Midway through the season last year, Right Field Bleachers started to make efforts to land a Seth McClung interview. It was a bit of a long shot. Frankly, most MLB players have better things to do with their off time than talk to fan blogs, but it just seemed like Seth was the kind of personality that would be willing to do it. And fans wanted to hear from Seth. It was obvious from the beginning of Big Red’s time in Milwaukee that the fans and him connected.
After some legwork, we got ahold of Seth and lined up an interview. He just had to approve it with the Brewers media folks. Unfortunately, the Brewers media department has an extremely overbearing and dated policy towards blogs. Essentially, blogs get zero access, no exceptions. After pleading my case and being a pest for a week or two, they bent a little and allowed the interview just this one time. And then a day later, Seth was injured and the interview was off again. Bad luck…
Once the offseason hit and it was clear that Seth was no longer going to be a Brewer (and therefore we didn’t have to go through the hassle that is the Brewers media department), we started to effort an interview with him again. After a few weeks, we finally connected.
Seth called us up on Super Bowl Sunday and chatted for about a half hour. And he didn’t disappoint. The newly signed Florida Marlin hit on everything from how much he truly loved Milwaukee and Brewer fans (and how wants to come back at some point), the clubhouse chemistry, his role as the team “janitor,” his rift with Ken Macha, Todd Coffey’s “man boobs” and “sixth inning bathroom visit” and much, much more.
Say what you want about the Seth, but the guy is genuine and he’s a blast. I’m going to miss watching him as a Brewer.
Listen to the interview here (intro and outro song is “Modern Times” by The Black Keys):
This is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have former Brewer Seth McClung on the phone. I guess, first off, Seth, congrats on joining the Marlins. How did that deal come to be and what did you like about the opportunity there.
Well, thanks for having me, first off. You guys got in touch with me through the West Virginia Rush program I run and, before I answer your question, one of the reasons I really felt like it was kind of cool to do this through the blogs is I really feel like Milwaukee has a pretty kick ass following through the blogs and the fans really voice their opinions.
But the way the Marlins deal came about is when I became a free agent, pretty much every team in the National League showed interest and a few teams in the American League. We waited around and it boiled down to where the best opportunity for me to get back in the Major Leagues and stay in the Major Leagues seemed to be in Florida. I think we might have waited a little bit too long on a couple of things, but we’re here in Florida and it’s a good opportunity. I turned down more money in a couple of other places because of the opportunity. It’s closer to home for my family. We have a five-month old and it’s going to be an opportunity where Stephanie, my better half, doesn’t have to really quit school. She can still drive now back and forth between the Tampa Bay area, Jupiter is in the Tampa Bay area, and Miami. So, a lot of family decisions came into it.
Obviously, I would’ve loved to come back to Milwaukee. That was my first choice. But that’s not something they really wanted to do.
You mentioned a number of times in interviews and on your Twitter account that you had a really good time in Milwaukee and you loved the fans here. So, needless to say, you were a little disappointed you weren’t able to stay with the team?
Yeah, I was really disappointed. I felt like in 2007, when I got traded, I didn’t really do much, but I saw that it was such a great clubhouse. And then 2008 rolled around and I was blessed with the opportunity to start 13 games and then pitch in September and towards the playoffs. And I felt like I really added a lot to the team. I was praised by our coaching staff and the general manager and everybody for my accomplishments in 2008.
And then 2009 rolls around and, you know, we have a change at the top. And, obviously, if you look at the season, I started out pitching great. And then, you know, circumstances came up that were beyond my control and I tried to appease certain wants and I started to pitch poorly. And I continued to appease certain wants and I got hurt.
So, I had to come back. It was big. I got hurt late in the season and it was an injury that most guys would’ve packed up and not tried to come back from, but I felt like we still had a chance at the playoffs. When I got hurt, we were still in it. And then we basically fell out of it, but I wasn’t going to give up on my teammates and the organization. I tried to come back and just prove that being a Brewer meant a lot to me. It wasn’t about me, it was just about not letting my teammates down. You hate to compare things to war or a fight, but I didn’t want to leave my guys hanging. Our bullpen was beat up and they needed some help. I really wanted to get back for them.
All that hard work, I mean, once I got the initial opportunity to come to Milwaukee, I felt like I did everything I possibly could to make the fans and to make the organization happy. I really loved it there and it’s a shame that it came down to an individual decision. Who knows how long certain people will be there, but I would love to come back to Milwaukee one day.
