Monday, March 12, 2012

Rusty McNamara Interview

Rusty McNamara was orginally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 21st round (626th overall) of the 1997 MLB Amateur Draft out of Oklahoma State University.

He played five seasons in the Phillies organization with his best season coming in 2000 with Double-A Reading. That season he had a .294 batting average with 14 home runs and 76 RBI.

In 2001, he was promoted to the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes Barre, the highest level of his career.

He played for the Atlanta Braves Double-A affiliate Greenville in 2002, and had .270 batting average with 6 home runs and 54 RBI that season.

McNamara joined the Long Island Ducks in 2003, and quickly became a fan favorite. He batted .299 with 3 home runs and 53 RBI in 118 games for the Ducks that season.

McNamara returned to the Ducks in August of 2004, and hit .281 in only 15 games, and was a major part of their Atlantic League championship run. 

In 2005, McNamara split time between Winnipeg in the Northern League and Surprise in the Golden League.

From 2006 - 2007 he played in Italian Baseball League.

McNamara retired from playing after the 2007 season, and  became a volunteer coach at the University of California - Riverside from 2008 to 2010. In 2011, he became the hitting coach at the University of Hawaii.
CM: Who was your favorite baseball team growing up? Player?

RM: The California Angels were my team, none of this Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or whatever they are trying to call it. I liked anybody on those mid 80's teams and into the 90's, but I would probabaly have to say that my favorite player as a kid was Lenny Dykstra. He played the way the game should be played. I cant stand the leisurely pace that the game is played at today. Young kids are starting to think its cool to go half speed because so many guys they see on TV play at that speed.

CM: Did you collect sports memorabilia growing up? If so, what's your favorite item?

RM: I did not collect sports memorabila, but I did have a couple small bats that were give away bats at the gate from an Angels game and a Dodgers game. One was a red Angels bat and the other was a blue Dodgers bat. Those bats saw some serious action with years of playing time in the back yard with wiffle balls or tennis balls. I would only use the Angel bat and all my friends had to use the blue Dodger bat.

CM: What was your reaction the first time you saw yourself on baseball card?

My honest reaction to the first time I saw myself on a baseball card was, "man that looks cheap!" It looked like it was made from construction paper. It was my rookie card from the Batavia Clippers of the New York Penn league. They did get a nice picture of me though, in the middle of a swing.

CM: What was it like playing in the Phillies organization?

RM: I loved playing for the Phillies. I was never considered a top prospect, but that didnt matter to the Phillies. If you played hard and went out and did it the right way, they made you feel like you were a part of it. Not just some fill guy on a roster. I played for some hard nosed managers with the Phillies and they always treated me really well. The last thing I would have ever done was dog it, because I knew that was the one thing I didnt have the luxury to do.

CM: How did you end up with the Long Island Ducks in 2003?

RM: In 2003, I was in spring training with the Reds, on the last day of spring training I was told there was no room on a roster for me. Instead of releasing me, they kept me in extended spring (paid me my salary as if I were in AAA) and said they would send me to AA or AAA when a roster spot opened. Mind you I'm 28 years old and completely healthy in extended spring with 18-20 yearr olds asking me every day what is wrong? Are you hurt? My answer, "only my ego". So after 2 month of extended spring and the draft not far away and them, sending me to a team nowhere in sight, I started looking for places to play. I saw on the Ducks website that Joe Cotton and Jason Johnson were on the team and that Don McCormick was the manager. So I called Don and the next day asked for my release from the Reds and joined the Ducks.

CM: In 2004, you played 15 games for the Ducks. What was the atmosphere like that season? 

RM: I had a blast in 2003 but we missed the playoffs by one game and it hurt a lot. In 2004, I went and played overseas in Italy. I came home in late August and after being home for 2 days, got a call from Pointer asking if I wanted to come out and get some at-bats. He explained that they clinched the first half and were already in the playoffs. I had nothing going, so it was a no brainer. I felt like there was unfinished business from the year previous. I got there and it felt like i never left. The majority of the team was still there from 2003 and the the new guys were a perfect fit for that clubhouse. That was a loose, fun times kinda group. Going to the park was about as much fun as I ever had in my life with those guys. Im just so thankful that they considered me and asked me to come back. I came in and got some AB's, missed about a week with a strained groin because I was kind of out of shape. I got healthy before the playoffs and started every game from there on out. Those were some great games, I want to say that every game was a one run game.

CM: You played with Jason Johnson, and Joe Cotton on the Ducks who you also played with in the Phillies organization. What do you think of those two guys from your playing days? Do you still keep in contact with them?

RM: JJ (Jason Johnson) and Joey C (Joe Cotton) are two of the greatest guys. They were both on that Batavia Clippers team in 1997. JJ hit lead off and I was the two hole hitter. We were a great one-two punch. Joe was our Ace that year. We did have Randy Wolf but he was being pampered with a pitch count every game. Joe was a bulldog and would out compete anybody any day. I played on the same team every year or at least part of every year all the way through the 2000 season with JJ and Joe. I still keep in touch with both of them, JJ mostly through Facebook and Joe on a regular basis. I had a summer collegiate Managing job back in the summer of 2009 for the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods league. Joe was my pitching coach. He made a huge sacrifice to come to Minnesota for a summer and work with me. I couldnt have done it with out him. It was just like old times. We won the Championship that summer and finished ranked #4 in the nation for all collegiate summer teams.

CM: What do you think of the Atlantic League, and the Long Island Ducks?

RM: The Atlantic League is great, it was the best baseball I ever played. There is no more politics involved once you are there. There is one goal, WIN. The game is played the right way. It isn't played to develop certain players while other fill in roster spots like in organized ball. Its all about the team and how well that team can come together and play in order to win a championship. The Ducks have a first class organization and I was just fortunate to end up with them and win a championship.

CM: If you could play catch with one person dead or alive who would it be?

RM: Wow, thats a tough one. I guess I'd pick Jimmy Rollins. Jimmy and I were catch partners for the better part of 2 seasons, with instructional league and spring training mixed in. Those two years were the most fun I ever had just simply playing catch. Jimmy was a kid back then, 19-20 years old. Tons of energy and just goofy as heck. We'd play all kinds of games, from acuracy to trying to handcuff the other guy. So for old times sake, Jimmy "long Ball" Rollins.

CM: What have you been doing since you retired from baseball?

RM: I played through the 2007 season over in Italy then started coaching. I was the volunteer assistant at UC Riverside from 2008-2010. Now I'm the hitting coach at the University of Hawaii. This is my second year In Hawaii. Rough gig, but somebody has to do it.

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