Tuesday, March 1, 2011
By Chuck Garfien
GLENDALE, Ariz - Hes been described as intense, moody, distant, and unapproachable. A man who if given a choice between a five-hour root canal and a 10-minute TV interview would probably race to the dentist and say hold the Novocaine.
Since being acquired by the White Sox three years ago, this is the Carlos Quentin we have come to know, an extremely private person who hates to talk about himself, and prefers to keep his life at a distance from the media.
Like 200 miles.
So imagine my surprise when a member of the White Sox revealed that Carlos, despite his public demeanor, is actually a funny guy who can be the life of the party.
It was such a stunner, I thought about having the information scroll across the bottom of Comcast SportsNet as if it was breaking news.
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Id like to know who told you that, Quentin says with a smile as we begin our interview. Its spring training, the time when Carlos smiles the most. However, once the regular season begins, the expression usually disappears, replaced by a stern, focused stare that can knock down a brick wall.
But as we sit across from each other, Quentin seems lighter and more relaxed, as if a transformation is taking place.
Is this the real Carlos Quentin, the man behind the baseball mask?
Its hard to talk about, but youre on the right track, Quentin says. I definitely have a personable side to myself that I keep hidden from the mass public, and Ive done it throughout my life. Its become a part of me. My wife knows who I am, my close friends do, my family, a lot of my teammates. Everyone has their own battles to fight, and Ill continue working on mine.
Quentin, a Stanford grad, is one of the smartest athletes around. Maybe too smart for baseball. His analytical mind is always on, as if permanently plugged into an electrical socket. Probably not the healthiest way to survive a 162-game season. Its a problem hes trying to fix.
But with that mind comes some valuable tricks, like delivering movie quotes. Name a film that Carlos has seen, and he can fire back multiple lines as if the script is embedded in his brain.
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Ive got tons of them. Im not going to try right now, he says, before breaking out some Will Ferrell from Blades of Glory. Looking is for free, touching it will cost you something. Hence, movie quote. This is actually the first time documented that anyone has ever gotten a movie quote out of me in an interview.
I have the exclusive.
You do. Exclusive rights.
Its this part of Carlos we rarely see; witty, sarcastic. I ask him if its tough to show this side to the public. To let people in.
Yeah, I think so. For everybody. When I talk about this, Im completely aware that Im not the only person who does this. Its a common thing for a lot of players. This is our livelihood. This is a serious thing. Ive taken it to heart throughout my entire career, throughout college, throughout high school. You keep that in the background and its just being able to come out and be yourself while thats still looming over you. Its a blend that some people are very good at. A lot of people on our team are great at it. And some people need to work on it.
One piece of advice that Carlos has heard time and time again is to lighten up. He wishes he could just hit a button and quickly calm everything down inside his mind. But its not that easy. Never has been.
When someone tells you to do something that you continuously try to do, its like You dont think Im trying? What do you think, like I just decided no. Before I used to take it a little personally, but now I just kind of chuckle. No one walks in my shoes except myself. I appreciate people trying to help in certain ways, but Im open to it. Ill get there. Im not not trying.
To lighten the mood, I ask him if its time for another movie quote.
No, were getting serious, Quentin says with a smirk. I might start crying.
READ: Quentin gains perspective
The Carlos Quentin we saw in 2008 when he almost won the American League MVP (36 HR, 100 RBIs) is still very much here, although some of the rage that was burning inside him that season has quieted down. Quentin says he took the trade from Arizona to the White Sox personally, and has since learned from it.
I felt like I was kind of given away. Ive never been upset at the Diamondbacks, but I just felt like in a young players career, when a team gives up on you, trades you away, theres some adjustment to that. You go on this successful path, and all of a sudden you hit a huge bump, a huge roadblock, and you realize that the people you spent time with are now gone, and it can happen just like thatand you kind of guard yourself. But you cant keep guarding yourself over and over. And thats been kind of the habit Ive fallen into to protect me from the woes that baseball can bring. That people dont talk about.
If he didnt play professional baseball, Quentin probably could have made it to the NFL. At University High School in San Diego, he was named Western League Defensive Player of the Year as an outside linebacker. Considering he plays baseball like hes Brian Urlacher, I often wonder if he should have been a football player instead.
Ahh, me too, Quentin says laughing. It would have been easier. I have no problem running into something over and over. Physically it would take a toll, but tell me to go tackle somebody and Ill do it.
In the calm waters of spring training, Quentin can be the loose, relaxed version of himself. You wonder how long it will last. Maybe Carlos does too.
The regular season will begin, things at some point will go south. Its baseball. It happens to everyone. How will Quentin react then?
I hope I still get to talk to you, he says with a big grin. He then decides to take our conversation in a completely different direction. Who am I to get in the way?
He continues, I mean, theres a chance I might not speak to you after this interview.
I might not want to interview you.
Lets take a couple of breaths together. Youre pretty funny. I actually dont mind talking with you. A mental note. Ill remember to say hello to you from now on.
Can I put this on my resume that Carlos Quentin wants to talk with me?
Honestly, Im not that important. You know it too. Youre just joking. People will watch this because of you.
No, because of you.
No, its not about me, its about you.
Im making this happen??
Youre the media. Youre the face.
Im not even on camera.
Im just on the field. I graze and hang out. I swing a bat. Thats all I do.
I then prepare Carlos for what will be the toughest question I will ask him. He shivers. Actually, not really.
Got any jokes, I ask.
He thinks for a moment, pondering what kind of joke he can tell on television. Hes thinking about the kids.
What did the mama tomato say to the baby tomato?
I think Ive heard this one before.
The punchline hangs in the desert air for a second. Its a tad uncomfortable. I better laugh. But its nice watching Carlos squirm.
We should never use that, he says, breaking the silence with a laugh. Ever. That took away all my credibility. Street credgone.
Ill disagree. It was Carlos being Carlos. The real McCoy. The guy behind the guy. The player we never get to see. It was fun while it lasted. Hopefully well meet again.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.