You talked a little bit about the bullpen and the pitching struggling last year, and most of your time with Milwaukee you kind of bounced between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Did that contribute to some of the difficulties you had at all? Was it hard to keep switching roles?
It is, but it’s hard to pitch in the Major Leagues. I mean, it was my job.
You take a look at my numbers and, if you want to be a Sabermetrics guy or one of those guys who want to just boggle numbers, you can say pretty much that everybody except the superstars suck. And you can manipulate numbers any way you want. But what I did for the team and provided for the team is I came in when we needed a spot starter in 2008. I filled in, I feel, very well. You know, who knows where we would’ve been had I not been able to fill in? And then outside of that, I would come into the game when we were down 2 runs in the fifth or six innings and I would keep us right there or keep us within the games. Sometimes we’d come back and win those games and sometimes we wouldn’t, but by putting me in and eating up two innings at a time, it kept the seventh, eighth and ninth inning guys pitching the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. I felt like I wasn’t really, in 2009, used in that capacity so much.
My role was basically, I think some of the radio guys in Milwaukee called me the janitor. It’s one of those jobs where if you don’t have a good janitor, man, you notice. But if you’ve got a good janitor, you kind of take him for granted. I’m not saying I was taken for granted by the organization because most of the organization was very good to me. But if you want to look at my numbers, you can say whatever you want about them. I don’t mind. It’s just that my role was something that being filled in 2008 allowed us to get to the playoffs and before I got hurt in 2009, we were still in the hunt.
Do you think that you’ll have a similar role on the Marlins? Have you talked with them about that at all?
Uh, I’m not really sure what the Marlins want. I don’t know if they see me more as a late-inning guy. I mean, I’m pretty versatile and if you’re going to confine me to one inning, I can come in and throw as hard as you’d like me to. If you want me to go multiple innings, I have to adjust and then taper down my velocity to be able to go different innings. So, it’s kind of one of those things that I can do both and we’ll just see what they need.
And it’s the same line that I’ve always had in Milwaukee. I want to do what’s best for the team. I’m a team-before-me kind of guy. It’s a shame that sometimes the game of baseball is a business because it’s not what you’re taught growing up. When you’re in the little leagues, you’re always taught that it’s about the team. It’s a family. For the guys who play the game, it’s a family, but sometimes for the coaches and the front office, it’s not really a family. It’s the sad part about baseball. It’s throughout everywhere in baseball. It’s not just localized in Milwaukee. And I’m by no means bitter about it. I loved my time in Milwaukee and everybody was great. But it’s the realization that, as you get older in the game, stuff like that happens.
Yeah, and you’ve hit on this a little bit, but on your Twitter account, you didn’t really hide the fact that you didn’t exactly see eye to eye with Ken Macha at times. Can you talk about your relationship with him and where that fell apart?
I don’t think I ever really had a relationship with Mr. Macha. I tried in the first half to really build a relationship. I don’t think he really got me. You could take what I could say and say, “Oh, he’s just disgruntled” and what not. I am disgruntled, but it’s because our relationship really wasn’t that great and I didn’t agree with a lot of the things he did. People gave Ned Yost a hard time for taking up for his players, but there’s a lot to be said about that. And people give Lou Piniella a hard time for arguing with the umpires, but there’s a lot to be said for that.
Ken Macha, if I had my choice, I wouldn’t play for him again. And I’m not here to throw stones. Good luck for the rest of the year. It’s over. And this is probably the last time I’ll really comment on Ken Macha. But I just really didn’t agree with his philosophy, his coaching style. Let’s just keep it that simple. Some things in house need to stay in house and let’s just say I didn’t agree with it and I really didn’t feel like he treated me fairly or gave me a fair shake at anything.
Would you say that’s a feeling that a lot of players have? Is the team behind him or is it kind of a divided locker room?
You know, I’m no longer there and my answer, whether it could be construed as truthful or anything, there’s no real need. There’s no real need to delve into those things. I understand the want to ask that question, but I’m not really at liberty to speak for anybody else. I can speak for myself. But that’s a question you’ll have to ask those guys. I hate to sound like I’m copping out, but I would never throw teammates or anybody under the bus. I don’t do that kind of thing.
OK, fair enough. We kind of talked about the Twitter account just briefly. I think that was something Brewers fans kind of got a kick out of last year as you started to do that a little bit more and over the offseason too. But recently you deleted the account. Can you talk about why you decided to do that?
I deleted the account because I think it was getting on Stephanie’s nerves. I enjoyed it a lot. The Twitter account was great.
Over the years, maybe the year I did it, I don’t even know if I did it a year, I got all positive responses except for two. The two responses were from toolbags and I just blocked them and it was whatever. But all positive responses. And I enjoyed interacting with the fans. I’m from West Virginia, man, and I’m as blue collar as they come. I’m just like you and just like everybody else. I just happen to play baseball. And I thought it was a pretty cool way to connect with the fans to just kind of show everybody that, “Hey, I’m just a guy that’s very fortunate to play baseball and thank you guys for being supportive.”
And, to tell you the truth, I had decided that, after Milwaukee, that I wasn’t really going to do it anymore because it was a special situation in Milwaukee. That’s no slight to any other fans, but I had such a special bond with a lot of fans in Milwaukee. I felt that it was something that I couldn’t continue because I kind of knew I wasn’t going to come back. And I wanted everybody to know how grateful and honored I was to be a Milwaukee Brewer and play on their favorite team and how supportive they were. It was awesome. And had I not had the Twitter account, I wouldn’t have been able to send my good bye. I mean, they don’t typically give long relievers middle pages in the paper to do the kind of things like that. So, to be able to do that and to say my good byes to the fans and to the organization, it was huge. And I really enjoyed it.
I apologize to whoever Miller Park Drunk is about my misspelling things on there. I’m sorry that you don’t understand that 140 characters is usually 140 characters and I don’t really have a great spell check on my phone, but I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did and I enjoyed the fans. It was just my way of connecting.
I think part of that bond that Brewers fans had with you is they could tell you were basically just one of us. You were a regular guy. On the field, after the Wild Card Championship, pouring beer on yourself, all that kind of stuff. I guess, did you get that feeling too where you were one of the guys sort of?
I definitely felt I connected with the Milwaukee fans. I mean, I didn’t go out much. My days when I played in Tampa, dude, you could find me in any bar in town. But when I came to Milwaukee, I kind of settled down in my ways and I was pretty serious, in a serious relationship. And now I’m a father. So, I mean, those kind of days for me, I didn’t get to do much in Milwaukee.
But when I did get to go out, my cousin Brad works at McGillycuddy’s. I would have to say that McGillycuddy’s is probably the most blue-collar bar on Water Street and I fit in perfect there. I mean, it was just like, “These are my people. This is who I grew up with in West Virginia.” I understood the philosophy. My father was a hard-working guy. My father built high-rise buildings. We lived in West Virginia and he would live in Boston for six months or live in Atlanta for six months and he would come back on the weekends. He’d drive eight hours to spend 16 hours with us and then drive back another eight hours to go back to work. So, I mean, I knew what sacrifice was growing up and my family taught me some values. I was able to connect with the fans on a certain level because I never thought I was any better than anybody just because of my job. I mean, I understand that sometimes you’ve kind of got to separate yourself because it does get crazy sometimes, but you knew that it came from a good place. And I could always connect with that.
There’s always stories coming out about practical jokes or superstitions in the bullpens. Can you give us any good stories about the Brewers bullpen?
Well, first of all, Todd Coffey and I are actually two different people. A lot of people yell at me calling me Coffey. Coffey is about 475 pounds with man boobs. And I am not 475 pounds. I love Todd. Don’t get me wrong. I say this jokingly. He’s a great guy.
Some of the things that we’ve done in the bullpen that are really of note, I think, the Bullpen Olympics of 2008 got a lot of pub. And I would just like to acknowledge that was 100 percent my idea. I got the games together and I put the rules down and then I did purchase medals for first, second and third in each event and then overall trophies for everyone. So, that was all mine and that was a lot of fun.
I think David Riske won it. Shousey came in second. I was proud to announce that I took home the overall bronze medal. That was a lot of fun. We did that for about six weeks, sorry, three weeks and it took a lot of time. I think we caught a little bit of flack for it and, during that time, I think we had something like a 2 ERA as a bullpen and we kind of said, “Seriously, we’re not the problem. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be ready to pitch when it comes our time.” We take our job serious, but when you’re in the bullpen things go a little different.
Another thing I did, when I got hurt this year, we’ve got a rather large bathroom in the bullpen and I decided once the team went to the West Coast trip that I was going to go and redecorate the bullpen. And I made sure I put posters in the bullpen. I put some rugs down, magazines down. I put a refrigerator in there so we could have drinks. I bought candles because Coffey’s sixth inning bathroom visit was terrible so we had to make sure we had some candles.
