't get down on yourself, but if I was going to get injured, I wish it would have happened earlier so I didn't end the season on the DL.
SUN MEDIA: Any concerns about the injury lingering, maybe affecting you next season?
BEDARD: It's an oblique strain, it takes time to heal, but it's an injury a lot of players get. I'll be fine.
SUN MEDIA: When you were young, you were cut from Little League teams, at any time did you think about quitting baseball?
BEDARD: At the time, I didn't think I was going anywhere in baseball. It was for fun ... I didn't know I could make a career out of it. I had pretty much quit when I got the chance to work out for (Norwalk College).
SUN MEDIA: You became a hard-throwing lefthander while you were at college. What happened?
BEDARD: My first year (of college), I was throwing mid 80s. Scouts told me if I could get up into the 90s, I had a chance of getting drafted. I just grew into my body. I gained 35 pounds from being 6-foot, 150 lbs. My body adjusted to the extra weight and I could throw low 90s.
SUN MEDIA: Players around the league say you've got the best curveball in the majors. Are you comfortable throwing it on any count?
BEDARD: That's what's made the last two years special. Batters can't sit on one pitch from me. I can throw the curve on any count. It's something more for them to think about.
SUN MEDIA: Who's the best hitter in baseball? And do you fear him?
BEDARD: Alex Rodriguez. He's had good success against me. He hits home runs and he hits for average. But I do not fear him.
SUN MEDIA: How special is it to pitch on Canadian soil, in Toronto?
BEDARD: It's always special. But I didn't get a chance to pitch there this year. I've got a lot of family that comes down to watch. So it does feel great to pitch in my home country.
SUN MEDIA: Do you get kidded by teammates for being Canadian?
BEDARD: Yes, they still get on me. If I don't know something, it's because I'm from Canada. It's been like that since college.
SUN MEDIA: You didn't speak any English until your late teens, was it tough to pick up the language?
BEDARD: I didn't have anyone to speak French to in college so that really helped me pick up English. I was forced to learn it.Now sometimes I'm more comfortable in English.
SUN MEDIA: You're on a one-year contract, worth $3.4 million and bonuses, and you've got two more years before you can file for unrestricted free agency. Would you like a long-term deal now, or are you willing to wait?
BEDARD: I'm comfortable going year by year ... then we'll see what team wants me.
SUN MEDIA: You're not the kind of guy that seeks the spotlight. You prefer to be in the background. Has it been tough as you've gotten more notoriety?
BEDARD: I'm the same. I've maybe gotten a bit more publicity, but I haven't changed. I'll answer questions, but it's short and sweet.
QUICK HITS WITH ERIK BEDARD
Q: Favourite movie?
A: Shawshank Redemption
Q: Favourite music?
Q: Favourite athlete outside of baseball?
A: Michael Jordan
Q: Most fun city in baseball?
A: Boston. I love the stadium and the city. It's not overwhelming like New York.
Q: Favourite hockey player?
A: Wayne Gretzky. I was lifting weights and the trainer walked back and said there was somebody that wanted to meet me. I said that I didn't want to be bothered. But he said, "No, I think you'll want to meet this guy." It was Wayne Gretzky and his kid. I was shocked, speechless. It was a big thrill.
Q: Favourite TV show?
A: I don't watch much TV. Maybe Friends.