New Yankees reliever, and Brooklyn native, Adam Ottavino gets the call for some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: Why do you enjoy being heckled on the road?
A: I think when you first get to the big leagues, you worry about stuff like that, and maybe I was like that a little bit. But then I found that the heckling kind of gave me a little extra juice going into the games, particularly in San Francisco is one place where you get heckled pretty good when you’re warming up — it’s right next to the stands, you warm up on the side there. And so I just have grown to really like it, and kind of want it and expect it. So, looking forward to Boston, places like that where hopefully I can get a little extra juice before I go in the game.
Q: When Charlie Hayes caught the final out to clinch the 1996 World Series for the Yankees over the Braves, where were you?
A: I was most definitely watching at home with my dad and my mom. I just remember that that year was kind of unexpected. The team hadn’t won in a long time, and were done 2-0 and then came roaring back and won the whole thing. I just remember it was one of those moments of, like, there wasn’t an expectation at that time necessarily of winning it, so it was like pure joy as a fan, for sure.
Q: Whatever comes to mind: Derek Jeter.
A: Consistent, classy, clutch … kind of like the gold standard of how to behave and how to be as a professional athlete for sure.
Q: Mariano Rivera.
A: Also just consistency I think is the biggest thing that comes to mind. He really never had a bad year, and if he had a bad stretch, they weren’t very long. Just somebody that you could really rely on.
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Q: Aaron Boone.
A: Friendly. He’s just been really easy to talk to and get to know.
Q: Aaron Judge.
A: Leader. Definitely somebody who seems to take the time to get to know everyone and carries himself in that certain way that you can’t really put a finger on, but somebody that you want to follow into battle for sure.
Q: How imposing is he at the plate?
A: Well, I’ve never faced him, but he’d be one of those guys I’d try not to look at him too much, just focus on the catcher, you know (chuckle)?
Q: How about Giancarlo Stanton?
A: Yeah, he’s got a presence in the box. I’ve faced him a lot of times. The thing that comes to mind with him is just powerful.
Q: Gary Sanchez.
A: I love his swing. Just unbelievable hands at the plate. I’ve always kind of watched the way he swings, I’ve always thought that was one of the most natural swings I’ve seen.
Q: What should Yankees fans expect from Troy Tulowitzki?
A: I think if we’re getting the healthy Tulo, which it looks like we are, then first of all he’s gonna be incredible defensively. I think that he’s underrated defensively. He’s gonna always be in the right place at the right time, and he makes incredible throws from every angle and every spot on the field. And then at the plate, he’s gonna do some damage, but he’s gonna give a really good at bat with guys in scoring position, which I think obviously the old time fans will really appreciate.
Q: DJ LeMahieu.
A: Just steadiness. DJ is one of those players that you might not notice him first couple of games you watch him, but over time, undoubtedly, he’ll be everybody’s favorite. He’s a guy you want someone to hit the balm to with the game on the line, he’s the guy you want up at the plate with the game on the line. He’s got a slow heartbeat out there, and he’s not afraid of the big moment, for sure.
Q: You’re not afraid of the big moment either.
A: Definitely not afraid of it, just want to be in more of them, you know? Want to be in more of them so I can get more and more comfortable and inevitably, eventually come through when it really matters.
Q: So you can the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the boy?
A: Yeah, I don’t think you can (chuckle).
Q: Describe that Brooklyn mentality.
A: I think there’s a sense of community when you grow up in Brooklyn, like being nice to one another … really caring about everybody around you regardless of whether they look like you or not or have the same beliefs as you or not. You’re all in like a really great place to be, a melting pot, but then at the same time, when you step inside the lines in a competition, that you’re a little gritty, and have a little bit of that F-U attitude, that your skin’s a little thicker than maybe some other people.
Q: That’ll help you make your adjustment to playing in your hometown, I would think, right?
A: I would think so, too. I mean, I’m counting on it. Been preparing for it my whole life.
Q: What are your favorite Brooklyn things?
