Big League Stew - MLB

Kansas City right-hander Zack Greinke in many ways acts very much like an average 24-year-old. He keeps an eye on the tabloids, he likes Brad Pitt movies, he loves his girlfriend and he really loves him some Chipotle Mexican food (carnitas burrito, por favor).

In other ways, he's not like many 24-year-olds at all. He takes the time to watch sunsets, he makes quaint but succinct observations about the nature of baseball and he's confronting problems with his own mental health.

Oh, and his girlfriend isn't the typical gal pal, either, being a beauty pageant queen and a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

One of the game's best young pitchers and an underrated conversationalist, Greinke recently dropped what he was doing for a unique and introspective session with the Answer Man.

Q: What do you think of the fountains at Kauffman Stadium?

Zack Greinke: Well, one thing is, when you're warming up in the bullpen, they'll spray you sometimes and get you wet.

Q: Isn't it a soothing sound, the gentle cascading of water?

ZG: I've never noticed the sound before; not in a positive way.

Q: So you don't like the sound either? Does it distract?

ZG: In a very, very small way. Sometimes.

Q: If you continue to be a success in the majors, you could buy and operate your own Chipotle. Other than the World Series, is that the goal?

ZG: Nah. It's just not that big of a big deal.

Q: Where do you stand on the Kansas City barbecue scene?

ZG: I don't think... I've probably been [to a barbecue place] two times in my career there. Not real high on that. Just because... I'd rather eat something else.

Q: Such as?

ZG: Chipotle.

Q: Ever wonder how Missouri gets away with using the name "Kansas City" when Kansas is the state next door?

ZG: I probably thought about that a lot when I was younger — I'm talking, like, middle school and stuff — but it is really weird that it happened. It's really tricky, especially if you try and get people to guess the capital of Kansas. A lot of them probably would say "Kansas City."

Q: What is the capital of Kansas?

ZG: Topeka.

Q: And of Missouri?

ZG: Is it Jefferson City?

Q: High five, very good. Were you into your capitals in middle school?

ZG: We had a test on it, but I've forgotten a lot of them over the years. At one time, I think I would have known them all. Maybe not all of them.

Q: What kind of teachers were your parents?

ZG: My dad was a history teacher. And he was also into geography, which is exactly what we were just talking about. He would get into all that.

Q: You have described each baseball game as being "like a little play." That's poetic. Would you elaborate?

ZG: I've said that before? I was in a moment. Like a "play"? It is like a play — there's so many different parts going on at the same time. I don't know what it's really like to be in a play but unless you understand the game, a lot of things — little mistakes — the average person probably doesn't realize that they were actually made. And then, with really good plays, an average person probably doesn't understand the time and effort that make it come together. It's nice when the game's played the right way.

Q: If everyone in the Royals clubhouse started kung fu fighting, who would emerge as grand champion?

ZG: [Miguel] Olivo. That's just what everyone says, so I'll take their word for it.

Q: When George Brett comes down to the clubhouse, do the rookies throw rose pedals at his feet?

ZG: Nah. It's just kind of a normal thing now when he comes down. At least for me. At first, it was kind of neat — even though I stayed at his house my first year. He has a presence about him, even if you didn't know who he was, so it's always neat to see him, but now I just continue to do the regular stuff I was doing before.

Q: You were a boarder of George Brett's?

ZG: Yeah, I was like 20. I was mainly just saving money [laughs], which I probably didn't need to do, but it was nice to have the extra $1,000 a month, or whatever. That was probably the best part about it.

Q: Did you have any chores?

ZG: No, I never really saw the rest of the family much. I stayed in an extra room. They had kids at school.

Q: When you went on your hiatus in 2006, what did you do with yourself all day?

ZG: Fish a little bit, golf a little bit, hung out with friends and girlfriend — that was the main thing. Then, after a couple of weeks, I tried to start to figure out how to get things right.

Q: Do you always remember to take your meds?

ZG: I don't think I've been, like, over three days without taking them. After then, that's when you start to notice it. I'll probably take them six times a week. I don't take 'em every day, but I try to.

Q: Do they have any side effects you don't like?

ZG: Makes me tired, kind of, but it's worth it. If I don't take it for a while, I get dizzy.

Q: You were once called "the future of pitching." Tell me, are we going to have flying cars in the future?

ZG: Yeah, we are.

Q: When?

ZG: Probably not too far away. About 10 years. That's my guess.

Q: OK! I can hold out for 10 years.

ZG: Actually, probably longer than that.

Q: But, you said...

ZG: There definitely will be flying cars, but whether there'll be flying cars for most people to use, it'll probably take a long time to straighten everything out, all the rules and hassles. It'll take a while to figure out how to keep people from crashing into each other.

Q: For whom will you be rooting in the upcoming Miss Florida USA pageant?

ZG: My girlfriend (Emily Kuchar). I'm definitely rooting for her.

Q: What has to happen for her to win?

ZG: It's kind of weird. I've talked to her about it. When you get to that level, it's kind of tough. You're picking the best. How do you choose? It's almost like flipping a coin. She's got the talent to do it, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone in these pageants that you go, "Whoa, she stands out."