I had something in there that represented everybody so I went through the bios and I was reading like it said that Mitch Stetter loved ping pong, table tennis, so I put a ping pong paddle and a ping pong ball on the table in there. And then Coffey loved Star Trek so I went out and bought season DVDs of Star Trek movies or whatever and I put those in there. And then I put a big picture of Trevor Hoffman framed with a big skull in the front to represent “Hells Bells.” And DiFelice is Italian so I put the Italian Sausage in there. And then, myself, I put a Chuckie doll in there. I did something for everybody. And then I put one of those Miller Park or Brewers miniature home plates on there and I had candles all on the edge meaning the bullpen lives on the edge. It was just kind of fun and we did that and I think the guys got a really big kick out of that.
It’s just things like that that you do throughout the year to really break up the monotony of everything and just be a team player. I mean, I feel like anything you can add off the field as well to be a good team player is important to the chemistry of the team. To talk about the Milwaukee Brewers, the most important thing is that everybody loved each other there. I don’t know the chemistry now because guys are gone and a lot of key guys who brought a lot to the clubhouse are gone, so who knows how it’s going to be? But it was the best three years of my Major League career was playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse, on the road trips. I loved every single guy.
I don’t keep up with really a single Tampa Bay Devil Ray that I played with. That’s from 1999 to 2007. And let me tell you, I’ve already talked to almost everyone on the Milwaukee Brewers team just through text messages or sending cards back and forth and just being in touch. My best friend in baseball is Corey Hart and he’s an awesome guy, an awesome family guy. Just being able to text him, see how he’s doing, or text Trevor, or text Coffey. Villanueva and I will e-mail jokes back and forth to each other. Like I went to a Mexican restaurant and I ordered some food and I took a picture of it and I sent it to Villanueva and sent it to Yo and I said, “I miss you guys. That’s why I’m having this burrito.” So, it was just funny stuff back and forth. This is a great situation.
And going back to Coffey a little bit, at one point last year, you wore a shirt in the bullpen that said “Not Coffey,” right?
Right, right. I had been called Coffey a few times. And, again, I kind of take exception to it. When I was in high school, I lettered in seven sports and I was an All-American baseball player. I played shortstop and centerfield and pitched. I played basketball. I was the point guard on offense, not really point guard, we had a point guard, but I’d bring the ball up. I played in AAU tournaments in basketball. I did the high jump. I did a lot of athletic things.
And then Coffey is like a big guy. He’s just kind of like a big ol’ guy that pitches. You know? You love him. He’s just a big ol’ teddy bear. And I still kind of fancy myself as an athlete and when I get called Coffey, I think, “Golly, how could you not know I’m not Todd Coffey?” And, so, I would say “Not Coffey” all the time. “Not Coffey.” I’d just yell out “Not Coffey.” So, finally one day, the guys on the team were kind of getting a joke on it so I went to our head clubbie, Tony, and I said, “Hey, can you get me one of those pullovers and put on the back ‘Not Coffey’?” And, so, we did that and it was a big joke. I wore it the first day out and I think we got our asses handed to us, I mean, just absolutely kicked, so I could only wear it one day. I couldn’t wear it anymore after that so I had to get my fill out of it one day, so one batting practice and one game. But after that, we couldn’t wear it anymore so I sent it home as a reminder of how good of a time we had.
It’s just funny stuff like that, man, that’s really kind of where the chemistry comes involved. And other guys did some things that were funny. It’s enjoyable. It makes the season enjoyable and memorable.
So, are you saying that you could beat Todd in a race?
Are you serious, man? Todd Coffey in a race? You know what? I thought about doing something funny like putting on YouTube me training to beat Todd Coffey in a race, like a video montage would be funny. But I never did it. But, yes, I could beat Todd in a race. You know, he’s the redheaded bullet out of the pen, but I got him in a race. Don’t worry about that. I’m not going to lose to Todd Coffey.
Alright, well, I guess for Brewers fans, the Cubs have probably been the biggest rival since the team moved to the NL Central, but it seems like, in your time as a Brewer, the rivalry against the Cardinals really picked up and there were some heated moments and comments in the media over the years. How much do you think that rivalry escalated while you were around?
