One of the most frequent questions I get asked by friends, readers and fans is, “who are the best players to interview?” I always rattle off a list, and that list always includes A.J. Ellis. A few others, too, but Buster Olney had an A.J. Ellis anecdote on his blog today that’s worth relaying:
Over the last few weeks, I had conversations with three catchers who are known to have good working relationships with umpires — Alex Avila of the Tigers, Tampa Bay’s Jose Molina, and the Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis. Avila is known to have a good eye at the plate, and he mentioned to me that umpires will ask him from time to time whether they missed pitches — when Avila is catching, or batting. And Avila’s policy is to always, always provide 100 percent honesty. So if he takes a walk on a borderline pitch and the plate umpire asks him about it later, Avila — who has an understated, genial demeanor — will tell him exactly what he thinks, even if he believes the ball four call should’ve been a strike.
Molina and Ellis agreed completely, mentioning that they have similar conversations. The bottom line, the catchers explained, is that the umpires want to be the best at what they do and they will ask, from time to time, for immediate feedback. But with Ellis, Avila and Molina, those conversations take place quietly, in the course of a day’s work, without anybody else knowing about it, and with body language and tone that convey complete respect.
There are other Ellis anecdotes out there (real ones, not Chuck Norris ones). Olney’s illustrates what those of us who cover him day-to-day have come to understand: A.J. Ellis is a rare breed.
With no game last night to reflect upon, these bullet points are about to get delightfully random:
• The Dodgers have a new between-innings distraction on their video board in which fans must guess which of three given facts about a player is a lie, and which two are true. In that vein, here are three things about Hyun-Jin Ryu: 1. He bought a $1.7 million condo in downtown Los Angeles immediately after he signed his contract last December; 2. His parents and older brother are living with him; 3. He claims he can drive a golf ball 290 yards. Which is a lie? (Answer coming later …)
• LA News Group beat writer and NCAA Division II basketball expert Michelle Gardner was at Chad Billingsley’s rehab start yesterday.
• Answer to the Ryu trivia: #1 is a lie. The condo cost $1.8 million, and the Korean reporters should know, since Ryu held a press conference in said condo yesterday.
• If you have a case of writer’s block, throw on this live Radiohead piece in the background. It worked for me this morning: