Informed baseball observers understand that sidearm or submarine pitchers are cooler than ones who throw overhand. Right-hander Darren O'Day of the Baltimore Orioles exemplifies this truth.
A profile written by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun in 2013 gets at the heart of what makes O'Day cool. O'Day is not Irish; His family name used to be Odachowski. His wife is a reporter for Fox News in D.C. O'Day honed his skills pitching in a beer league after enrolling at Florida for the academics and not baseball, but made the team after developing a sidearm delivery. And he loves gizmos, particularly the Solowheel, a self-balancing electric unicycle — like a Segway, but with no handles.
In an Answer Man session staged at the visitor's dugout at Wrigley Field on Sunday, O'Day expands on his life and interests, his career as one of the top relievers in the game who doesn't get saves and what it's like to be a sidewinder in an overhand world.
David Brown: If baseball never happened for you, you were going to be a plastic surgeon or, for a while, a veterinarian. Which teammate could best use a nose job?
Darren O’Day: Ryan Flaherty.
DB: What’s wrong with it?
DO’D: That nose could sniff out a free meal, or free clothes, from a mile away. That might be a perk, though.
DB: As a doctor of plastics, do you think it would be possible to transplant Brady Anderson’s sideburns onto another person’s face?
DO’D: Oh! You know what? I don’t see why not. I mean, I think, a couple of years ago the Twins gave away Mauer sideburns. Maybe you could just get those stitched on, or something. You’d never have to trim ‘em, they’d just be beautiful forever.
DB: Which animal mascot from around the majors would you not bother to attempt live-saving measures on?
DO’D: Probably the A’s mascot — an elephant, right?
DB: Poor Stomper!
DO’D: Stomper, yeah. He’d be tough to attend to, man. You’d need a team and a ladder. Shoot, I don’t know what you’d do. Can you give an elephant mouth to mouth? Trunk to mouth?
DB: Did Showalter’s Solowheel interview prank make you paranoid for a while that “Everything is a prank and no interview is real”?
DO’D: Haha, it did. Well, I learned a lesson early in my career to not tell your teammates when you’re excited about anything. I relearned that lesson that time when I was telling everybody how excited I was about that Wall Street Journal interview for the Solowheel. After that, I did kind of approach everything with a guarded optimism. So now, I’ve just learned to keep my feelings to myself. Now, if I ever get excited, I just find a quiet area and express it to myself. Find a mirror and I talk to myself.
DB: Speaking of Buck Showalter, I’m kind of afraid of him. Am I right to be afraid?
DO’D: I can see that, yeah. He’s actually hilarious — you’ve got to get to know him, though. I can understand being scared of him. He’s not warm and fuzzy when you meet him.
DB: Has he ever shared with you his love for the “Andy Griffith Show”? Legend has it he has them all on video tape, or used to.
DO’D: Haha — I did not know that. We’ve never broached that subject. We’ve talked about a wide variety of things, but we’ve never talked “Andy Griffith.” I’m probably one of the few guys on the team that’s seen it. Maybe when I was in kindergarten.
DB: Have you checked to see if it’s legal in MLB to ride from the bullpen to the mound in a Solowheel?
DO’D: No, but I want to ride it to the bullpen. A lot of stadiums — you can’t see it — but they have back entrances to the bullpens. Like Anaheim, where it’s a quarter-mile. A hike. And it’s usually on smooth cement and metal spikes and you’re ice skating the whole way. I’m going to take my Solowheel TO the bullpen at some point. I just don’t know if I can take it to the mound. I don’t know if the grounds crew would be too happy with that.
DB: Do you have a piece off the Solowheel company?
DO’D: No, but I’ve influenced 11 or 12 teammates, here and in Triple-A, to get their own Solowheels. I expressed interest in getting involved in the company, but they wanted me to be a dealer. I’d love to do it, but I move around quite a bit, so I passed on it. I still believe in the company.
DB: Are you ever able to take advantage of your fake Irish heritage?
DO’D: St. Patty’s Day is my least favorite day of the year. I seem to pitch on it every year. And I hear, “O’Day! You’re probably already drunk!” I just want to wear a sign that says, “I’m not Irish” on St. Patty’s Day. I love their beer and enjoy their whiskey. And Ireland has great corporate tax laws, too. Apparently, a lot of American companies are establishing their articles of incorporation abroad, and Ireland is one of the places. I think I would enjoy my life there.
DB: Would you wear a sign saying, “I’m Polish”?
DO’D: Oh, yeah. I enjoy being Polish. For my money, we’ve got the best sausage in the world. Chorizo doesn’t stand a chance. Italian sausage is up there, Bratwurst is nice. I spent some time in Germany in the offseason; I still think Polish is first.
DB: Could you do your wife's job, given some training?
DO’D: Ha! No. Sometimes, you can tell when they’re reading teleprompters and when they’re not. She has to memorize these little speeches. Remember when you were in school and you had the big speech you had to memorize? And you screw it up so many times? She does that every day. It’s very impressive, what she does. I could try it, and I could screw it up, but I couldn’t do it as well as she can.
