During spring training, I was lucky enough to chat with Maxx Tissenbaum, catcher for the Class A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay) and blogger at Red, White and the 3-0 Green Light, to talk all things baseball and writing.
Tissenbaum, who blogs about his experiences on a regular basis throughout the season, is providing baseball fans with something really valuable: an insider look at what goes on in the day-to-day of a professional baseball player.
His prolificacy is reminiscent of Jim Bouton (for those of you who don't know, he's the author of the must-read baseball book, Ball Four), but his writing is more focused around the intricacies of the game. When asked if he would ever consider publishing a book, like Bouton did in 1970, he said, "I’ve thought about publishing it and I’ve had people suggest it, but I also think that right now, there’s still a lot that needs to be finished baseball-wise, personally, and off the field."
And, with Tissenbaum just beginning his foray into professional baseball, he's right. The beginning of the story is all that we have right now, but, after speaking with him and learning more about his approach to the game and to his writing, I'm sure that his middle and end will be just as exciting.
Evan Kendall: What's the best thing about playing professional baseball?
Maxx Tissenbaum: Living out my childhood dream. I grew up going to Blue Jays games with my family and ever since I was old enough to answer the “what do you want to do when you grow up?” question, it was always “be a big league baseball player.” Being able to go out and live that experience and chase that dream is the coolest.
EK: What have you enjoyed about publicly chronicling your journey on Red, White, and the 3-0 Green Light? By the way, that's an outstanding name for a blog.
MT: Thank you! All the credit goes to my mom and sister for the title.
There are two main things that I enjoy about it: 1) I think it’s just cool to talk baseball with so many people. It’s allowed a lot of people into my life as a player and as a person that I didn’t think were all that interested in following what I’m doing. 2) It’s a great way to release everything. It’s nice to be able to put everything out there and say “here’s what’s going on, here’s how I’m thinking, etc.” It allows me to take a step back and reflect.
EK: What are your goals for 2014, both as a player and as a writer?
MT: As a writer, I want to do a bit more with it this year. Writing about baseball and not necessarily me. Exploring things that are related to experiences that I’ve had. I’ll try to do more of that.
For baseball, it’s going to be different. I’m new to the organization and I’m new to catching. The number one goal is to get to the end of the year and be comfortable with all of the defensive stuff that comes with being a catcher.
EK: What has been most surprising to you about your career so far?
MT: The most surprising thing is how much of a mental drain the season is. Growing up you see the big league guys playing 162 games with a smile on their face but even going through 140 games, you get to late June/early July—you know, the dog days of summer—and look at the schedule and say “oh man, we’re only half way?” My manager last year said “work smarter, not harder” and it’s really helped me pace myself throughout the season.
EK: Tell me your favorite story about your career so far.
MT: My favorite one is probably the walk-off hit that I had last year in Fort Wayne. We had a string of walk off hits at home and every time they did the post game interview on the field, we would dump the water cooler on the guy's head and smash a shaving cream pie on his face. At some point, I said to our mascot that it would be hilarious if the mascot pied the player.
So, I’m doing the interview after my walk off hit and, three words into my first answer, I get hit with a huge shaving cream pie and didn’t realize until after that it was the mascot that got me.
EK: Who would you want to catch for in the big leagues?
MT: I wish you would have asked me a year ago. I would’ve loved to catch for Mariano Rivera. He would just throw the same thing over and over again and would frustrate everyone else out there.
EK: What has been the hardest thing about catching so far?
MT: The most difficult part is the toll it takes on your body. I was saying to one of the guys the other day when we were doing blocking drills that it was a joke to think I used to find taking ground balls at second base difficult. The impact on your back, your hips, legs, etc., is incredible.
It’s a precision-focused position and it sounds cliche to say you can’t take a pitch off because there’s so much information to process, but it’s true. You have to know everything: the inning, score, hitter, next hitter, pitcher, how he’s throwing, his personality—do I need to massage his ego or get in his face?—and so on. It’s really a mentally taxing position to be on top of everything at all times.