The first thing Marlins relief pitcher Burke Badenhop told me when he agreed to talk about his life outside of baseball during spring training was, "You're going to find out that I'm not really that interesting."
The 6-5, 220-pound, 27-year old right-hander might be more of a dork than Joe Cool, but he's proving to be invaluable again in a struggling Marlins bullpen -- at least early on. In the 17 innings Marlins relievers have been serviced out of the pen, Badenhop has provided five scoreless innings. His teammates have combined to give up 13 runs in the other 12 innings.
But talking baseball isn't what this blog is about. It's about getting you closer to the The Hopper, who has agreed to provide his thoughts on off beat stuff throughout the season. Although his bio says he was born in Atlanta, Badenhop said he considers himself from Perrysburg, Ohio, which also produced former Marlins World Series winning manager Jim Leyland.
"It's right outside of Toledo, which of course is the glass city and an hour south of Detroit," explains Badenhop, who graduated from Bowling Green with a degree in economics and is smarter than your average baseball player. "The thing is, though, I didn't really grow up in Perrysburg. I grew up in Greensboro, N.C. and my favorite thing to do growing up was playing Little League Baseball. I played basketball all the way through high school. I could have played for D-2 or D-3 schools, but I was already signed to play baseball."
Badenhop can ramble a bit. And, take ribbing from his teammates in stride. During this interview, catcher John Baker takes a shot at Badenhop when he rambles on about what he used to do as a kid. "What about playing with Barbies?" Baker shouts.
The Hopper informs his catcher he never played with Barbies, but admits to me he does look a little little like Superbad's McLovin. Last year, a photo of the famed movie character dancing with a girl at a party (THE ONE TO THE LEFT) was placed on Badenhop's locker in the Marlins clubhouse, a gift from Marlins video man Cullen McRae.
"I don't know if I look like him as much as maybe I'm an unassuming guy who can't find his rhythm," Badenhop said. "But I'd say I'm one of the geekier personas on the team. So, that's why."
Any McLovin moments growing up? "Stealing beer and things like that?," Badenhop asks. "I don't know if this is good enough. I kind of move at a slow pace in terms of getting ready. I'm usually the last one out the door-type thing. I'm not good when I'm rushed. I was at a basketball camp when I was younger and one of the days they let us swim. Well, when my mom came to pick me up my shoes were on the wrong feet and my pants were on backwards. I didn't even know it. I was like seven."
Badenhop, by the way, loves Superbad. He's alternative music fan who listens to XM Radio Channel 46 for the Counting Crows and Blink 182. He's also a huge Duke basketball fan and was thrilled to watch them win the national title last week.
"A lot of people dog me for this, but I could watch Superbad anytime," Badenhop said "I really could. In terms of serious movies, I like a Shawshank Redemption. Baseball movies, you can't go wrong with Major League over Bull Durham. Just because the one-liners in it are unbelievable.
Any Major League movie characters in this clubhouse? "I might be one," he said. "[Renyel] Pinto would absolutely be. He'd be himself. There's no Rick Vaughn here. [Former closer] Matt Lindstrom could have been him. There's no Roger Dorn either. I could be Nuke Laloosh [from Bull Durham]. Yeah, I'm still trying to find it."
Badenhop, by the way, will not be available to pitch Sunday. But he will be on Monday.