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From Our Family Farm to Yours

TIME OUT: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK MULDER

A SPORTS AND LIFESTYLE SERIES BY BRENDAN UNKRICH (@BRENDANUNKRICH)

Published on Monday, April 9, 2018

Mark Mulder grew up in the heartland of America in a close-knit family where he learned about hard work and how to be successful. After graduating from Michigan State University with a full baseball scholarship, Mark went on to start in two All-Star games for the American League while pitching for the Oakland Athletics. He also won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals later in his career. After retiring from baseball, Mark’s athletic ability and mental toughness has allowed him to become a scratch golfer, winning three straight American Century Championships and numerous other golf tournaments.

Given your athletic background, do any of your three children play sports? Have you encouraged them to play baseball and/or softball?

“All my kids do. There's golf, baseball, flag football. My daughter, I think, is going to start volleyball next year. I just want them to enjoy it. I don't care if my boy strikes out all three times. I mean sure, it's a little frustrating, I suppose. How can it not be? All my kids I think are somewhat athletic and have some talent. You just want to see them do well, but on the ride home I asked him, “Hey, did you have fun?” As long as he responds with a yeah, then I'm cool with that.”

During high school, you played multiple sports. Talk about the importance and benefit of this.

“There are so many lessons to be taught in each sport, and it really doesn't matter what it is. Let's just say basketball. I mean the way a team works, and the trust you got to have to be in the right spot at the right time…same way for baseball. You can make a bad pitch, but if the ball's hit right to your guys, they can make all the plays. Or you might make great pitches, but if your teammates don't make plays or can't get to certain balls, you end up losing the game. It’s all about teamwork!"

When picking a college to further your education and play baseball, which ones did you consider and what made Michigan State University stand out?

“I basically had Michigan State and Southern Illinois University. Those were my only two options as far as having scholarship offers out of high school. I took my visit to Michigan State, the campus is incredible, and never did take my visits to Southern Illinois. I kind of decided really quickly and ultimately it ended up working out.”

When pitching in the Major League, were you pumped up or calm on the mound?  Talk about how you could keep focus and avoid 40,000 screaming fans.

“I was pretty calm, nervous to me is the wrong word. Anxious is more a word that I would use to describe my feelings of getting to the park. Because for a 7:00 game, you're generally at the field by 2:00. Those five hours leading up to the start of the game, I would get very antsy, very anxious, just because I wanted the game to start because that's where I was comfortable. That's where your confidence is; that's where I know exactly what I'm doing when I'm out there. And it didn't matter if there was a million people in the stands or there were 5,000. I didn't hear them. I didn't pay attention to them. You just block it all out. And I think for some guys they maybe do struggle with that moment and maybe they do hear the fans, when you're walking on and off the field. But to be honest, I was mentally able to block that stuff out, and I almost got into my own little world when I was on the mound.”

What pitches did you throw?

“I threw a fastball, curveball, slider, change, and a split, so I was a five-pitch guy. When I was pitching my best, I threw a lot of fastballs. I would throw more curveballs than cutters. I would mix up changeups here or there, and then I would throw a lot of split fingers when I got two strikes or in bigger moments in the game, trying to get some ground balls. Fastball, split, and curveball were probably my three bests of the five that I would go to in big situations.”

How hard is it on players to retire and give up the game they have been playing since they were young?

“I'll speak to how it was for me. It was incredibly hard, but my career also ended prematurely because of injuries. I've always said if I would've had to leave baseball because I just wasn't any good anymore, that would’ve been incredibly difficult as compared to maybe the way I went out because I physically couldn't do it anymore. It never happened to me the other way, not being good enough. I also do have buddies who have struggled with it. I kind of luckily transitioned into some TV stuff that obviously gave me another thing and gave me something else to stay in the game to a certain extent.”

If you were the commissioner of Major League Baseball, what would do differently that you think would better the game?

“I wouldn't make changes to it. I think the country we're in, the attitudes people have, and suddenly everybody thinks we need to change this and we need to change that. Some things can change. I just don't think baseball is one of them. Baseball has survived for this long the way it is, and you can tinker with little things here or there. I've heard some rumblings of certain little changes maybe for extra innings. You know they want to add this pitch clock. I don't think any of that is going to improve the game. Let's put it that way. I don't think it will make it worse, but I don't see how they think they can improve on something that's already incredible.”