DB: Do you say “sub-muh-REEN-er,” or “sub-MARE-iner,” as in the Seattle Mariners?
DO’D: Ha-ha. I’ll get out of my ivory tower once in a while and say “sub-MARE-iner” instead of “sub-muh-REEN-er.” I don’t know what to call myself. Sub-MARE-iner, sub-muh-REEN-er — whatever the term du jour is.
DB: What if there were a side-armer or submariner hall of fame? Who’s on the first ballot?
DO’D: Dan Quisenberry. Kent Tekulve. One day, I hope to be there.
DB: What did you think of Chad Bradford? You don’t usually come close to scraping the ground, but it seemed like he did.
DO’D: He was exceptional. I remember watching him pitch, getting people out and kind of proving them wrong. That’s what kind of motivated me for a long time. Doing things people say I can’t. I know injuries got him, but he was an awesome pitcher for a long time.
DB: Pat Neshek has a neat delivery too. It’s like he grabs a bowling ball and just kind of whips it at people.
DO’D: I tell you what: I’ve probably heard more angry batters against at-bats with him than any other pitcher. They don’t see it and nobody else throws that ball. Nobody throws anything like that. These guys aren’t used to it, so even if he does make a mistake — which he rarely does — he gets away with it. It looks like he’s doing the old flippy glove distracting thing. You don’t know if he’s going to throw the ball to the on-deck circle, or at you, or into the zone. I got to go through spring training with Pat, got to talk to him, have lunch. Really enjoyed watching him pitch.
DB: Should you form a sidearm support group? Does your type of pitcher get enough respect?
DO’D: Once you face a hitter, you get a little respect. It doesn’t matter how hard the guy’s throwing against you, if he strikes you out, it’s a strikeout. It doesn’t say in the box score if he threw an 81 mph fastball or a 101 mph fastball.
DB: Let’s say MLB turned into slow-pitch softball tomorrow: Would you have an advantage over guys like Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez?
DO’D: Ha-ha, you know, I never thought of that. I would. Although, guys like that probably would pick it up no problem. I’d probably have more advantage in fast-pitch softball. I practice that more than I do slow pitch. Slow pitch is tough; I played it in college. It’s hard, it’s frustrating for somebody who knows how to make the ball move. Slow pitch, you’re just lobbing it up there and trying to get out of the way. Fast pitch is better; I actually play catch with softball girls in college and have learned how to throw a couple of pitches.
DB: What about the upcoming Darren O'Daaaaaaaaay, O'Day, O'Day, O'Day T-shirt giveaway at Camden Yards?
DO’D: I’ve got a lot of requests from family and friends to snag ‘em one. It’s really exciting, because middle relievers don’t get T-shirts. I think it’s because everyone in Baltimore knows when I’m pitching. They can usually kind of tell (from far away) when I’m warming up. I have that catchy, fake-Irish last name. That’s earned me a shirt! I lost out on the bobblehead earlier this year. Maybe next year. I think I prefer the shirt, though.
DB: You're reputed to be pretty good at catching home runs in the bullpen. Should a relief pitcher home-run catching contest be added to the All-Star game festivities in the future?
DO’D: Oh, boy! Yes! You’re talking about during batting practice, or during the game?
DB: Let’s take this at your pace. But let’s say B.P.
DO’D: Now, you’re talking about two things I like to do. Every day, I like to stand out there in batting practice and power shag. I try to pretend I’m a center fielder.
DB: Power shag!
DO’D: Yep! I lobby Buck for, like, the seventh outfielder spot on the team. I make him watch me run down balls in center field, just trying to get him to play me there for one inning, one day. Or, during the game when we’re in the bullpens beyond the fence, we spend a lot of time getting ready for home runs coming in there. In would be pretty hard to catch them. You know, Tommy Hunter almost sprained an ankle earlier this year catching one.
DB: Well, remember Mo Rivera in Kansas City blowing out his knee doing this?
DO’D: Yeah, that’s not good. Let’s not talk about that. I’m talking about in the bullpen, during the game. I had a pretty spectacular catch on a Matt Wieters home run against the Nationals. I robbed it from going into the other bullpen. I jumped up and caught it over our fence in Baltimore. Tommy seems to think, still, that his little broken-ankle catch was better. And then I had a barehand catch this year on a Nelson Cruz home run.
DB: Should holds be part of fantasy baseball stat categories?
DO’D: Sure. I played fantasy baseball when I was in college. I like that holds are a stat, so you can quantify middle relievers a little bit. Sometimes, holds and saves can get a little silly. If I come in and get one out, and we’re winning by three but I give up two runs and we win the game, but I get a hold anyway? C’mon. Whatever.
DB: Do you know how many holds you have right now?
DO’D: I don’t. I find the more you pay attention to your stats, the worse they get.
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