Friday, January 09, 2009

Justin Masterson-The Japanese Connection

Matty caught up with Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson Friday night, talked about last year, the off-season, bullpen antics, and his #1 Fan.

Matty: Did you approach this off-season any differently where you pitched late into the season,?

Justin Masterson: I took a couple of weeks to kind of decompress and look back. The biggest difference this year is I am going into my fourth pro year, so I know my body much better, and I know when to start throwing and working out, at least more so than in my first couple of years.

MB: I know most successful professional athletes set goals for themselves, did you expect that 2 or 3 years ago you would be where you are right now?

JM: Many people thought I had high expectations, because my goal last year was to be a September call-up, get my foot in the door and pitch. When the first-half call-up came up it was like "Wow this is a bit early" but I'll definitely I take it (laughing).

MB: There are alot of bullpen stories and things that happen out there. Anything you can share off the top of your head?

JM: (Laughing) It's just so loose back there in the beginning of the game, but as we get going by the 5th or 6th inning, it gets a little tighter. It never gets real tense, but you can tell it is game time. To be honest we spend a lot of time dissecting swings, fans, and and coaching signs. We definitely have too much time on our hands sometimes, just trying to solve the world's problems (laughing).

MB: Who is the best sunflower seed thrower out there?

JM: Oh man, I would have to go with Mike Timlin last year. Javy Lopez is one of my favorites though, he's got that lefty stroke going, has a lot of power, and doesn't have a lot of movement.

MB: Are there any fans down in that area that are like regulars?

JM: There is this one Japanese guy that is always by the bullpen named Taro. He kind of took me under his wing. He is a professor at Harvard, which I never would have expected, he bought my jersey and customized it with my first name on the back (Japanese custom to have the first name on the back of a uniform). He's always yelling "Justin! Justin!" He's a great guy. (Masterson expanded on this story during the Hot Stove Dinner. "My brother, my wife and myself were getting on the train and this Japanese guy was staring at me. It was a little awkward, but then he comes running at me yelling something. His english wasn't all that good, but I could make out 'JUSTIN' , and I knew he knew who I was. He ended up getting on his train and as it was pulling away he reached into his pocket and held this card up to the window, which I couldn' t read because it was 15 feet away. It was his Red Sox Nation card. Him and his wife have given me and my wife great Japanese food. It's funny though, because when we are in the bullpen he gets wound up,yelling my first name, even though he has just seen me the day before, and the guys in the bullpen have to tell me to calm him down. They call me the Japanese Connection).

MB: Was there a road game experience or atmosphere that really sticks out in your mind from last year?

JM: Yankee Stadium was very cool, but the Angels stadium in the playoffs was the best. Fans were going nuts, and on my first pitch I bounce one 5 feet in front of the plate. Plus they have that rally monkey. The do a great job on those videos though, they are interesting.

MB: Are you approaching this season the way you would if you knew you were going to be a starter and adjusting from there?

JM: Yeah that is the easiest way to do it. You never know what might happen during spring training and you need to be prepared for any situation.



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