Q: There's an interview part of the competition; do you think she can nail it and set herself apart?

ZG: She'll be a lot better than me at interviews. She's been practicing a lot. She's got a coach for it and everything. I watched some of last year's Miss USA [national] pageant and in a couple of the interviews [the contestant] didn't do a good job — to the point that it cost her. The girl that won last year, I thought she was the best, most mature interview. They picked her because she's going to handle herself well and do a great job [considering] the problems they've had in the past with it.

Q: You know how beauty pageants have the part where the contestant might go, "If I had a chance to save the world, this is what I'd do"? What would you do, Zack Greinke, to make the world a better place?

ZG: [Long, thoughtful pause]. Tough one, obviously. If you had a good leader that could reach people and convince as many people as possible to act a certain way and somehow get them to pass it on to other people and then have those people pass it on ... I don't know how you actually get that started but one of the guys running for president right now seems like a pretty good place to start.

Q: Is that an endorsement for ... ?

ZG: No one. I don't feel comfortable doing that. But he seems like a good place to start.

Q:
I've read that you purposely put off doing your math homework just so you could go to the library where Emily worked and then did the work there.

ZG: I'm sure it was all sorts of homework. Math's my best subject, but you always have homework in math, so that's probably why. And, I had math right after lunchtime. First of all, lunchtime was my least favorite time in the entire world. So, when I saw her at the library, I said, "I don't want to look like a loser going to the library during lunch, but... I've got two positives. One, I hate lunch. Two, I could try to put some moves on her." A friend of mine from math class, I did the homework with her in the library and she was a friend of Emily's. As time went on, after a couple weeks of doing that, it started to turn into something. I'm real happy I did that.

Q: Why was lunch so bad?

ZG: I just had to communicate with all the people. It's the time to "try to be cool" and everything. I just don't go out of my way to be like that. I was not good at that stuff. There were other people I wanted to sit with more than the people I "had" to sit with. I remember bringing some of my other friends to our table and everyone at our table would look at them and ask me, "What are you doing? Why'd you bring him?" It was annoying high school stuff that still goes on now. My high school was really bad.

Q: Emily was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader for a couple of years. To your knowledge, did Bill Parcells micromanage the cheerleading team like he has the reputation for doing with the other parts of the team?

ZG: Their head person is just as good as Parcells is at his job. She's intense. But it's probably good for the girls.

Q: What about an All-Star Celebrity Double Date; you and Emily along with Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson [if they're still together]?

ZG: No, I'm not a fan of them. We could try to think of someone else we could do it with. But not them.

Q: Do they irritate you?

ZG: She ... no comment. I'd much rather it be Tom Brady and Gisele. There's probably someone better than them, too. Definitely them two over Tony and Jessica Simpson.

Q: Do you appreciate the transition Rick Ankiel is making from pitcher to hitter?

ZG: Yeah, and he's making it look pretty easy too. Great athlete. I wish I had a chance to do it, but I kind of can't. That probably would be the most exciting way to have make it — two different ways. That's like a lifetime dream of mine. You can't do it if you're pitching even decent. The organization won't let you. He's living my dream right now.

Q: You're really proud of your home run, aren't you?

ZG: Yeah, and I got a double this year. I'm 2-for-[5] this year. I've been looking forward to getting some more at-bats.

Q: Does "A River Runs Through It" speak to you because of the fly fishing?

ZG: A little bit; it's more Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt has something about him to where, he's played different characters in all his movies and every single time after he's done, I want to be him. Each character he plays — if he's a tough guy, if he's a serial killer — he just does it to you. He does it to me. I want to be him.

Q: Do you think he could pull off your life on film?

ZG: No, I'm too boring for him. But actually, one of my friend calls me ... [snapping fingers] the "Meet Joe Black Guy," so I guess he could. I am like him — the guy who liked the peanut butter in the spoon?

Q: Um...

ZG: Joe Black was the devil, kind of, and he killed some guy and took over his body to do his job. I've got the same kind of sense of humor as that guy.

Q: What's the prettiest sunset you've ever seen?

ZG: The last time I remember truly enjoying it was in Arizona — just watching it over the mountains and stuff. I haven't gotten into that in a while. It's something that, when I'm done with baseball, I can relax enough to start to enjoy that again. To wake up when the sun comes up and enjoy that and then, when the sun goes down, to have a nice property or house where I could watch it on my porch when I'm older. It would be peaceful.

David Brown is a regular contributor to Big League Stew and writes Morning Juice, which runs Monday-Friday in the a.m. Answer Man is a regular feature on BLS.

Previous Answer Men:
Hunter Pence - April 10 • Justin Morneau - April 17 • David Wright - April 24 • Erin Andrews - April 25 • Andy Van Slyke - May 1 • Derek Jeter - May 8 • Bob Uecker - May 15 • Bert Blyleven - May 22 • Torii Hunter - May 29 • Joba Chamberlain - June 3 • Larry Bowa - June 13

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