I felt like it was a little, it was chippy. Had it been a basketball game, there probably would’ve been elbows thrown, you know? But I don’t think it was ever personal. It was personal on certain levels, but it wasn’t something we were constantly thinking about. It was only really when we played them. But you could see it escalate from 2007 to 2008 to 2009. It was one of those things that we knew about. We didn’t live our lives hating the Cardinals. You don’t really hate them, but you acknowledge kind of what they’re saying. And I’m sure they acknowledged what we did. That’s why they said what they said. They didn’t like that we untucked our pants and they didn’t like that we had the Atomic Walkoff. But it’s kind of that we were a young, fun team and that gets back to the chemistry. I never had more fun doing some of the things that we did. And if Trevor Hoffman and David Weathers are OK with it, then anybody should be OK with it because those guys have been around long enough to know what’s right and wrong in a game. Everything we ever did was all done in good fun. It wasn’t done in any disrespect to the game or to any individual. If anybody has got a problem with all of that stuff, it’s overblown because they’re taking offense when they shouldn’t be taking offense.
OK, you had an interesting moment against the Cardinals yourself in September of 2007. So, you’re no longer a Brewer. Yost is gone. I think the Statute of Limitations is up on this. You hit Pujols on purpose, right?
The Statute of Limitations is definitely not up on that. And all I have to say is “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” and I got freed of all charges.
Alright, alright. Last season, Ryan Braun made some comments about the team’s pitching that some people took as a shot at you or Mike Burns. What was your reaction to the comments and did you talk to Ryan about that?
It was a direct shot at Burnsy and myself, and Ryan spoke with me actually. I wasn’t going to go to him. He spoke with me and he apologized.
You could look at it as a turning point in the season. It kind of really hurt us. It kind of really hurt our pitching staff. One thing that Ryan has to understand is that, I know he understands he’s a superstar, but he has to understand that you can’t, and I think he has, I mean, he’s really kind of tapered off, but you’ve always got to remember you’ve got to put your team first. And I think I read a comment he said he’s not the GM and he doesn’t get into that anymore. And he’s not and I think he’s realizing that.
And another thing people don’t realize is reporters talk to him constantly so he’s got to be on his A-game not to say something stupid. I didn’t like what he said, but I’m sure he learned from it. I have no hard feelings, none at all. To tell you the truth, Ryan is a pretty decent guy. So, I don’t have any hard feelings. It sucked getting thrown under the bus, but I understand where he was coming from. I understand he wanted to win and I wanted to win. So, I think he learned from it.
You know, I’ve made mistakes too. You can go back and look at some of my quotes when I was in Tampa and they’re pretty bad. So, everybody makes mistakes. So, it sucked, but I understood and I forgave him. Ryan and I were pretty decent friends when we were on the team so I didn’t like it, but no hard feelings. And I think he’s learned from it and I think he’s going to be a better teammate from it, I think, in the end. And it’s a good thing that he was able to learn from it and we’re all able to move on.
And speaking of Braun, I saw that before you deleted your Twitter account, you talked a little bit about entering into a similar business venture as he has with a t-shirt line. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, I got a little creative bone in my body. I don’t really know how to draw or do any of the art stuff, but I’m a real big ideas guy and I think I’ve got some pretty nifty kind of ideas. I don’t want to get into it too much because I believe in the idea so much that if I told it, I think somebody would steal it. So, I don’t want to get into it too much, but once it gets out there, and gets put out there, I’ll let everybody know.
Alright, sounds good. Anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t hit on yet?
I’d really just like to say to everybody that’s a Milwaukee Brewers fan and has followed the team from 2007 to 2009 that I will always remember it as really a great time. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm that you guys brought to the stadium and to the park every single game against every team no matter what. And I know I’m putting on a different uniform and I’m going to be entering Miller Park again and, you know, I hope I don’t get booed, but I know you’re not going to be cheering for me outloud because you want your team to win and I understand. And hopefully one day I can come back and be a Brewer, but I just really want the fanbase to know that I loved it. And I just really want the organization to know that aside from a singular individual, this was the single most greatest time in my athletic career from amateur to professional. And I’m really grateful and blessed. I thank God every day for the ability to play in the Major Leagues and for the life I have. And playing for you guys has been one of the best times of my life and I’m really grateful.
Well, thank you very much for doing the interview with us and good luck down in Miami. Try to go easy on the Brewers when you face them this year.
Hey, well, why don’t you tell the Brewers to try to go easy on me? You guys take care. Thanks for having me.