The first time I started boxing was at the Boys Club and I was 12 years old. Back then, you put gloves on and you’re just swinging. You learn a one-two combination, which is a jab and right cross. Other than that, you’re throwing hooks, and it’s really wild hooks.
In 2008, I had surgery on my knee, so going into the 2009 season, I couldn’t do much running, and I worked with a Gold Glover named Angel Romero in Philly. I worked on little things — hitting the mitts, double-ended bag and a heavy bag. In 2009, I had a great season, my legs felt good, I felt more explosive. Last year, before I came to Spring Training, I did more sprinting. Everyone knows how I felt about my second half last year — I got a little bit tired. My whole thought process going into this year was to do more low impact stuff, save my legs, make sure I drop my weight and still be explosive. I talked to Hammerin’ Hank Lundy, who is a boxer in Philadelphia. He’s 19-1. The guy he trains with is Danny Davis. Danny Davis is also Bernard Hopkins’ trainer. Their gym is Joe Hand Boxing in Philadelphia. The strength coach there helped with my core work and kept my cardio up.I went there Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 o’clock, and I did my core for 30 minutes and then I went 30-45 minutes boxing with the speed bag, the upper cut bag, the heavy bag. We worked on mitts, worked on the heavy mitts, we worked on focus mitts. We also sparred a little bit and worked on the sticks for defense — they’re styrofoam sticks. If you don’t keep your hands up, they’ll hit you in the head with them.
The biggest thing about that was me being in the gym with other professionals. These are amateurs trying to become professionals, or professionals who are trying to make a name in the business. Just the mental aspect of being with these guys was big. To use a cliche, being with those guys, they have the eye of the tiger. It gave me a different sense of urgency as far as going to the gym and working out. Those guys get in, get out, and have to go work 9-to-5′s. It really got me mentally prepared for this grind. I’m a guy who always works hard, and everyone knows that. I think I can always better myself and step it up a little bit. Boxing, that thought process of being in the gym three minutes on, 30 seconds off for 30 to 45 minutes straight mentally got me right.
I worked with Danny Davis and also went to San Francisco and worked with Nonito Donaire, who is a 122-pounder. On Feb. 19, he knocked a guy out and broke the guy’s orbital bone and his jaw in a fight. I worked with one of his mitt guys on different techniques to be more explosive. We intertwined everything with my first steps in the outfield. We timed my right cross with swinging the bat, and throwing my right and bringing that back hip through. It was funny, I’ve always done baseball-specific training. The past couple years, this is the first time I’ve done nothing baseball-specific but everything transfers over to baseball.
Would I ever fight? No chance. I realized just sparring with the guys and trying to hit the guys, I play baseball. It’s like a boxer trying to come out and play in the big leagues. No chance. Not happening. If I trained for maybe a year, two years, I could do an exhibition fight. Like Mike Tyson said, everybody has a plan until they get hit. I don’t like getting hit.
Carlos, everything he’s done in Tampa, he knows how to win. We’ve bonded. We were the big dogs coming up through the Minor Leagues, got to the big leagues and scuffled a little bit. We went back and forth, Minor Leagues, big leagues, knowing we could play but we needed that one team to take that flyer on us. It was Texas with me, Tampa with Carlos. Carlos comes up, does what he does, signs that big deal in Tampa. We can feed off each other because at the same time, what we also have in common is Rudy. He was with Rudy in Texas before I was. Now we have that rapport, so we’re talking about getting his swing back to where it was. There’s a lot that goes through your head when you struggle. He struggled last year and still put up big numbers in the power category. You have to get that average back up, get that confidence back up. I had the same thing, hitting .220 in the Minor Leagues and going to Texas and working with Rudy and had to get that confidence and that feel. I knew I could hit. We started talking from day one — actually at the Cubs Convention, we started talking hitting right away. Then when we came in here the first day, we started going to the cage together, working on little things. I see things he’s doing now that I did when I first came to Texas. Having more than one eye — not just Rudy’s eye but my eye — and having that trust factor will help. He trusts me. When I see something, he says, “Hey, you’re right, I feel it.” All from that, we’re learning and feeding off each other as far as hitting. I get to feed off him as far as that winning mentality and everything he did in Tampa.
