I was lucky enough to be able to experience meeting and interviewing a few Blue Jays greats. Today I will share my interview with Duane Ward.
Duane Ward was an accomplished relief pitcher for the Blue Jays and even their closer for their 1993 run to their second championship. So without further ado, here is the interview:
When you were with the Blue Jays you were known to be a setup man for Tom Henke. What was that like?
Basically, do my job. The whole thing was from 86-92 was to do my job so Tom could do his job. And that’s the way we looked at it. The only way for a closer to be effective is if the people in front of him are effective also. Get the ball to Tom and leave the game exactly where it’s at so he can do his job.
How did it feel to know Toronto had so much trust in you two to anchor the bullpen?
Oh gosh, we have trust in everybody, or they wouldn’t be on the team. It’s 25 guys, the way our bullpen worked was that we fed off each other. If one guy was doing good, the other guy wanted to good, if two guys were doing good then we all wanted to do good. You just gotta keep that momentum going so that everyone in the bullpen just pulled for everybody. If I was doing good then Tom wanted to do good. It was a good chemistry.
After the ’92 season, you took over the reigns as the closer. What was that experience like?
Same roles really. It was basically just saying “Hey I gotta do my job,” but if the guys in front of me don’t do theirs then I don’t have the chance at the save opportunity. Mark Eichhorn, Danny Cox, Tony Castillo, these guys all came out there and Mike Timlin. They were doing the job that I was doing to get the ball to me, the same way I did for Tom Henke. So to me, it was the same situation, everyone had to do their job or no one would be effective. That’s the way you gotta look at it.
Transitioning into life after baseball you went and represented the Blue Jays in the draft this year. How was that?
A lot of fun. The nice thing about it was that I got to see a lot of players that I haven’t seen in a long time. There were some guys that I haven’t seen in 20-30 years. As well as represent the Toronto Blue Jays, it was an honour to represent an organization that I played for, for 10 years. Just to go down there and be the guy who just called out some draft picks for them. Hopefully some future stars, it was quite the honour to do that. It was a long day but a lot of fun.
In the first round this year Toronto took a shortstop. The team is deep in that position and have a potential franchise shortstop in the wings. What is your take on that?
They’re deep with it now, but that shortstop isn’t going to come to the big leagues tomorrow. So it’s something where you look at if this guy is ready to play in 2-3 years. He’s a high school kid, is he gonna be ready to move up the ladder in 3,4,5 years. Just because he’s a shortstop doesn’t mean he can’t go to second base, or he can’t go to third base.
That’s his position in high school but if he’s needed somewhere else he can play second, short or even third. It’s a situation where you are deep there, you have Bichette who is a shortstop, you got Vlad Jr. who wants to be a third baseman, I think he may move over to first base or maybe in the outfield. You can never have too many good players to help the big club out.