Mike Tauchman on transformation into Yankee ‘Savage’

Yankees outfielder Mike Tauchman takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: How would you describe the New York Yankees Way?
A: I think ultimately we’re just great competitors … combine fiery competitors with intense love of baseball. That’s kind of our team.

Q: Before you got here, were you a savage?
A: Not like I am now (smile). Isn’t that crazy how that has just taken off? The fans seem to love it, and we love it, and it’s just taken off.

Q: So how are you a savage now?
A: It’s just that attitude that this team has and then being around this group of guys … we all kind of just … have this sort of like singular focus. … As a position player group, we’re gonna just keep grinding out at-bats and pounding these guys. If we have eight or nine innings worth of at-bats, it’s just gonna be like relentless. We’re just gonna keep coming and keep coming. You might shut us down at times in the order, but not the second time or not the third time. I think our ability to just wear teams down.

Q: That has to be psychologically wearing for teams, right?
A: I think so. I think if you look at some of our success this year, even when pitchers throw the ball well versus us, they’re into the 90-something pitch range in the fifth inning.

Q: Why do you think you’ve become a fan favorite?
A: I don’t know. … Honestly, I think we got like 25 fan favorites. I think people like this team because we play with a lot of passion, we play extremely hard, and I think we’re relentless. And I think that shows. One of the biggest things that I’ve seen coming over here, obviously the Colorado Rockies have been around for 26, 25 years, whatever it is. And through no fault of their own, a team like this that’s been around for 100-whatever years, has an extremely passionate fan base, and they want to win, and they expect to win. They’re good, smart fans, they can tell when guys are playing hard and enjoying playing baseball. People come out here because they love baseball. We play baseball because we love baseball, and I think when the fans can see that, it’s easier to root for the guys. I think we have a lot of guys that are very easy to root for.

Q: Who is one pitcher in MLB history to test your skills against?
A: Growing up in the ’90s, Randy Johnson, I would like to see what that looks like. I’d love to see what I would do against like a Greg Maddux two-seamer that starts at my butt and runs back to the inside corner. Generations before that, talk about Bob Gibson and how nasty he was. That’s kind of my dad’s generation, so back when the mound was a little bit higher too, kind of see what that visual looks like.

Mike Tauchman
Mike TauchmanRon Sachs – CNP

Q: If you could pick the brain of any player in MLB history, who would it be?
A: What interests me so much now is guys … who took what I’d ultimately call a pretty big risk with their career, overhauling their swing or overhauling something. So I would love to talk to a J.D. Martinez, Justin Turner. … They were really good players, obviously, but they took their game to a next level while they were already in the big leagues, I think that’s so hard to do. … Barry Bonds … probably the best hitter of all time, somebody like that. Obviously talking to like a Ted Williams. That’s what I really like is guys that are hitters first, and they hit home runs ’cause they’re really good hitters. … Babe Ruth, I would want to see what his bat felt like. ’Cause they talk about how he swung like a 50-ounce bat or 48-ounce bat or whatever … take some swings with that thing (smile).

Q: Do you know who you are as a player now?
A: I think you’re constantly trying to evolve and get better, but I think this year I’ve gained a better understanding of what I need to do to be successful day in and day out.

Q: And how does confidence play into that?
A: It’s a huge factor. First and foremost, when you come up to the big leagues, all you want to do is contribute, and feel like you’re a part of it. And that can be hard to do if the playing time isn’t there, you don’t have success right away, you just want to feel like part of the team. Anybody that steps in that clubhouse, it’s like, “Hey, you’re part of us, we need you to win, let’s-get-it-going,” sort of a thing. But once you kind of feel like you’re contributing, it’s like, “OK, like I belong, and I’m good, and let’s keep it going.”

Q: I’ve seen you described as a throwback and a gamer.
A: I don’t know. … I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot from a lot of different people in this game, and one of the constants between everybody is you have to play the game hard. I just try to play the game hard and play the game instinctually. I’m very fortunate to be able to do this, and I just don’t want to, whenever my career is done, I guess, however long it is — just getting to this point, it’s been amazing. But whenever I’m done, you don’t want to be that guy saying, What if? Like, What if I did this? What if I did this differently? You don’t want to be that guy at Chili’s … “I wish I would have done this.”


Q: How frustrating was it being so close to the big leagues so often, going back and forth?

A: It definitely tests your mental toughness. I think the way that baseball is today, what it takes to really be a successful team in this day and age, you need players who can be optioned, and sent up and down. I think that if you understand that it’s part of the deal, and it’s not really in your control. I always tried to make it a point to, when I would get optioned, get there right away, get back into it, get my at-bats. Because it doesn’t matter where you are, there’s always things you can improve on, there’s always small ways you can get better. I just try to get a little bit better, like all the time.

Q: Everyone calls you “Sock Man” now.
A: Love it.

Q: Any favorite motivational sayings?
A: Not really. As a team, we talk about we haven’t done anything yet. Like, What’s next? I think it keeps us very present.

Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Huge Tom Brady fan. Just somebody that just continues to find ways to win. Like Tiger Woods. Obviously, being from Chicago, Michael Jordan. Some of the competitive things that they would do and the way that they were able to day in and day out just improve in all aspects. Michael Jordan, I mean, like growing up, that was “the guy.” We’re sticking our tongues out, lowering the rim, and trying to dunk like Michael Jordan. You hear the stories about his competitive fire and stuff like that … have a cup of coffee with him and pick his brain.

Q: When you shaved your beard before joining the Yankees, what did you think when you looked in the mirror?
A: You definitely look a little bit younger. My hair would get pretty long in the summer and it gets pretty curly, so I kind of had to keep that a little more close-cropped, too, I guess. It’s a clean-cut look. I think I look a little bit younger, definitely.

Q: Does your wife like it?
A: She likes about a week’s worth of beard.

Q: What was the first time you saw Yankee Stadium?
A: I was here in 2015, our Double-A team was in New Britain, Connecticut, so we had an off-day. I think it was through Trevor Story’s agent, got us some tickets to the game. I actually think Nathan Eovoldi pitched for the Yankees.

Q: What stood out to you about Yankee Stadium?
A: It almost looks like it belongs in Washington, D.C., next to like the Lincoln Memorial. … Outside, all the big stone work, and the huge scoreboard, you see all the retired numbers, I mean, you can just kind of get a sense of, “This is the big leagues.”

Q: How did your baseball dream begin at age 4?
A: When I was growing up, we’d watch … Cubs play during the day, White Sox play at night, so when my dad got home from work and stuff, they’d put on the White Sox game — Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura and some really good players — and my mom’s like, “Mike, you knew all the players, you’re 3 years old telling me who was on the TV.” So I’ve just loved baseball forever. I’ve played every single summer every year with my friends. We’d play sandlot pickup ball, like 5-on-5 baseball at our elementary school in the summer.

Q: Any other favorite players?
A: I pitched a lot when I was a kid, I really loved Randy Johnson. … Loved Ken Griffey Jr., obviously, he was “the man” in the ’90s when I was growing up. I still remember the summer in ’98 when Sammy Sosa is hopping all over the place and they’re making cereal out of him, he’s hitting homers, and me and my friends are talking on our home telephones, like, “Oh, he just hit another one, did you see it?”

Q: Did you go to White Sox games?
A: Went to a few White Sox games, went to a Wrigley a couple of times, went to a lot of Kane County Cougars games actually.

Q: Describe your four-interception game playing football for Fremd HS against Palatine?
A: They had like a big, tall receiver, a guy that was 6-5, 6-6, something like that. … They kept throwing it to him, and I was just kind of there. It was kind of funny, too, there was a little part of me that felt bad, that was like our big crosstown rivalry game, their quarterback I played travel baseball with my whole life, so I knew him really well.

Q: Did playing cornerback help you rob home runs?
A: I don’t know about that, I think what’s helped me in the outfield is that I’ve pretty much only played outfield since I was 12 years old. That’s when the lefty can’t play shortstop anymore pretty much, or catch or whatever (smile).

Q: You intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo, who played for Rolling Meadows.
A: It was so long ago, and now he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL. … I was a good suburban high school football player, and I had a lot of fun playing football and stuff, but obviously Jimmy’s taken off. He’s had a great start to his career. … It’s a funny story to like look back at it.

Q: Do you mind being one of the lowest-paid MLB players?
A: No. … I just like playing baseball. That’s something that’s kind of out of my control, and hitting is really, really hard enough without worrying about things that are outside your control. I’m just kind of focused on trying to help us win a World Series.

Q: How do you like living in a Times Square hotel?
A: They’re really nice, and they’ve been really accommodating. I sleep a lot, and then there’s a Starbucks next to the subway and take it here. Everything I need, it’s a little crazy (smile).

Q: What is so special about your Husky, Kota?
A: Unconditional love. … He was a rescue dog … just how much he seems to love everybody.

Q: Two dinner guests?
A: Eddie Vedder, Ted Williams.

Q: Favorite actor?
A: Robert Downey Jr.

Q: Favorite actress?
A: Margot Robbie.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Eric Church.

Q: Favorite meal?
A: Pizza.

Q: You like Chicago pizza better than New York pizza?
A: I like the Chicago-style thin crust, where it’s cut in squares, and it’s very thin and almost a little crispy on the bottom.

Q: Favorite New York City things?

A: I do like the pizza in New York City. I went to Lazzara’s. … It’s unbelievable. On the recommendation of a lot of guys, went to Carbone. … [Aaron] Judge is very dialed in to the New York food scene. He’s my restaurant guy.

Q: Career goals?
A: Obviously winning a World Series is right at the top of the list. I just want to stay healthy, play as long as I can, win some World Series.

Q: What’s it like being you these days?
A: It’s been great. Obviously the fans have been great. I love coming to the ballpark every day playing with these guys. I’m not gonna change who I am on the field or like what I’m trying to do, I’m just trying to help us win baseball games.

Q: It’s safe to say you love being a New York Yankee.
A: Yes.

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