A: I grew up playing all around Brooklyn. Pizza-wise, L&B Spumoni Gardens was my spot. Also Smiling Pizza in Park Slope. Going to Peter Luger’s when I got older is awesome. Driving on the Belt Parkway all the way around to all the different fields I used to play at. I used to play in Marine Park, play in Parade Grounds, play out in Bergen Beach. … I’ve been pretty much everywhere in Brooklyn.
Q: What do you remember about the first time you pitched at Yankee Stadium?
A: Well, the only time I ever pitched in Yankee Stadium was in a workout for the Yankees after college, and this was in the old Stadium, I warmed up in the bullpen, came in, I was probably like the fourth or fifth guy to throw, faced a couple of hitters. … I was just so happy to be on the field at the Stadium I grew up going to. When the Rockies went to the Yankees, I was hurt in 2016, so other than that, I’ve never pitched on the mound.
Q: Have you fantasized about your first time?
A: I don’t know about fantasize, but I try to visualize a little bit of what that’s gonna be like. This year I made sure that after I signed I went to the Stadium and did some things there just to get kind of comfortable with my surroundings a little bit. That way it wasn’t so new that first time.
Q: How many times would you say you went to Yankee Stadium as a kid?
A: I’ve probably been to over 100 games at Yankee Stadium.
Q: Any one particular stand out?
A: I was at a bunch of Opening Days. I was at a snowy day against the Royals, I think it was Tino Martinez’s first game , I think Andy Pettite pitched. I was there [Hideki] Matsui’s first game  when he hit a grand slam. I was at Doc Gooden’s no-hitter .
Q: Describe your mentality on the mound.
A: I would say that I’m a thinker, but I try to be on the attack, try to be aggressive early and force the action, and then, when I get to two strikes, be completely unpredictable at that point.
Q: If you could test your skills against one hitter in MLB history, probably I should ask you other than Babe Ruth, who would it be?
A: It would be Barry Bonds. Regardless of the controversy with him, he was the best hitter I ever saw. He’d be like the ultimate challenge for me, like a lefty with an unbelievable eye, and power and can hit the inside pitch. So for me, that would be kind of the ultimate test to see if I could outfox him.
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Q: But you would still have liked to pitch against the Babe, right?
A: I mean, yeah (laugh). That would be a fun matchup just to see what that would look like. Who knows?
Q: You got a little heat for saying you would strike him out.
A: Yeah, yeah, for sure. … I didn’t think that one through too well. I was trying to make a point about the evolution of the pitching in the game and over time just how the game has evolved. Probably shouldn’t have used Babe Ruth’s name as an example. People get a little sensitive about that. I still believe it, I mean, not that I’d strike him out every time, but ultimately that back then it was just a different game when he played.
Q: What drives you?
A: I want to be the best. I want to be the best at my position. Last year I felt like I was the best at my position for a couple of months, but didn’t finish it out the whole six months. I want to be the absolute best in the world at what I do.
Q: Why was Bernie Williams your hitting idol growing up?
A: I was a switch-hitter growing up, so he was a switch-hitter, and I feel like when my fandom really started, he was a young player, so I pretty much watched him his whole career, so always idolized him for sure.
Q: Any other boyhood idols?
A: Pitching-wise, I liked El Duque — Orlando Hernandez — and David Cone.
Q: What was it like for you meeting Cone last year?
A: He thinks of pitching the way that I think of it. He broadcasted one of our playoff games, so we chatted for a while. It was just nice, it was a very cool moment.
Q: He thinks of pitching the way you do. Can you elaborate?
A: Using a lot of creativity, and a lot of breaking pitches, and different arm angles … any-pitch-any-count type mentality, not really necessarily relying on just really a hard fastball.
Q: If you could pick the brain of one reliever in MLB history, who would it be?
A: I would think Mariano would be at the top of the list. It’s interesting because a lot of the great relievers are really power pitchers, and I feel like I have power but I’m more of a finesse pitcher. So it’s not a great fit to talk to like a Billy Wagner or a lot of the guys that threw really hard. Mariano would be somebody ’cause he relied on precision.
