Interview: Atlanta Braves Legend John Smoltz

Major League legend John Smoltz stopped by Coolray Field Friday night to sign his book Starting and Closing, then I had the extreme pleasure of meeting the man afterward. All in all, it was a wonderful experience for all those involved as over 7,000 thrilled fans crossed through the gates in Lawrenceville. I was able to sit down and chat with Smoltz once all the commotion settled down and his book signing concluded. Here is what he had to say in part 1 of our 3-part interview…

The entire book signing process and interaction with the fans:

“This has been my eighth one (book signing appearance) so far, but this is by far, hands down, double anything that I’ve done in my other cities,” said Smoltz. “We went to Nashville which was great, Birmingham, Roanoke, New York, St. Louis….This was cool, plus I’d never been out here which is something I was embarrassed to say because of my schedule. Getting out here to see this place (Coolray Field) was great. Hopefully, days down the road I can watch games here and enjoy what you never get to enjoy when you’re in the mix of doing what you’re doing (playing Major League Baseball).”

Photo courtesy of Melinda Pease

The experience of writing a book:

“The experience was a pretty cool one. If the book never got published, to see the hands of life and how it all unfolded and the different paths people take, it was pretty cool,” Smoltz said. “I never thought I would do a book. I never dreamt about doing a book. There was no desire to a do a book, until I realized the timing and the message that I could literally get out there was for so many more people than just baseball (fans).”

Realizing when you wanted to write the book:

“It wasn’t until about six months ago, whatever it took to put the book together, we literally did it in that timeframe. I met Don Yaegar,” said Smoltz. “I always heard great things about him. I had been prompted and told to do a book but I said ‘no way.’ Then, finally it happened.”

The driving force behind wanting to do the book, Starting and Closing:

“I felt compelled in this day and age. Look, I’ve always wanted to fight for what’s right. I believe in being competitive,” Smoltz said. “The things that have happened in this sport are a small example of the things I’m talking about (in the book). A competitive balance is what we all strive for, but more importantly I played with and seen so many great athletes literally have exactly what I’m talking about in the book. The fear of failure and the not ability to get out of their comfort zone. They have been given a measure of talent and yet the fear of failing has caused them to not be as good as they can be. I also wanted to talk to the business world, teachers, you name it, whatever field…to dare to be great to get outside your comfort zone you have to experience some tension and that tension is going to cause you to either walk away from what you’re doing or move forward towards it (your goals). I’m trying to get people to understand how they can move toward it.”

Speaking about what drove him more during his playing career, the fear of failing or his competitive nature:

“I was never afraid to fail. That was the No. 1, that’s me. I don’t care what it is, I don’t care what arm angle. I was willing to use something immediately and failure could happen and that wasn’t going to stop me from going right out and becoming better,” said Smoltz. “My competitive drive that was instilled in me at a young age, I don’t know how…My dad was very competitive and I just always believed I always wanted to win. I always believe you should be your best no matter what the issue’s are, no matter what the circumstances are, but it seems like people always believe there has to be something at stake personally, financially, whatever. I didn’t care if it was a pick-up game. I didn’t care if I was by myself throwing a baseball against a wall, I was always putting myself in a position to be successful.”

When in the middle of answering the previous question, Smoltz had his back to the playing field. The game was going on between the G-Braves and Rochester Red Wings as we talked. All of a sudden, in the middle of discussing his competitive nature, there was a crack of the bat in the background….John Smoltz paused from his thought and muttered without hesitation, “that ball’s gone.” Indeed it was a home run off the bat of G-Braves third baseman Joey Terdoslavich as the former Atlanta legend called, thus illustrating what a special and unique human being John Smoltz is. By the way, he still has it.

Be sure to check out the G-Blog in the coming days for part 2 and 3 of our interview from Coolray Field on Friday night.

By: Tony Piraro

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