Michael King on Yankees turnaround, Tom Brady, his ‘Heckle Camp’

Yankees reliever Michael King takes a break for some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Describe your mound mentality.

A: I definitely try to get a totally different personality. I generally think I’m a nice guy, very smiley, I love to laugh. But when I’m on the mound I want to be a dog. I want to make sure that the hitter knows my presence and sees my confidence, ’cause I always say that a hitter can smell blood in the water. And if he sees any doubt in my mind, I think he already has me, so I want to make sure that he doesn’t see that doubt.

Q: When you’re in a zone, do you smell blood in the water?

A: Oh yeah. To that point, if the hitter’s not showing me any fear, I know he’s gonna be aggressive ’cause he wants to match my aggressiveness, or my aggression. So I use that to my advantage, and when I’m in the zone I can read those things and see if he’s gonna be aggressive and I can get him out of the strike zone. It’s definitely a fun experience to be in the zone, and I try to make sure I keep the same routine to get in that zone as many times as possible.

Q: That’s a rare gift, isn’t it?

A: It’s just a feeling. I’ve had so many times where I will face what I would say are elite hitters, and just how they get in the box, I feel like I can tell, “OK, this guy’s swinging first pitch, I’m not throwing a strike.” And sure enough, I’ll throw one in the left-handed batter’s box and he swings at it. Or I see a guy get in the box and I’m like, “All right, he looks very relaxed, he looks like he just wants to see me,” and I throw a fastball right down the middle. And there are times when I’m not in a zone and I read that incorrectly, and I throw a middle-belt fastball and he rips a double to left center. It’s very strange, it’s not like I can watch video and see, “OK this is a tic that this guy has so this means he’s swinging first pitch,” or whatever it is. It’s just a feeling that I get on the mound that I see how a guy gets into the box or how a guy’s gripping his bat or how a guy’s even looking at me. A lot of hitters will kind of stare down the pitcher when they want to get aggressive. A lot of hitters will look away if they don’t want to be aggressive, so I love looking into the eyes of a hitter and really try to see what their mentality is based on just what I’m seeing.

Michael King
Getty Images

Q: If you know you’re not in a zone, do you make a conscious effort to keep the same presence you had when you were in a zone?

A: One hundred percent. I would say that I keep the same presence regardless if I’m in the zone or not. But if I’m not in the zone, I try to do a lot of breath work, like in through the nose, out through the mouth, I also do this thing, you’ll probably see it, especially if I throw a couple of balls in a row and I realize that I’m not attacking the way I want to, I usually fix my pant leg around my shoe. Then as I kind of bend to stand up, I’ll like slap my thigh, and that’s kind of my trigger to lock it in. And obviously there are just some of those days where you just don’t have it.

Q: What is it about high-leverage, pressure situations you love so much?

A: Tom Brady had a quote: Good athletes are the ones that can get the job done, but the ones that can consistently get the job done under pressure are the elite ones. I felt like growing up, David Ortiz, when it was a big situation, and it was up to him in the box, it almost seemed like time slowed down for him, and he just saw the ball differently than he did in the first inning. I think Brady does that in a two-minute drill in the playoffs. You don’t bet against those guys. I’ve always primed myself to want to be one of those guys and have people say that about me.

Q: Was there ever a time when you didn’t have confidence on the mound?

A: My whole 2020 season, that COVID year, it was a very tough year for me. I felt like I got too mental where I was trying to make adjustments every game, and I never once just went out there and had that aggressive mentality, and it’s not fun to pitch in because you’re facing the best hitters in baseball, and I’m up there thinking about my mechanics or thinking about how I have to be sooo perfect on this pitch instead of just attacking with conviction.

Q: Where does this confidence, this fearlessness on the mound, come from?

A: I don’t know. … (chuckle) My mom would put me through what she would call “Heckle Camp,” when I’m like 10 years old she would just rip me apart while I was hitting batting practice and tell me how much I sucked. She was trying to toughen me up. I think it’s a big philosophical question: Does confidence come before success? I think I’ve had some success, and that has given me confidence, but I know that the only time I do have success is when I am confident.

Q: What drives you?

A: My motivation is like the fear of failure, I’d say. I know failing is a thing that has to happen in all sports. I just never want to make the same mistake twice. But failing my teammates and my team is definitely a huge motivation for me.

Q: What criticism bothered you most or was unfair?

A: (Chuckle) There’ve been a lot of little things that I really like to highlight. I remember hearing stories on Michael Jordan saying that he would almost make things up that people would have said against him just ’cause he wanted to get that competitive fire. I’ve had scouts tell me that I am like a career minor leaguer, that I would suffice in the minor leagues for a while but never would stick in the big leagues. … I had many people say that I lack an out pitch, so I wouldn’t have any swing and miss. … I’ve had people say I lack velocity so I would never make it as a reliever in the big leagues. I was only 88-91 [mph] in college, but I knew I was gonna work my ass off to make sure that I got that velocity and make sure it played. I was gonna make sure that I got an out pitch and was able to get swing and miss at the big league level. I was gonna make sure that I stuck in the big leagues and stayed there for however many years. So a lot of those little comments are definitely chips on my shoulder.

