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TGP Exclusive: Ryan Howard Interview

The Phillies' slugger met to talk Little League, Subway, the Phillies' clubhouse, and hitting philosophy.

Ryan Howard is now on Taney.
Ryan Howard is now on Taney.
Photo by Jimmy May/Invision for SUBWAY Restaurants/AP Images

So here it is, in full, the interview I did with Ryan "Wow, Really? Wait, no, you probably don't mean that Ryan Howard" Howard yesterday.  We focused a lot on the Little League World Series as a) it's probably more fun than the Phillies right now, and b) Ryan was down there doing some meet-and-greet work with the teams, as well as talking about Subway's Little League Throwback Thursday campaign (you can see me and Justin's competing posts about that particular gambit on the front page).  But there's Phillies stuff here as well, and in particular I found interesting:

- Ryan's take on Mo'ne Davis and Taney.

- Ryan's approach to hitting distilled.

- the feel of the Phillies' clubhouse.

You can certainly accuse me of being a bit of a soft touch in this interview, as I really didn't ask any hard hitting questions. To mix my metaphors, I'm much more a Dave Spadaro than a Torquemada.  And hey, it was my first interview ever, so some leeway, please.  Also, I totally did not feel, for what it's worth, arm-twisted into including Subway.  The latter mention actually was totally organic -- any shillishness should be chalked up to my bad delivery and not Ryan.  Anyhow, on with the show:

Ryan Howard: Hey, how we doing, Trevor?

Trevor: Good, how are you, Ryan?

RH: Oh, outstanding. Outstanding.

T: That’s great [a bit here where I ask if I can record him and he says that’s cool] So, how’s it been being at the Little League World Series with Subway? It is an exciting atmosphere?

RH: It’s been a blast; we’ve been down here doing this Throwback Thursday, which is Subway calling on fans to post throwback photos of themselves as a little kid, playing baseball or softball, and using the hashtag "LittleLeagueTBT." And each post using that hashtag will trigger a contribution from Subway to help offset some of the travel expenses for two of the Challenge Division teams for the Little League World Series this year.

T: Oh, that’s fantastic.

RH: Yeah.

T: So, has it been exciting down there? I know, uh, especially I wanted to ask you about Taney, particularly: how’s it been following a team down there from Philadelphia doing so well down there?

RH: Oh man! Oh, it’s been great, the entire experience. I’ve got to meet with a couple of teams down here, and Taney was one of the teams I got to meet, and I was looking forward to meeting those guys and talking to them, and the whole experience overall has been wonderful. I mean, all the kids were very grounded, very humble: having fun, you know? Just being 12, 13 year old kids and just having fun and enjoying their entire time and situation.

It was really cool getting to meet with the Taney kids. I was getting called out by one of the kids on the team, Zion [laughs]. He challenged me to a home run derby; I got to play ping pong against them and all that kind of stuff. It was a blast, and it was really cool to hang out with the kids and interact with them for a while.

T: Now, do you think Mo’ne could strike you out?

RH: Do I think she could? Ah, probably not right now, no.

T [laughing]: All right, okay.

RH: But I think what she’s done here at the Little League World Series, and even before that to qualify to get here to the Little League World Series, I definitely think she’s opened a lot of eyes and broken a lot of boundaries, you know? She set a new precedent.

T: Yeah, it’s fantastic. One more question about Taney: what do you think MLB can do to encourage more Taneys and Chicagos, more inner-city baseball teams?

RH: I think right now they’re on the right track, I think it’s just continuing to feed those programs, continuing to help those programs grow in each inner city. I think the thing to do is, take a look at the Taney, take a look at the Chicago programs and see, "Okay, how do we grow that in other cities to help these teams become more competitive and, you know, hopefully get them to the Little League World Series.

T: Nice. So, I want to ask more about little league, but I wanted to turn quickly to the big league team. I was looking at your numbers this year, and you’ve been so, so good this year with men on base. 14 of your 18 home runs came with men on, and I was just wondering: is there something that clicks for you there? Do you do something different? Do the pitchers approach you differently? What’s different for you?

RH: I mean, I don’t know [thinks for a second]: I don’t think about that too much. That’s more you guys, you guys come up with great questions like that. But I think with runners in scoring position, runners on base and the home runs, it’s me just trying to do what I can, trying to have a good at bat and trying to hit the mistakes.

T: Yeah, you’ve always been good at hitting the mistakes, that’s always been a blast. So, how’s the clubhouse been this year? I know the year hasn’t gone totally according to plan, but you always seemed like a pretty close-knit, pretty tight team.

