New Mets slugger Daniel Vogelbach, acquired on July 22 in a trade with the Pirates, takes his first swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: Why do you think you’ve become a folk hero already in New York?
A: I don’t know. … When you play good, people like ya (chuckle). So I mean, I guess that maybe I’ve gotten off to a good start, and people are happy about that, but … this isn’t about me, this is about me being here helping this team win a World Series, and that’s it.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: I just want to win … as soon as the first pitch is thrown, like I kind of go into a super-super competitive mode to where the only thing that I care about is winning. Whatever that may be in that night that I can do, that’s what I care about. At the end of the day, whether it takes, nine innings or however long the game may take, if we come out on top, that’s all I care about, ’cause winning is No. 1 for me.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle or adversity you had to overcome?
A: I think it was more of a mental thing in the sense of being an All-Star in 2019 and getting DFA’d in 2020.
Q: It’s humbling, right?
A: Yes, and it put more of a chip on my shoulder. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and looking back, maybe Seattle just wasn’t the place for me. And you never know what’s gonna happen or why things happen, but I mean if you were to tell me that I’da been traded to the New York Mets at the trade deadline for a pennant race and trying to help a team win a World Series, I’da called you crazy. I believe that God has a plan for everybody, and you just gotta sit back and enjoy the ride, and wherever it takes you and your feet are, you’re just here in the moment.
Q: How would you describe this baseball journey that you’ve been on?
A: Wild (laugh). Like I said, you never know, in this game — unless you sign a multi-year, big-time contract — nothing’s ever guaranteed and you’re never sure what the next year’s gonna bring. And I think I’ve just gotten to the point where I just do what I can, I control what I can control, and whatever’s supposed to happen is gonna happen, and when I finally accepted that, life’s been way better.
Q: What was the most discouraging low point emotionally?
A: I would say, to be honest, in 2019 getting off to the start that I did [with the Mariners], being an All-Star, and then, just having a bad second half, and starting to question, wonder whether was that real in the first half, or was it a fluke? And you start to question a little bit, and then obviously you get hit with basically the Mariners telling you you’re not good enough ’cause they DFA ya, and then it’s like starting to question. … But it goes back to, man, I just believe that things happen for a reason, and when you question ’em, it doesn’t do any good but just drives yourself crazy, and I just put my head down, and I knew something good was gonna come out of it. That’s when I went to Milwaukee, and maybe had the best years of my career there, and really put me back in a spot to get to where I am now.
Q: Someone’s quote about you: “I think Dan always has a chip on his shoulder. He was not born with a great body for baseball. He wanted to prove to everyone he was a good ball player, and could be in spite of his physical appearance.”
A: Everybody has an opinion.
Q: Is there any truth to it?
A: I’m not here to prove people wrong, I’m not here to prove to somebody [who] said I couldn’t do this. I try to just prove myself right, ’cause I believe in myself, and I have people that believe in me. And I have a very small group, a small circle of close family and friends that I stick with and that’s it. I’m not somebody that really worries about what other people say.
Q: Is your weight a more solid 270 than it was in high school, maybe?
A: Yeah, for sure. Every offseason I bust my butt to work out and get myself in shape. I always believe that I’m ready to go once spring training comes.
Q: What’s the most you ever weighed?
A: Probably 290, 295.
Q: That was when?
A: I can’t remember. … I don’t really weigh myself.
Q: You’re comfortable at this weight, right?
Q: Maybe some large men see themselves in you, or maybe they see you as someone they wish they could be?
A: I don’t know. … Yeah everybody has things that they look up to or people they look up to, but like I said, I’m just here to play baseball.
Q: You pride yourself on being a good teammate?
A: I do. It was the way I was raised. It’s not hard to be a good person. It’s a choice, and you control it every single day. There’s been a lost cause of manners and yes sir, no ma’am and stuff like that, and that’s just something that I was raised on, you be a good person and you treat others the way you want to be treated.
Q: A quote from you: “I always try to put a smile on someone’s face every day.” That’s pretty neat if you can do that.
A: Absolutely. You never know what someone else is going through, you never know where people are at in their life, and a smile can go a long way.
Q: What traits as a hitter are you proud of?
A: I would say my plate discipline … the eye … and I feel like that, at least I hope, that every single time I step into the box I try to give a good, competitive at-bat that is gonna help the team and not be an easy out.
Q: Describe your high school bat flips.
A: (Laugh) No, it was just one bat flip. It was a playoff game — just one of those I didn’t even realize I did it. It was a big moment and just a young, stupid Daniel.
Q: Just one bat flip?
A: That’s the only one I really remember (laugh).
Q: No more bat flips for you?
A: I try not to. I try to just hit ’em and go. I try not to really make a mockery of the pitcher or anything like that. Just try to hit a home run and pass it along to the next guy.
Q: Is 508 feet your longest home run?
A: Yeah, that was in a Home Run Derby with a metal bat, I think that that’s what they said it was. That would definitely be the furthest.
Q: Do you like when they called it a Vogelbomb?
A: It doesn’t bother me, I don’t care. Don’t read any of that stuff, don’t really care what people (chuckle) call it or whatever, just trying to do my job every time I go to the plate.
Q: You’re not big on social media or any of that. Why not?
A: Why should I be (laugh)? … I mean nothing good comes out of it. Baseball, when I’m at the field, then when I’m off the field … it’s just living my life normally.
Q: Is it true chicks dig the long ball?
A: (Laugh) That’s been a saying forever, I don’t know.
Q: What are the challenges of DHing?
A: None. Like it’s just like you’re playing a position to me. Just get ready to play every day, and I just stay in the dugout as if I were in the game all the time just to keep me mentally in the game.
Q: Did you pick the brain of other DHs?
A: Yeah, when I was in Seattle I used to talk to Nelson Cruz all the time. Everybody has their own thing that they do and helps ’em keep in the game, and mine is just staying in the dugout and watching the game as closely as I can.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any slugger in MLB history, who would it be?
A: Be hard not to say Barry Bonds.
Q: Who are other sluggers you’ve admired?
A: In Fort Myers [Fla.], the only games that were really on were TBS, the Braves games, so I loved watching Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, [Gary] Sheffield.
Q: If you could face one pitcher in MLB history to test your skills, who would it be?
A: Probably Nolan Ryan. He was so good, so powerful with powerful stuff. I feel it could be fun to see how good it was.
Q: Who are some of the all-time competitors who you’ve admired?
A: Tom Brady, Tiger Woods. … You just see these guys that do it for so long. … I would say it’s not a coincidence when someone’s successful in a sport, in their craft, for as long as they are. It’s not luck.
Q: What drives you?
A: My family. So many people have put so much time and money and effort into giving me the best opportunity to be the best version of myself. Every single day that I go out and play I feel like that’s me returning the favor to so many people that love me. And I feel so loved that after a game, nobody has to watch me play, they’re not here, but all my best friends back home and family, they watch every game on TV. So just knowing, feeling the support that I have from them, that’s definitely what drives me.
Q: Describe your father, Dan.
A: He’d take the shirt off his back for anybody, does anything for anybody,. It’s hard for him to say no when he’s helping other people out. He always, always put my mom and us kids before him. … Pretty thankful that I got to be raised by him.
Q: And your mother, Jennie?
A: She’s more of the hard-nose than my dad in the sense of she doesn’t put up with any crap, and I love it that way. But man, she loves her kids. She’ll tell you the truth, there’s no beating around the bush, and I think that that’s how it should be with anything: You tell it straight up, you learn from it, and she always has our back. I’m very, very blessed with the parents that I have.
Q: Tell me about your pregame speech to your teammates before you won the Florida 3A state championship.
A: My older brother wrote it for me and I just read it to the team.
Q: What did you say?
A: Not many times do you get to know that win or lose, like this is it. This is the last game. At the end of seven innings, ’cause in high school it’s seven innings, this is gonna be the last time we all play together. You want to go out as champions together.