Q: What one pitch have you made the biggest improvement on?

A: My slider. I used to joke about myself and call myself a sinker-slider guy without a slider. Working with [Corey] Kluber last year and him noticing that we had a very similar arm slot, I felt like I made huge improvements on the horizontal movement of that. And then this year I’m just focusing on the command of it and be able to throw backdoor, down and away for a strike to a righty, throw it back foot to a lefty, expand it away to a righty. Last year I just kind of ripped it and it had good movement, now I’m trying to rip it in locations.

Michael King
Michelle Farsi

Q: What would you tell a visitor from Mars about who Aaron Judge is as a baseball player and person?

A: I would also assume that Judge is from Mars because he is not from Planet Earth. His locker-room presence is just elite, he was a natural-born leader. When I first got called up in ’19, I was like, there’s not a single person in this locker room that even knows my name. And he stops me right as soon as I walk in the clubhouse and like daps me up and he said: “ ’Bout damn time!” Like finally getting called up. And it just made me feel so welcomed in the locker room. I thought I was gonna be the low man on the totem pole, and Judge made me feel like I was a superstar. And he does that to everybody. He’s the face of the MLB right now. He’s just an incredible person, and I hope that I’m his teammate for the rest of my life.

Q: Josh Donaldson.

A: Also a fiery guy, has an urge to win more than almost anybody I’ve ever played with. I’ve said it to him: He’s a guy that when I’m playing against him, I hate him. But now that he’s on my team, I absolutely love him. And there are so many of those guys that are out there that are like essential in a locker room that have that mentality of like, “I’m gonna go out there and beat you to a pulp.” And that’s Donaldson.

Q: Pitching coach Matt Blake.

A: Matt Blake is phenomenal at communicating. He is awesome at dumbing it down and making sure that you understand it, but then he also doesn’t have an ego and you can joke around with him, tell him that the analytics are stupid, whatever it is, and he’s the same person.

Q: If you could test your skills against any batter in MLB history, who would it be?

A: Tony Gwynn’s up there, just ’cause of his bat-to-ball skills. I’d love to see if I could get a swing-and-miss on a guy that literally doesn’t strike out.

Q: If you could pick the brain of any pitcher in MLB history, who would it be?

A: I actually had the opportunity to pick Orel Hershiser’s brain, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. If you can’t do anybody that you’ve already talked to, then I’d say Roy Halladay.

Q: What did you take from your conversation with Hershiser?

A: I literally thought he was like a doctor or a scientist or something. The way that he actually could read a hitter’s posture and know the holes in his swings was insane. So I really started to learn how to read swings from Orel based on body movements and swing decisions. He was the guy that really got me into reading swings and knowing how to attack and knowing how to sequence.

Q: What was your best moment at Boston College?

A: Definitely winning our Regional. In 2016, we went to Ole Miss and we swept the Regional, and the dogpile in there was one of the best experiences of my life.

Q: Describe the Utah incident in the first round?

A: Their first-base coach was way down the line, almost in right field, and so he would see the grip that I had in my glove. As I kind of leg lifted my hands went up kind of to my head high and then I went back down, he could see the grip. So he would yell “U” every time I was throwing a changeup, and back in college I was predominantly a sinker-changeup guy, I would sprinkle in a little breaking ball. So I started hearing it, realized that it was the first-base coach, and it just so happened that to end the inning, it was a ground ball to first, so I had to run over to first and cover the bag, and I was standing there right next to the first-base coach. And everybody on our team knows what he’s doing, and so I said a few choice words to him. We jawed a little bit. I had to walk all the way back across the field ’cause we were in the third-base dugout, I had to go by their third-base coach ‘cause he was walking to their dugout. And (chuckle) I said a couple of more choice words to him ’cause I’m just an idiot college kid that was a little fiery. He jawed back at me. I just kept my head down and was talking to him without looking at him, and I know he said something back to me, and I looked into our dugout where I’m walking and I see all four of our coaches sprinting after their coach. So it was great to see my team had my back. And then we ended up beating them, and it was pretty sweet.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Roy Halladay.

Q: Growing up a Patriots fan, what was your reaction when Brady left for Tampa Bay?

A: Brady was the reason why I became a huge Patriots fan. I still totally root for him. When the Patriots got bounced from the playoffs, I became a Bucs fan for the playoffs.

Q: What is it about him that appeals to you so much?