How much baseball do you watch? What other sports do you follow?

“Doing TV stuff, I had to watch more baseball than normal because I needed to keep up on what was going on in the game. My boys are starting to get into it too, so it's on around the house a little bit more. If were up to me, I wouldn’t watch that much baseball. I'm always kind of going or doing or wanting to do something with the kids. I do have my times where I will chill on the couch and sports, especially baseball, but I'm not necessarily sitting down watching it. Weekends obviously there's some golf tournament on and being friends with a lot of the PGA tour players helps. Golf can be a little bit boring to watch, but when you know a handful of guys and some of your buddies are in contention, I want to sit down and watch that. So those are probably the two sports I watch the most.”

Do you see yourself getting back into baseball in any capacity?

“Well, I can't say no. I obviously love doing the TV side of it. I don't think I'd see myself doing any radio type stuff. There's no way I could coach. I don't have the personality for it. The front office type stuff, if it was more of a part time thing, I think I would definitely be interested in it. I'm lucky enough that I can be home and I don't need to go do something so I want to be around my wife and kids. I want to be around family. So to be taken away from that, I don't think I would enjoy that. I don't think I'd enjoy it enough."

I am going to ask you a few rapid-fire questions. Are you ready?

As an avid golfer, what are your three favorite golf courses?

“Probably Augusta, Cypress Point, and probably Sage Valley, which is maybe 30 minutes from Augusta.”

Which hitter had your number?

“Ichiro. We came up the same time, played against him when I was in Oakland.  He is probably over .400 average.”

Who finishes with a better record this year: Cubs or Cardinals?

“Probably have to say the Cubs.”

As a fan, which sporting event do you look forward to watching every year?

“The Masters. Not a whole lot I look forward to more than watching the Masters those 4 days.”

If you could play Augusta National, home of the Masters, who would your foursome include?

“Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and my dad, who doesn't really play golf more than maybe once a year. But oh well.”


Photo Credit Jeff Bayer_American Century Championship

What kind of feelings and emotions did you experience from winning a World Series?

“Well, you're ecstatic. It's something you've dreamt about as a kid. On the other hand, for me the year we won the World Series, I had just had my first shoulder surgery. I was basically in a sling, and it was incredibly difficult mentally because all you wanted was to be out there with your teammates and you wanted to be contributing. And instead, sure we're all celebrating. And we’re jumping on the field and you get that ring the following year and you have the parade a couple of days after, and it is incredible. But to not have been out there and to contribute the way I know I could have, had I been healthy, that was the hardest thing to deal with.”

How does American agriculture affect your daily life?

“I grew up near farms, and I had an uncle who was a farmer. I grew up running through his barns as a kid. I'd be hanging out with my grandma, and we'd go over to his house. The importance of the food that I eat and what my wife and I want to give my children, it's enormous. I have a certain level of respect for the people who farm because I know it’s such hard work. I know I saw how hard my uncle and his kids and family worked and just how important it is.”

Thanks Mark!

 

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Brendan Unkrich
Brendan Unkrich>

Brendan Unkrich

Brendan grew up on his family's farm outside of Swedesburg, Iowa. During high school, he played basketball, baseball, and golf. After high school, Brendan attended Iowa State University where he ran the scout team for the ISU women’s basketball team. Brendan graduated in 2001 with a bachelor in

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Full biography

Brendan grew up on his family's farm outside of Swedesburg, Iowa. During high school, he played basketball, baseball, and golf. After high school, Brendan attended Iowa State University where he ran the scout team for the ISU women’s basketball team. Brendan graduated in 2001 with a bachelor in agricultural business and accepted an internship with the Indiana Pacers in the video scouting department. After a year away, Brendan decided to rejoin his father on the family farm and take a part-time college basketball scouting position covering the Midwest, allowing him to pursue both his passions. Today, farming and family take up most of his time, but he still follows sports, especially basketball, constantly. Brendan and his wife have a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter who are full of energy and laughter, and growing entirely too fast. Brendan also enjoys a round of golf and caddies for his brother in-law in a couple of tournaments each year.

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