Q: Why did your brother write the speech for you?
A: A couple of my buddies now that are still my best friends, my brother was always like kind of their older brother too, we were always around and always hanging out, and they kind of asked him if he’d do it, and he wanted to do it. So he wrote it, and I just read it from the paper that he wrote.
Q: Josh is 7 years older. He was a pretty good quarterback at Guilford College and currently is offensive coordinator at your high school, Bishop Verot.
A: He owns his own gym. My brother, sister and I are about as close as you can get. He always included me. I went to every single college game, I’d leave on Friday, fly up and watch every game on Saturdays, stay with him. He’s just always been there for me. I’ve worked out with him every offseason. He just pushes me every single day, and he kind of wants me to achieve all my dreams I’ve ever had. If it wasn’t for him, I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at today.
Q: Your sister Sarah is a year younger than you.
A: She’s a special-needs preschool teacher.
Q: You got married to Kristina in January.
A: We dated for a few years, and we broke up, and we got back together. One of those where I knew the whole time that she was the one. She makes me better. She puts up with me. My family loves her. She’s a huge family girl. I could talk all day about her. I’m very blessed to be able to do life with her.
Q: She makes you better how?
A: She’s just a good person. She makes me a good person. We make a good team. It’s fun to do life with someone that. … We have the same morals, and that’s important to me and always has been important to me. She’s very easygoing, she goes with the flow, and not many things bother her. She’s a trooper. This life of baseball is not easy for a wife. She never complains, and she’s always there for me good game, bad game.
Q: How did you meet her?
A: It was actually at a restaurant in Seattle. One of those things where I just knew that I was supposed to talk to her.
Q: How did you propose?
A: In the neighborhood that I grew up in on the dock.
Q: You spent five years in the minors?
A: Played at every level.
Q: Did you ever give up hope that maybe your major league dream wouldn’t come true?
A: No. I always believed that I could hit, and I always believed in myself, and all I ever needed was an opportunity, and I firmly believe that. And I think there’s a huge difference in being cocky and confident, and I’m just confident in myself.
Q: You also played football and basketball in high school?
A: I just played freshman football and then I stopped playing basketball my sophomore year.
Q: Which positions?
A: Forward in basketball and O- and D-line in football.
Q: You were committed to the University of Florida before signing with the Cubs?
A: I grew up a Gator fan, and still follow it all the time. I like college football.
Q: Was Tim Tebow your guy?
A: I enjoyed watching him, ’cause we won national championship and they were really good (laugh).
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Remember the Titans.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Jennifer Aniston.
Q: Favorite singers/entertainers?
A: Kenny Chesney, Luke Combs, Lil Wayne.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Steak, mushrooms and some sort of potato.
Q: When you were a kid, did you dream of a major league career?
A: That was the only dream I had. I knew I was gonna do it, and I put my mind to it and that was it.
Q: Describe Buck Showalter.
A: He’s won a lot of baseball games, he’s one of the most well-respected guys around the game. He’s a player’s manager, he cares about his guys. I think that winning is No. 1 on his priority list, and it’s cool to see.
Q: Pete Alonso?
A: Works really hard at his craft. Very smart hitter, and very good teammate, and cares about everybody in that clubhouse.
Q: Max Scherzer?
A: You’re not this successful in the game, for as long as he’s been this successful, as an accident. He works hard, he’s super competitive, and he’s always trying to make other people better around him.
Q: Mets fans?
A: I just enjoy the way the Mets fans are. How they bring it every single night, they’re so passionate. You look forward to playing in front of them every single night.
Q: What was the Subway Series like?
A: The Subway Series was fun. Environments like that, they’re cool to be in. Everybody from both fan bases being loud, everybody’s always in the game. That makes playing fun, that makes coming to the ballpark enjoyable.
Q: What do you like best about your new team?
A: Just the teammates. I mean, the locker room’s unbelievable, everybody’s super close and everybody has one goal in mind, and that’s hard to find in this game. Every single night we go out there, everybody just wants to win.