A.J. Ellis gets a call from home plate umpire Dan Iassogna in a Sept. 11, 2012 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Associated Press)
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: