- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

Don Sutton this season joins the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) as color analyst for Washington Nationals broadcasts.

Sutton, a four-time All-Star, played 22 seasons and never spent a day on the disabled list. He compiled a 324-256 record with 3,574 strikeouts with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics and Anaheim Angels. He is the odgers’ career leader in wins, losses, games pitched, games started, strikeouts, innings pitched, hits allowed and Opening Day starts.

Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 and spent nearly the last two decades as the color man for Atlanta Braves broadcasts.

Ken Wright caught up with him at the Dodgers’ spring training complex in Vero Beach, Fla.

Q: What are your thoughts about being the new color man for the Nationals?

A: I’m excited about it. I’m excited because I see some similarities here and when I went to Atlanta to work for the first time. Things are starting to change, building blocks being put in place - good people at the top and some very talented young players. It’s fun. I can’t ever envision being away from the ballpark. I like what I do as a broadcaster, but I like young players, too. So, this is a combination of all the things I’ve liked as a broadcaster.

Q: What’s the biggest thing you miss from your playing days?

A: I don’t miss my playing days. I didn’t miss my playing days the next morning. I don’t miss the aches, I don’t miss the pain. I don’t miss the won-loss record. But, fortunately, I’ve never had to miss a day at the ballpark. This is my 43rd year in the big leagues, and I’m very blessed with that. I didn’t miss being a player the next morning.

Q: How were you able to play so long without developing any arm problems?

A: Well, I think I was fortunate. I had a freaky delivery that most people wouldn’t teach, but it put the stress on the big muscles - the butt muscles, the leg muscles, the back muscles - not on the elbow or the shoulder. I had good instruction.

Obviously, I was blessed that it didn’t happen, but I looked for every possible way to make myself better, more fit and more streamlined. Because for me, spring training started in October. I worked at being a good pitcher year-round. I worked at staying in shape year-round. I looked for any edge I could to keep myself healthy.

Q: Is this the last year for the Dodgers to hold spring training here at Holman Stadium?

A: They’ve got one more year. Yeah, one more year. I think a lot of us are going to have some real emotions about that because most of us who spent time in the Dodgers organization grew up right here. I was thinking when I was driving down here that I spent a little more than 105 weeks here. That’s more than two years that I spent right here where we’re standing.

… It’ll be kind of like watching the quad being torn down at your alma mater, or the old stadium, your high school or college stadium torn down, because this is where I learned how to play professional baseball. And, this is where all the guys who preceded me and who were my mentors played, and it’s where I put in 16 years. It will be

an emotional passing for me.

Q: When you played, who was the toughest batter you ever pitched against?

A: Roberto Clemente. No doubt about it, head and shoulders. His strike zone was everything between the on-deck circles. That made him hard to pitch to.

Q: I watched him play when I was a kid. Do you think he is arguably the greatest all-around player to play this game? To me, he seemed like the complete package, both offensively and defensively.

A: I can’t compare. There’s a lot that I didn’t see. I know that I didn’t see Willie Mays in his younger days, and I know I didn’t see Hank [Aaron] in his younger days, but I did see a vintage Clemente, and there were so many ways he could beat you. He was a complete package. I could think of eight other guys in the lineup I wanted to see up there with the game on the line.

I know we had a lot of baserunners when I was with the Dodgers, but [they] all of a sudden grew anchors on their feet when a ball was hit to right field. He was one of the few players I would just come out and sit and watch just for the sheer joy of watching him play the game. He played the game the right way. He played it passionately, and I think he was a great role model for a lot of the Pirates who came along and put together good careers.

I hated him when he was a hitter, though. I saw him double off a knockdown pitch from [Don] Drysdale one night. That left a lasting impression.

Q: Where do you live during the offseason?

A: In Rancho Mirage, California. I hibernate. Every day with me during the offseason is the movie Groundhog Day. I get up, I make the coffee, we get my daughter breakfast, I drive her to school, I come home, I work out, I go to the golf course. I come home have a glass of wine and help with homework. It’s Groundhog Day.

Q: Are you excited about watching this team?

A: They have a lot of young players. … The foundation for a good defense is already there. That’s what [Braves general manager] John Schuerholz had to do. He had to go find some guys to catch the ball.

The foundation is here. Regardless of who warms the seat until Nick [Johnson] gets back, you’re OK defensively. Brian Schneider knows how to catch. The infield defense is good. Austin [Kearns] can play. Nook [Logan] can run down anything that stays in the ballpark. So, the defense is in place.

I think the heart of the batting order is going to score runs. The first two guys in the lineup are going to be most important getting on base. And the bullpen will match up with most that people consider to be winners. I think if their four guys along with John Patterson who will step it up and say, yeah, we can get people out, then this is not going to be the ballclub that everybody has picked to lose 100 ballgames.

I’ll bet you whatever you want to bet that they’re not going to lose 100 ball games. I don’t know how many they are going to win, but I do know they are going to play the game the right way. And, when you play the game the right way - unselfishly, aware of the situation, advance runners, drive runners in from third, catch the ball, throw the ball - you’ve got a chance to win every game you’re in. The best way for the Nationals to have a good year is not to worry about the year. Worry about this pitch, this at-bat, and this game.

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