RH: Yeah, I mean, things haven’t gone the way we wanted them to on the field, but in the clubhouse everyone’s good, everyone’s positive. Guys come in with the right attitude each and every day, ready to play, and that’s all you can really ask for: you’re ready to play, you come out and you’re trying to do your job. Sometimes it’s gonna go your way and sometimes it’s not. This year, unfortunately, it hasn’t gone our way moreso than not, but guys are coming in with the right attitude and preparing themselves to play.

T: That’s fantastic. So, back to Little League real quick: what was your experience like as a Little Leaguer. Was it a lot different than now with these kids and all the media attention?

RH [laughs]: Yeah, I mean considering Little League baseball or Youth Baseball when I was playing, we didn't have all the cameras and stuff. As I got older, if you were able to get your picture in the local paper, that was a big deal. So for the kids to have this kind of attention, that’s huge. But at the same time, I think Little League baseball has done a great job, the coaches and the chaperones have done a great job at keeping these kids grounded, keeping these kids humble and helping them understand why they’re here. Like, "Yeah, this is all the stuff that goes along with it," but that was an afterthought to them was what I was kinda getting from just hanging around them. They’re all just 12, 13 year old kids being 12, 13 year old kids, and they understand why they’re here,  that they’re here to win.

But at the same time, they’re having fun while they’re doing it.

T: That’s so great. So, you’re obviously a slugger: you hit a million home runs, that’s just your game. Was that your game as a little leaguer, too? Has your hitting philosophy changed much since then, or have you always been trying to hit for power?

RH: No, you know, I was always just trying to make contact. And when I’d make contact [laughs] the balls would travel far. I still try to keep the same premise today: sometimes you’ll miss pitches and sometimes you’ll get them. It’s still just trying to get back to making, to starting off making contact: the power and all that kind of stuff comes when it comes, but you just have to make solid contact.

T [getting comfortable so I branch off on a barely related tangent]: Yeah, that makes sense. There’s all sorts of people saying that power stabilizes at different times, and asking "Why is there a power shortage? Why do you hit more home runs in a certain month?" and your answer makes a lot of sense – that all comes and goes, but the contact stays.

RH: Right, right.

T: So, you, Utley, Chooch, and J-Roll…when are you gonna play a scrimmage against Taney?

RH [laughs]: You asking when we’ll scrimmage against Taney?

T: Yeah [laughing], when you guys gonna give it a try, see how you do?

RH: I dunno, we’ll have to see. Hopefully they can go out there and win the game tonight, and whenever they finish playing, whenever they get back to Philadelphia, we’ll see what happens there.

T: In all seriousness, what would you like to see the Phillies do to honor them after such a wonderful run, either way?

RH: What could they do? I mean, I’m sure they probably have something in the works. Probably get them out to a game, get them in batting practice and stuff, kind of give them a little red carpet treatment.

T: Very cool.

RH: But I think that the city as a whole would probably recognize them, you know, maybe doing something down at City Hall. Because I don’t think the Taney team understands what they’re doing, or the magnitude of what it is they’ve been able to accomplish, not only for themselves but for the city of Philadelphia. And how proud the city of Philadelphia is. And they won’t be able to realize that until they get back to Philly.

T: That’ll be such a great feeling for them. Do you have time for one more question?

RH: One more? Yeah, sure.

T: I was gonna tie it back to Subway: I remember in 2008, there was a video of you at the White House, looking at their fresh gardens, and I know that since you’ve been with Subway especially, you’ve been pushing – helpfully – for healthy eating. How does that affect your life? What’s your philosophy for healthy eating, during the offseason or even in-season?

RH: I mean it’s huge. I think a lot of it has to do with your mood. Healthy eating has to do with your mood, the way your body heals. And I think, growing up eating Subway sandwiches – I grew up eating Subway sandwiches believe it or not, all the way from Junior High School on [laughs] I guess I was endorsing them before I was endorsing them.

But I think that as far as that goes, with healthy eating habits, you just feel a lot better. You feel a lot better about yourself, about how your body breaks down the foods. You don’t feel tired or groggy or all that kind of stuff.

T: Cool. Well thanks so much for answering all my questions, and it’s really cool what you’re doing down there at the Little League World Series.  We’ll definitely spread the word about Throwback Thursday, get some tweets up to help the Challenger Division.

RH: All right, appreciate it. Thank you.

T: Thank you. Continued success.

RH [small beat]: All right, thank you.