Q: What are your best and worst baseball moments?
A: My worst one is two years ago I pitched a game in Dodger Stadium and I had like five wild pitches, and basically completely singlehandedly lost the game, and it was definitely my worst outing of my career, and just the type of game that will stay with you forever ’cause you never want to feel that feeling again. … I don’t think I’ve pitched my best game yet. … Nothing that ever sealed the deal for the team to win something important.
Q: Favorite Knick growing up?
A: Patrick Ewing.
Q: Favorite Giant growing up?
A: Tiki Barber.
Q: Favorite hockey player growing up?
A: Probably Mike Richter.
Q: Describe your father John’s influence.
A: Huge. My father chased his passion and so he totally supported me chasing mine, and was always there for me, more or less training me mentally I think was the biggest thing. His philosophy in terms of being in the moment and having really good focus when it matters and not getting too distracted by outside pressures. And at the same time, strategy type thinking too, like how to approach things from a strategy point of view, that’s something that he always worked with me with.
Q: He was an actor, right?
Q: But he didn’t have any baseball background?
A: No. He played a little bit growing up and he was certainly a baseball fan. But I think to his credit, once I was fully in love with the game, he immersed himself in it and really kind of figured out a lot about the game and how to teach the game, and also had his own special spin on it from his own life experience, so he did a really good job coaching me for a while. And then when he felt like he couldn’t coach me anymore, didn’t have anything more to offer, he did a good job of pointing me in the right direction for the people that did have more to offer.
Q: Tell me about your mom, Eve.
A: My mom’s a teacher. She’s also been there every step of the way, always coming to my games, really loved baseball. Always showed me unconditional love and made sure that I was doing everything the right way and being a good person. Somebody that I look up to for sure.
Q: Your daughter Bradley is 3¹/₂ and younger daughter Oakley is 5 months old. How has fatherhood changed you?
A: I think for the better. There’s nothing like it. Going through it when they’re young is such a drastic life change. But it teaches you some really good stuff, like patience and planning and understanding, just a lot of things. But I think ultimately it just changes you inside when all of a sudden you have somebody that you care about them probably more than yourself.
Q: Have you played chess with any of your new teammates yet?
A: I haven’t yet. I’m looking forward to it though.
Q: Who’s into chess like you are?
A: I’ve heard that [Austin] Romine plays, and I’m sure there’s a couple of others that’ll surprise me. If not, LeMahieu will play with me, we always played in Colorado.
Q: Do you have one favorite photo on your Instagram?
A: I can give you one that comes to mind: I have a photograph of a Fireworks Night in Colorado, and actually a teammate, Carlos Gonzalez’s son and his buddy are in the photo like kind of in the foreground watching the fireworks. I don’t know, like just something about the vibe of little kids watching something amazing, kind of that summer Fourth of July time of Americana vibe to it. It just brought back some sort of a feeling inside that I probably had at that age.
Q: Will you have “Star Wars” bobbleheads in your locker?
A: (Laugh) Very very likely ’cause that’s what I usually do, but I have to get a new collection started because two years ago, when I was pitching poorly, I threw them all in the garbage.
Q: Any other superstitions?
A: Nothing too crazy. If something’s working I’ll keep doing it for a while. If something’s not working, then I’ll switch it up, like even with silly stuff like what I’m eating or what color Gatorade I’m drinking, things of that nature.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Muhammad Ali, George Lucas, Vincent van Gogh.
Q: Favorite movie?
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Ed Norton.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Veal parmigiana.
Q: What one word would you use for this Yankees bullpen?
A: Deep. There’s just a multitude of arms.
Q: How would you describe the Yankee Way?
A: Just winning. That’s what’s expected, that’s what we strive for every day. At every facet of the organization. That’s the goal, and it’s nice to be with a team like that.
Q: Is this a World Series championship team.
A: Well, I think we believe that. We think we have a super chance and we’re really well-rounded, we don’t really have a weakness as a team. But I think time will tell. We’re gonna try to just approach it to win every single game and see where the chips fall.