A: One, I love that he was not a high draft pick, and always kept that chip on his shoulder, ’cause I kind of put myself into that category. And then just his competitive fire. Watching him perform is awesome, and also seeing him perform under pressure is a thing I’ve always tried to strive for. He’s been a big role model to me, I always watch his highlights tapes, or any type of pump-up video because I think he’s a great inspiration to guys like me.

Michael King
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: And the late Roy Halladay?

A: When I was in college, my college pitching coach Jim Foster said that we were very similar … and so I started really watching him, and almost molded my stuff after him. I saw that he was kind of that low three-quarter arm slot with a sinker, I tried developing more of like a smaller cutter that he ended up using towards the end of his career, that big curveball. But when I watch his best games and how he attacks hitters, they’re very similar to how I want to attack hitters. … Even just his demeanor on the mound is another thing that I like to keep, just that kind of quiet confidence where you had no idea what he was gonna do, or no idea what he was thinking.

Q: Favorite movies.?

A: “Talladega Nights” and “Dumb and Dumber.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Will Ferrell.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Jennifer Lawrence.

Q: Favorite singer-entertainer?

A: My sister [Olivia]. I have not heard a bad song come out of her mouth.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: I love a good filet mignon, but I would honestly probably say like a fast food cheeseburger.

Q: Your ambition was to be shortstop for the New York Yankees.

A: My mom’s a huge Yankee fan and New York fan, my dad was born in Boston, so he was raising me to be a Red Sox fan. And then I was at the series where [Aaron] Boone hit the walk-off against the Red Sox. Before 8 years old, Nomar Garciaparra with the toe tap and the weird little fidgets that he had I totally emulated. And then, after 2003, I’d say [Derek] Jeter and Mariano [Rivera] were my boyhood idols.

Q: What is it like pitching on the New York stage?

A: I think it’s the greatest thing in the world. We talk about it all the time, wherever we go it’s a huge game for the other team. And even their fan base, they want to come see the New York Yankees, they want to see Aaron Judge, they want to see Gerrit Cole, they want to see Aroldis Chapman. Obviously more media coverage, I see like we’re on ESPN way more, on MLB, all that stuff. It’s definitely a blessing and a curse, ’cause if you’re not up to that task, it can really weigh on you. But if you are up for that task, it makes the reward a lot sweeter ‘cause those fans are really fun to play behind.

Q: What’s different about this Yankees team?

A: I honestly think our chemistry is incredible right now. We just hang out a ton. I think we really enjoy each other’s presence.

Q: Do you enjoy the Subway Series during the season?

A: I love it. Last year, we played the 9/11 game at Citi Field, I had chills the whole time. I think that the Mets have an awesome team. I have a couple of buddies on that team that I played with and against throughout the minor leagues.

Q: Who are some of your buddies?

A: Justin Dunn used to be on the Mets, he was my roommate at Boston College, so when I would hang out with Justin Dunn, we would randomly be with Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil. … I’ve talked to [Francisco] Lindor through Gio Urshela.

Q: Do you dream or think about the All-Star Game?

A: Oh, of course. I actually had a funny conversation about how Mariano towards the end of his career would almost find excuses (chuckle) to get out of the All-Star Game just ’cause it’s nice to have those days off. But I can tell you that I would never find excuses to get out of that especially at this point in my career. If it’s my like 15th All-Star Game, like it would be Mariano’s, but right now it’s definitively a huge dream.

Aaron Boone takes the ball from Michael King.
Robert Sabo

Q: What do you remember about the first time you put on the pinstripes?

A: I would say it’s more of a blackout period in my life just ’cause it was so surreal. There’s a wall in our clubhouse that every player has signed. I remember that was like a really cool thing to be signing the same wall as Mariano and Jeter.

Q: Describe the New York Yankees Way.

A: Very professional. And we want to make sure that after a three-game, four-game series against us that you remembered who you played against. We want to make sure that you feel us before you leave, whether it’s Yankee Stadium or before we leave your park.

Q: Do you enjoy being a villain on the road?

A: Oh, it’s the greatest. The saying of like, if you don’t have any haters you haven’t made it, it rings through there. Everybody that hates the Yankees it’s just because the Yankees have won so many World Series. And so the haters are necessary if you’re gonna have success.

Q: Do you embrace the World Series-or-bust expectations?

A: One hundred percent. I wouldn’t want to be on a team that doesn’t have those expectations. If you are not winning your last game of the season, then you failed your mission.

Q: What is your message to Yankees fans?

A: I would just say to keep up the support, because it’d be a very fun parade in November of 2022.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/21/michael-king-on-yankees-turnaround-tom-brady-his-heckle-camp/ Michael King on Yankees turnaround, Tom Brady, his ‘Heckle Camp’


USTimeToday is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimetoday.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button