Milwaukee Talks: Brewers reliever Burke Badenhop
Relief pitcher Burke Badenhop came to Milwaukee this offseason by way of a trade, and the right-hander is enjoying his first season in the city and with the Brewers.
OnMilwaukee.com caught up with the 30-year-old right-hander to talk about falling into media storylines, the life of a reliever and what his go-to meal is at Café Hollander.
OnMilwaukee.com: Being a baseball player, your life is full of travel and this is the third major league team you've been with in three years – is it important to find a "home" right away in your new place as opposed to maybe just staying in a hotel for as long as possible.
Burke Badenhop: For sure. One thing I've enjoyed is I'm definitely a home body. This is my ninth year of professional baseball and it's like the mental strain of not having a home. You're home, that I go to in the offseason, I'm not even there a third of what I'm here during the season. Coming to a place like Milwaukee – I'm originally from Ohio and my wife's originally from Michigan – at least it looks more like home, which is good.
Granted, I had been in Florida for a long time (with the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays), but it's so hot and the beach and things like that is the opposite of where I grew up. So, it always felt like you were further away, you were in unfamiliar territory basically. It's nice being here where you have a little more semblance of home.
OMC: Have you been able to get out and explore the city at all?
BB: Our schedule has been kind of weird, especially a long stretch without any days off. We'll get out and about and see some more things. I like to chill and sit and home. It's probably the most boring thing ever, but aside from getting out and going for walks and things like that, and hitting a dinner here or there or seeing some movies, we'll walk around and up and down Downer (Avenue).
OMC: In a baseball marriage, is it more important that your wife finds something she likes, or are you looking for place to live together?
BB: We're on the same page pretty much, which is good. There are so few – you're trying to find a short term rental where you can get furniture, so it's not like you've got the pick of the litter. There are only so many places. Here it was like, do you want to live closer to town or do you want to live in the suburbs? You pick from there and go from there.
Last year in Tampa, it was "Do you want to live on the St. Pete side or the other side?" OK, go from there. Do you want to live in a house or live in an apartment? My wife and I have lived in apartments enough when we were playing in Miami that parking in a parking garage doesn't really feel like home. I'd rather have a house or a condo or something with a garage.
OMC: Do you like the urban setting?
BB: Nah. I like to get away from people. But, Milwaukee's not too busy. That's another thing. I've been traded three times and you don't' have any choice where you're going. You could end up in Chicago or New York City or out in California, which I wouldn't even know what to do.
If I were to play for the Dodgers or something I wouldn't even know how to deal with L.A. traffic or where to live. It's interesting. D.C. is super busy. Or you could live in Milwaukee where it's pretty chill. Or Kansas City where there isn't too much traffic.
OMC: So Milwaukee has been a good fit for you so far this year?
BB: Yeah, I think it's been a pretty good fit and hopefully we'll continue to be so. When you can be traded from New York to Seattle you gotta kind of roll with the punches.
OMC: Have you found some go-to restaurants or dishes?
BB: I eat a lot at the field, obviously, but one I do like is Café Hollander. It's pretty good. It's not like fancy or anything but it's good food, it's a good atmosphere. It's a good spot. I would say that would be one of my favorite. My wife (Sara) likes heading down to Alterra on the water there (on Lincoln Memorial). It's kinda cool. It's a lot of local, organic type of places. By organic I don't mean they serve organic stuff, I mean it's not a chain. It's not a Dunkin Donuts, it's not a Starbucks. It's its own deal. I think it's pretty cool.
OMC: Have you sampled much of the menu at Café Hollander?
BB: I think I've gone three times and I've gotten the meatloaf all three times. This is where my wife and I differ. I'll go to the same place, every time and order the same thing. She's like, "what do you want for dinner?" I'm like, "why do you even ask, I'm just going to say the same thing." I could eat the same thing every day. That tends to frustrate her. I go with the meatloaf.
OMC: The East Side seems to be a popular spot for athletes.
BB: We live right there. We go for walks and stuff like that. It's kind of new and fresh.
