My Favorites by Joe Favorito
Today I open my first of many columns and features in the Italian Tribune. Over the next few months, I will interview 40 under 40 persons in the field of sports, entertainment, medicine, journalism, finance and law. Young people who are making their mark on the world. This week I begin with Mark DeRosa.
From Bergen toThe Bigs and Back Again; Catching Up With Mark DeRosa
He never played in his native New York area during his 17 year Major League career, but former MLB outfielder, infielder and catcher Mark DeRosa grew up nearby (Passaic), and starred in high school (Bergen Catholic) before going on to Penn and is now back in the New York area, at least during the week, as the co-host of Secaucus-based MLB Network’s new morning show, MLB Central, with Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian. Housed in the network’s gleaming new studio, MLB Central is becoming a go-to show for the latest news and entertainment on and off the diamond.
We caught up with DeRosa to talk baseball, Bergen County and lessons learned during a life behind the plate and in the field.
What was the biggest transition in going from the field to the broadcast side for you?
The biggest transition was I played with more than 200 current players and there are times when I have to be blatantly honest about their play on the field. I promised the guys that knew I was coming to TV that I wouldn’t forget how hard this game is. I’ve been through my 1-for-30 struggles as well, so I know this game could be cruel at times. It’s a game of a failure. At the end of the day, I was a vocal leader on a lot of teams that I played for and I got to know almost all of my teammates on a personal level, especially later in my career. So, I feel like the players know my voice and opinions are coming from a good place.
Was broadcasting something you aspired to as a player?
No, not early on, but as I got to the later stages of my career and was able to guest analyze on a couple Postseason MLB Network shows in 2011, I really enjoyed the vibe. The analysts here feed off each other, have thick skin and they all don’t take themselves too seriously. The absolute passion for the game that everyone has here kind of drew me to wanting to expand a little more. I got another opportunity to work on MLB Network’s Postseason shows in 2013, and it kind of just rolled from there.
What announcers did you study or try to follow as you made the transition?
I didn’t really try to follow anyone. I try to be myself and be as if I was in the clubhouse. If there are two guys that I thoroughly enjoy listening to, it would be San Francisco’s announcing team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper. Those guys are hilarious, knowledgeable and integrated into that city. I just enjoy watching a San Francisco Giants game and listening to them.
You played at Bergen Catholic, a sports powerhouse not just in New Jersey but nationally, do you stay involved at BC at all and if so how?
I’m starting to get reintegrate myself, with MLB Network being so close to the high school. I live in Atlanta and have been down there for 16-plus years, so I lost touch a little bit. I always followed the football team and I’m slowly starting to reintegrate myself back into the program.
What were some of your greatest memories playing with the Crusaders?
The one that comes to mind is the state championship against Paramus Catholic during my senior year [Dec 13, 1992. Bergen Catholic 44 – Paramus Catholic 34]. It’s a game that’s still talked about and will go down as one of the greatest high school football games in New Jersey state history.
With all the goings on in social media today, what is the biggest challenge young athletes have to stay focused?
Realizing their words can get out quick. Social media gives a voice to every guy on the team and they should tread lightly with it because people are looking for sound bites and looking for stuff to jump on. If I was a young player, I would be very skeptical of social media. Yes, you want to increase your brand and let people get a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on in the clubhouse, but at the same time, there are some things that should be kept personal.
Who had the most influence on your career, as an athlete or in general and why?
My father, who was a ballplayer up through college and very knowledgeable on the game. I played for Hall of Fame managers Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa, and another future Hall of Fame manager in Bruce Bochy, but I still always went back my dad on the phone. I talked to him probably four or five times throughout the week during the season. He was engrained in my swing and what I was doing out on the field, and he was truly a voice of reality for me. As far as players, Walt Weiss was great to me, the current manager of the Colorado Rockies. He took me under his wings and taught me how to be a big leaguer on and off the field. Chipper Jones was also an integral part early on in my career because he taught me how to watch video and game plan against pitchers.
From a business perspective, what teams that you were around do it right?
The Cleveland Indians. They’re obviously not a huge market, but the people in the higher-up positions like Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti are solid men. These guys are straight shooters. You can go to dinner with Mark and Chris and not only talk about baseball, but talk about everything.
When you talk to young people, especially young athletes, what advice to you give them on having a successful career
Find a way to get better. Don’t be a one-trick pony. Do the little things. That’s what kept me around. I was raised in the Atlanta Braves organization and we were taught to do the fundamental things right. You have to know where you stand on the totem pole of the 25-man roster and act accordingly.