With 240 career wins, the most post-season wins in Major League history, five World Series titles, three All-Star appear- ances, an ALCS MVP and a 3.88 ca- reer ERA with 2,251 strikeouts, Andy Pettitte is one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game. Inside Pitch managed to pin down Pettitte, who is currently making a comeback bid with the New York Yankees after retiring a year ago.
Inside Pitch: Tell us about your background—where’d you go to school?
I went to Deer Park High School, in Deer Park, Texas and then I attended one year of Junior College at San Jacinto in Houston. I actually signed with the University of Texas but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of going to college.
IP: Was there a definable moment when you were playing baseball in Little League or maybe High School that you thought, “Hey, I’m pretty good?”
I was always one of the best pitchers on our team. We had some really good athletes at Deer Park, but during my junior and senior year I started separating myself a little bit from the other players. At that time, I started thinking that I was pretty good and when colleges like the University of Texas and LSU offered me scholarships, it sort of reaffirmed those thoughts.
IP: How many seasons did you play in the minors?
I ended up playing three full seasons and then another half of a season. From San Jacinto I went to the Gulf Coast League, spent a year in Low A, a year in High A and then I split my last year between Double A and Triple A. I guess I was pretty consistent...I was fortunate. I never had a losing season in the minor leagues so I did really well all the way up.
IP: Were there any coaches or managers that come to mind that really helped you along the way?
AP: Wayne Graham was really influential in my career; he’s coaching at Rice University now but he was my coach at San Jacinto when I was there. He’s a real ‘go-getter’ and had a huge impact on me in terms of baseball and the fundamentals and the mentality of the game. He kind of kick-started me, and then I had several coaches along the way including Nardi Contreras who taught me an awful lot about pitching and how to set up hitters. And there were quite a few minor league pitching coaches who worked with me that were superb; I learned a lot from those guys as I was coming up.
Joe Torre was really like a father figure to me in my career and he was a great manager, I really can’t say enough about Joe.
IP: Who are some of the best all-around players you’ve played with or competed against?
Derek Jeter is one of the greatest players that I’ve ever played with. He’s an outstanding hitter and amazing defensively; really just an all-around athlete. Paul O’Neill was another; he had such an impressive career and was truly a gifted player. Alfonso Soriano has incredible power as well as speed and Carlos Beltrán was another great one. The list is too long to name everyone, but I’ve been blessed to play with and compete against some incredible athletes.
IP: Tell us about some of the toughest hitters you’ve had to face; a few guys that always seemed to own you?
There was Edgar Martinez, for sure. When I first came up, he was on his way out, which I was selfishly pretty happy about. He was really a great hitter. Manny Ramirez always gave me trouble as well. And then there was a guy, a left handed hitter who played for the Baltimore Orioles named Larry Bigbie. Larry went 13 for 16 off me in his career. The guys used to tease me when we’d go to Baltimore; they’d ask if the limo that Larry had sent
for me had shown up yet to take me to the field because they knew that he never wanted me to miss my start.
IP: What did you consider your ‘money’ pitch?
I’d probably have to say my cutter. It’s usually my big pitch, but there are a lot of times I just can’t go to my cutter. Sometimes it’d just be painting the black with a fastball and having faith in that pitch.
IP: Talk to us about how you balanced family life while playing.
When I look at my kids now, I feel like I’ve done a good job. I have a pact with my wife that we never go more than 10 days without seeing each other. Early on, we drew some definite lines in the sand on how we were going to handle our family. We’ve made it work by sticking to our principles throughout my career. I want to have my kids with me as much as possible and make sure to keep them as close as I can. Joe Girardi is great; he lets the kids hang out in the clubhouse and that’s huge for me.
IP: When you decide to hang it up for good, what would you want people to say is the one thing that defines you—the legacy you want to leave?
All I can say is that God has his hand on me; He gave me the ability from a very young age to take a stand. More than anything, it’s staying in the Word, praying, knowing I have serious choices to make and always trying to make the right choice. I know that I never wanted to let my wife or my family down. They’ve always been and always will be the most important part of my life; everything I do, I do for them.
That’s not to say that I’ve not failed and struggled in certain areas throughout my life, because I have. Everyone struggles and falls short at one time or another, its part of being human. But throughout everything, God has always been there to help me and to guide me and I always try to rely on His strength.
IP: When you decided to retire after the 2010 season, what did you do to keep yourself busy?
I got to spend a lot of time with my family, which is something that I’ll miss while I’m playing. I also spent quite a bit of time speaking and sharing my testimony, which I really enjoy. God
has really blessed me and I want to share His love with as many people as I can. I was also able to become more involved with my church in Deer Park. My father-in-law was the pastor there for 42 years and now my brother-in-law has taken over there.
Luke is six now, I helped coach his basketball team this past winter which was great. I also got to help coach Lexy’s basketball team and Jared’s baseball team.
IP: What are some of the things you’re doing to make your return on May 1 (tentative date set by Pettitte and the Yankees)?
I talked to (Yankees General Manager) Brian Cashman in December and I started working out again. The desire that wasn't there the year I retired came back—I was loving working out again. I’m schedule-oriented to begin with, so sticking with that, and listening to my body is how I’ll do this. I feel great, I just have the regular soreness in my lower half that you have in spring training, so it’s all good.
I threw to hitters during the SCORE November Baseball Outreach in the Dominican Republic, but I had hardly even played catch then, so I was just throwing batting practice, a few changeups. I was trying to get them out, but it wasn’t entirely realistic.
As a man, I want to go to work, and my work is baseball, and it’s pitching. That’s what I know. I feel like I never left.