OMC: Speaking of new and fresh – your economics background is often an interesting "media note" for local reporters when you come into a city. We know that you turned down a job out of college to pursue baseball and wrote a foreword to a finance book ("Financial Planning For Your First Job"). Do you like talking about it, or has it gotten old?
BB: It kind of takes on a little bit of a (life) of its own. I wrote that foreword and people think I'm some kind of author and all this stuff. It does get blown up a little bit. One time in Miami I mentioned, man, I think screenwriting is really cool and we played in L.A. one time when they had the celebrity softball game and I met Will Ferrell's agent or something like that and then all of a sudden it's "Burke Badenhop's a screen writer." People are like "How much have you written?" and I'm like "As much as you have."
Granted, a lot of the talk is baseball talk and things get monotonous so anything that's different, like if someone is an amazing chef or something like that or you manufactured motorcycles or something that's cool, I expect those type of questions. When it comes to my education and my background and things like that, it's something I'm very proud of and love to shed and I think more people should strive (for it). And for kids out there I hope it sets a good example. (And) well, when you're a career middle reliever you've got to have something.
OMC: You played three years before making your major league debut with the then Florida Marlins in 2008, appeared in 13 games, but then missed the rest of the season with injury. Then from 2009 through 2011 you bounced pretty often back and forth between the minors and the majors before sticking full time with Tampa Bay last year. Do you look back at that like "how did I make it through that?"
BB: I've been very lucky. There are a lot of guys here who have unbelievable talent in the big leagues. And there are people who have gotten tons of breaks and good opportunities. I've been very lucky to have some pretty good opportunities to pitch. Of all the guys I was drafted with (by the Detroit Tigers) back in 2005 – now that's such a long time ago – but the number of those guys that are still playing; and most of them are in Triple A and stuff like that; but to be able to still be playing and playing in the major leagues is an absolutely, complete blessing.
When we got drafted everybody was young and fresh and right off the bat if they were going to point to me and say "hey, of all the guys in this draft class you and Cameron Maybin – he was a first rounder, he was No. 10 overall – you guys were going to get five years of major league service," I would've freakin' slapped you.
It's kind of interesting. I've worked pretty hard for it and everything so yeah, it can be kind of daunting. I'll look back at video of 2009 and it's gosh, I'm getting old, man. That doesn't seem like that long ago. But I look different. Baseball has weathered me. You can see it right there on the video screen.
OMC: Why do think that is?
BB: It's really nerve wracking throwing 88, 89 mile an hour fastballs to big league hitters for the better part of six years, you know? If I threw 96 or 97 it might be me having the hitters losing their hair. But it's the other way around.
OMC: How have you dealt with that climb up the ladder, going from the dominant guy in high school, college, low level minor leagues to now the majors with your stuff? The margin for error is so, so small for a reliever.
BB: I always gripe about hitters because they're like, "oh yeah, if you get three out of 10 hits, you're a Hall of Famer, hitting is so hard." I'm like, "yeah, well then that means you should be cool with the failures because all you've got to do is get three hits you know?" And if you 27 out of 100 that's still pretty solid.
Whereas if my opponent average is .270, that's pretty high, so I've got to beat you three quarters of the time. It's that constant battle. Last year our pitching coach was like, "you know, the best closers in the game get it done nine out of 10 times." If Mariano Rivera has 50 save opportunities in a season he's probably going to have 45 saves or something. He'll maybe blow five of them. So, if he's the best in the game, then somebody else that isn't at that level should be getting it done at seven to eight times out of 10.
So there's going to be those times that you're not going to get it done and it's frustrating because everything is magnified so much. Losing a game when you don't pitch well out of the 'pen is like losing two games. It's so much more demoralizing.
I know starters who have gone from starting to relieving it's just opened their eyes. You just think you're just throwing later but it's a whole different game. I'm trying to equate it to something in football, but relief pitching is not the special teams … it's just something that's different, man. A lot of stuff is on the line and those guys that get the outs at the end of the game, it's a lot pressure.
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