We had the absolute pleasure to sit down with Xavier Nady in the Beavers dugout last week. After exchanging pleasantries, I unfolded my sheet of questions for the interview. Nady immediately pulled the word “Hooters” off the page – and I knew this was going to be an enjoyable conversation.
With all of the attention paid in the news recently to the promising, young slugger, I worried a bit that he wasn’t going to be too interested in another round of questions, this time from a fan-run Beavers website. Immediately erasing that concern with an engaging, articulate and laidback approach, completely befitting a southern California native, Nady was extremely thoughtful and humble throughout the exchange. If his play on the field measures up to his fantastic attitude that afternoon, not trading Xavier Nady will turn out to be one of Kevin Towers’ best moves.
Let’s start with all of the recent trade talk. Your name has been prominently mentioned. Do you pay any attention to that?
I think when it first came up; I was more shocked by it, as opposed to anything else. But now that it’s been in the makings for the last couple weeks, it hasn’t been on my mind as much. I’m just down here, working on a few things. Obviously it’s not under my power, so whatever happens, happens. You just kind of make the best of the situation you’re in.
Did it surprise you that your name was coming up?
I guess it surprised me because it’s the first time I’ve ever been involved in any trade talk. It was surprising and I didn’t really know how to deal with it. I talked to a few guys that have been through it and they kind of just told me to deal with it. Usually a lot of times when you hear about it, it doesn’t happen.
You had Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2001 season. While most pitchers take a full year off after the surgery, you were back on the field at the beginning of the 2002 season. Did it have an effect on you throughout the 2002 season?
Yeah, it was hard. It’s hard to come back early and hitting puts a lot of pressure on the elbow. I wasn’t able to hit every day, it was almost like every three days I’d take batting practice and throw. Then I tried to be Superman and I tried to play the field after 5 months and obviously it was a little early at the time. It’s good now, I’m glad I got it over with. Hopefully the injuries are behind me. It was a tough situation at the time.
Offensively and defensively, do you think you’re back to 100%?
Yeah, I think so. There are days where the weather has an effect on it. When it’s cold out, in the wintertime, there are aches and pains. I try to get treatment for it every day. Hopefully it’ll get stronger and I won’t ever have anything done with it again.
Where do you feel most comfortable in the field?
Right now, rightfield because I’ve been out there for a duration of time. I’ve had some good coaches work with me. I had Davey Lopes in San Diego, which was nice, and some other guys, players that have been out there their whole career. Everyone is pretty supportive and giving me ideas. So right now it’s out there and if anything ever happens where I have to change, then I’m excited and up to that challenge.
Maybe move back to the infield?
Whatever they want, as long as I can play and hopefully contribute.
You started out really strong in San Diego and then hit a tough stretch in July. By the end of the month you were back in Portland. What happened?
With Phil Nevin coming off the DL, he’s obviously a pretty good player. Any time a guy of that caliber comes back, you’ve got to make room for him. I had a good time, I learned a lot. I got over 350 at-bats and it was a good challenge. I started out well and then it basically becomes a period of adjustments. The way I started, the first thing Nevin told me was the worst thing you can do is start out so well because when it goes bad, you tend to change everything and press a little harder. And I did. I found out it’s not easy up there, but I’m looking forward to getting back.
What are you focusing on down here?
Just to come down here and play every day. Get my confidence back where my swing feels good again. Up there, I wasn’t being selective, I was pressing a little bit. When you’re up there you want to do everything you can to help the team win and it wasn’t really happening. Down here I can take a deep breath and have fun again and work on a few things with my swing. I can be a little more selective at the plate and hopefully it’ll carry over to the bigs.
What are a couple of the best memories of your time in San Diego this year?
I had a blast up there. It’s hard to name one moment. I don’t even know where to start. The group of guys that I was around every single day made being up there so worth it. Obviously the travel and everything is first class. The group of guys that are up there, every single day you come into the clubhouse and you’re excited about being there. I guess by the end of the year, you probably get tired of a few guys. I don’t know if there was one memory, we had a few awesome comeback victories, when Rondell White hit a grand slam to win a game, I’ve never been a part of something like that and that was pretty special.
Is it a tough adjustment to return to the PCL after all that first-class travel?
Hopefully not. We’ve only had one road trip, the trip to Salt Lake. That was a night flight, so it wasn’t that bad. Those 3:30AM wake up calls we had in Fresno, that’s pretty tough. You don’t miss those, I’ll tell you that.
I saw that the Rangers recently made the rookies wear Hooters waitress outfits on a flight. Did the Padres do anything like that to you and the other rookies?
Yeah, I’m sure in September. Up there, I just had to make everyone happy with beers and everything. But I’m sure, if I do go back up in September, it’ll be something. It’s either dresses or whatever. They have their fun and you pay your dues and move on. You’ve just got to make the most of it, have fun with it I guess.
You went straight from college to the Majors and picked up your first big league hit in your first at-bat. How exciting was that?
That was amazing, because I was more in awe than anything. I didn’t want to just go there where the guys are thinking that this guy didn’t work his way up. (San Diego GM Kevin) Towers talked to Hoffman and the other guys and they said it was OK. It did help me with developing friendships with the guys going into the next spring training. I was up there for a week so I just sat there and picked guys’ brains. I got my only at-bat and I was nervous, extremely nervous. I don’t really remember it. I got to meet the guys and develop some friendships that made the transition in spring training much easier.
What big league pitchers and ballparks gave you the biggest headaches?
Kevin Brown was a challenge for me. I faced Schilling a bunch of times. But Brown was one of the best that I saw. In the West, some of the bullpens are amazing, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. Every single day was a challenge. As far as ballparks, it’s Montreal. That was like running on cement for 3 days. But just being up there makes all that easier. And Milwaukee, I don’t think they have air conditioning inside their stadium.
Looking ahead to the 2004 season, where do you see yourself and the San Diego organization?
That’s tough because it’s not up to me. The only thing I can do is continue to get better down here and if I go back up, maybe have a good September and see what route they’re going to go. There’s been talk about getting an outfielder, Giles and Kendall or a shortstop, a catcher and a middle of the rotation starter. It’s hard because none of it is in my power. I just want to stay healthy and be able to play every day and go from there.
Are the guys pretty excited about the new ballpark?
It’s unbelievable. I went down there about two months ago, right before they put the lockers in. It’s going to be pretty amazing. I know the guys are anxious because Qualcomm isn’t the most fan-friendly or player-friendly ballpark. I’d love to stay with San Diego and I hope I do, but I know it’s a business and there’s a lot of pressure to win so they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to put a winning ball club out there.
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