BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 in 11 innings Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI double to break the extra-inning tie.
Gonzalez is among the new faces on the team this year, but longtime veteran Tim Wakefield is still pitching for the team. He reflects on his 19-year career in a new memoir, “Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch.”
But Wakefield wasn’t always a pitcher. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a power-hitting first baseman. He only made the switch to the mound when the Pirates told him he had two choices: become a pitcher, or get released.
WBUR’s sports commentator Bill Littlefield spoke with Wakefield about the book, and asked if he ever itches to take some batting practice.
“Batting practice would be fun, but I do not miss hitting at all. The higher levels that I rose, even as a pitcher, I saw how hard it was for regular position players to not only play their position and defense, but also to hit,” Wakefield said.
“Plus you might face a knuckleball,” Littlefield said to Wakefield.
“I have, I actually faced a knuckleball. Tom Candiotti and I faced each other when I was with the Pirates in 1992, and it wasn’t very fun trying to hit off them, either,” he said with a laugh.
Wakefield grew up an all-around athlete. He was good at basketball and is an excellent golfer. But he said he’s never thought about making a living playing another sport besides baseball.
“I was good at a lot of things, but I wasn’t as good as I was in baseball when I was younger, baseball was my passion.”
And Wakefield said that after all these years, his passion for baseball is still there.
“I tell guys this all the time — as many opening days, or as many times as I’ve taken them out at Fenway or on the road, I still get butterflies,” he said. “Veteran guys have told me that when you lose that feeling it’s probably time to go home, but I still have that fire in my belly, I still want to compete, I still have fun doing it.”
You can listen to the full interview with Wakefield on WBUR’s Only A Game, Saturday at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.