I have no clue why I have so many two-out RBI. Ron Washington pointed it out to me last year. He told me that with two outs, I drive in more runs than I do with less than two outs. He was trying to figure out what my approach was. I said, I’m just trying to bring them in, bottom line. I don’t know. When you see a guy out there, you have to try to keep your focus and try not to do too much and not change anything as far as trying to put the ball in play. I try to relax a little more and just touch the ball — I learned that from Bobby Abreu. He’s unbelievable driving guys in. Just hit it where it’s pitched and sort of flick at the ball and let it hit your bat instead of really trying to drive the ball into the gap.
I don’t think about the pitcher at all, not one bit. I try to stick to my game plan and try to keep it simple and clear my head as much as possible. The more you start thinking, the more you forget about the ball. I just try to see the ball and put it in a good spot and not try to do too much.
I’ve always run fast. No. 1, coming up, watching Scott Rolen. Two, I don’t want to show up anybody. Regardless of what happens, you hit the ball, you might see it go out, but when you get around the bases, get around to make sure you’re not showing up any pitchers. There’s one way I play the game and that’s hard. I believe that’s important. Just get aorund the bases, get home, high five and get ready for defense.
Rolen may not be that fast but he runs hard around the bases. You watch him — he hits homers, puts his head down and runs around the bases. It’s one thing that stuck in my head. it’s pretty cool because my cousin Roger, his son was playing and hit a home run and ran around the bases fast. Roger asked him why he ran around the bases that way, and he said, “That’s what Marlon does.” I’ll take a guy sprinting around the bases over someone who takes 40 seconds to get around on a homer.
Jackie is the reason I’m playing today. His importance to the world is more than just baseball. There’s the integration of baseball, of course, but the Civil Rights movement, the whole nine yards — my parents went through it. Without Jackie, there’s no Hank, there’s no Ken Griffey Jr., there’s no Ryan Howard, there’s no me. Every single day I think every player who is a minority in this game — all the way to Fukudome, Ichiro — you have to be thankful for what Jackie did and what he went through. I think what’s missed is nobody knows what he really went through. At the end of his career, he probably aged 20, 30 years, more than everyone else, because of the beating that he took mentally — I just couldn’t imagine. And for him to put up the numbers he did and to be the great player and Hall of Famer that he was, that’s phenomenal. I owe it all to Jackie.
Opening Day is exciting. I’m very excited about Monday’s game. We’re still focused on these two games in Cincinnati and trying to win this series. It was a heartbreaker last night but today’s a new day and we’ve got our ace on the mound and we’ll be fine.
Going into Opening Day, it’s going to be a little different for me because it’s my first time running out on Wrigley in Cubs pinstripes. I don’t care if it’s 10 degrees or 100 degrees, I’ll be out there and be ready.
My thing when I run out there? It’s going to be a feel after a while. We’ll see what the bleacher bums do — I’m sure they’ll be very receptive to me and vice versa. I’ll figure out my thing with them. I’ll say a little hello to the bullpen, like I did in Texas. I’ll have my whole skit lined up.
I always say hello to the bullpen. You need the bullpen to win. You say “what’s up” and give your high fives and everything to everyone in the dugout but you pay your respects to the bullpen because they close it out for us. I know they’re not close to center but I’ll find them.
Opening Day is a double whammy for me because it’s my first year with the Cubs and this is my hometown. This is going to be big. I have a lot of Sprayberry [High School] alumni, a lot of people who I went to middle school and elementary school with who bought up a whole section, so there will probably be 80, 90, maybe 100 people from Sprayberry so it’s going to be big. Fans get to check me out — again — being back in the National League. I haven’t played in Atlanta since 2006 so it’s nice to be back.
My parents have seen me play since then — they’ve come out to Texas. They haven’t seen me in Atlanta since ’06. Now, I’ve come back home and they can drive and go right around the corner to a game.
Everyone’s thought process with this team is that the playoffs start now. Tomorrow is going to be Day One of our run to October.
— Marlon Byrd