There are certain things that happen in the clubhouse. I can go to him and say, “What do you think? Do we need a meeting? Do we need a one on one?” We can go back and forth. That’s a good thing. We have all these veterans in here and we have a lot of help — Kerry Wood, Braden Looper, all those guys. Me and Carlos, being position players, he’s very vocal, just like I am. we can talk and make sure everything stays on the up and up with this team. Last year, you have your ups and downs, but you want to keep those very, very small and stay consistent. Now, we have that rapport and hopefully we can be part of leading this team in the clubhouse and on the field and carry us all the way into the playoffs.
He’s not tentative because he’s the new guy. You saw me last year when I came in here, sort of loud mouth in the beginning. Everyone was like, “Marlon talks too much.” At the end of the year, they were saying, “He talks for a reason.” Carlos, it’s the same thing. He’s talking for a reason. He’s not speaking out of turn, he’s not speaking just to talk. He’s speaking because he needs to. The time he’s put in the big leagues, the winning he’s done, the numbers he’s put up, everything, he’s earned the right for people to listen to him.
You asked about Brett Jackson. I see him being ready very soon. He has to put together another good season this year and stay healthy — that’s the main thing — and keep learning. He has to keep learning. A lot of guys with his talent — I was the same way. You dominate in the Minor Leagues but you don’t learn how to get ready for the big leagues and you come up and struggle. That’s what I’ve been trying to get across to him is I don’t want him struggling when he comes up. I want him coming up and staying up for good. With his work ethic and his athletic ability, there’s no reason he won’t be the center fielder of the future.
First off, I have to comment on the job Jim Hendry did. He didn’t have much money this offseason. He needed pieces to fix this team. We needed a first baseman, we needed left-handed thump in the lineup, we needed a veteran reliever on the back end with experience and we needed another starting pitcher. He didn’t just fill those, he went and got a Gold Glover and the best first baseman in the American League East who knows how to win in Carlos Pena. Then, he went and got Matt Garza, who is a horse. He’s not missing any starts. He’s a monster on the mound with great stuff and he’s going to give you 15-plus wins. Then he went and got Kerry Wood — that’s icing on the cake. Of course, Woody helped us out, he wanted to come back home. Nobody can blame him. This is home for him and this is where he needs to be. Jim did an unbelievable job. He didn’t just bring guys in, he brought guys in who can do the job and help us get to the playoffs and hopefully get to the World Series.
It’s exciting. On the first day, I overheard Woody talk to Cashner about throwing cutters on both sides of the plate and talking to Samardzija about that. That experience, that trust factor. Me and Carlos Pena, going back with Rudy. That trust factor is already there. Garza just fit in there. He brings that intensity, he brings that fire, something that this team needs, something the city of Chicago loves to see, loves to watch. I don’t think it gets any better than that.
One person you can’t leave out who everyone forgets about is Reed Johnson. Bringing back Reed — he’ll help in the clubhouse, help on the field. He’s not just a presence in the clubhouse, he’s a presence on the field. He’s a career .282 hitter, kills a lefty, can hit righties, can play anywhere in the outfield. He’s a veteran presence. We came up in ’99 together and played together in the big leagues. This is our ninth year. He was at St. Catharines with the Blue Jays and I was at Class A Batavia with the Phillies.
The guys we have — there’s not excitement on MLB Network, there’s not excitement on Baseball Tonight. That excitement is Greinke and Marcum with the Brewers and Berkman going to St. Louis and the Reds signing extensions to the young guys who are going to turn into big dogs. We’re going to fly under the radar and keep that excitement bottled up and once April 1 comes, we’re going to explode.
Everyone sees what Q’s done. He’s done an unbelievable job. We played hard for him — he made it easy for us to play hard for him. Following a legend and an icon is not an easy thing to do and he did it very well. I don’t know if he’ll be here next year, but the way we played will make it tough on Jim — actually, it’s a good thing to make it tough on Jim, because he has a lot of quality guys to interview. We took a step forward at the end of the season. It’s all about development — guys getting better, work their butts off this offseason and get stronger, better, faster and up their baseball IQ and we’re going to be fine.
It wasn’t the year we wanted to have or the year that I was expecting. This team is built to win. It didn’t happen. We didn’t play the way we wanted to, didn’t play up to our capability as a team. Everyone knows that, everyone sees that. At the same time, we never gave up all year long and played hard. We had some changes at the end of the season. Lou had to go home, Quade came in and we still played hard. You can see it in our record against teams that are still in it that we do have a good team. We just showed it a little bit too late. At the same time, we’re missing Ted Lilly, we’re missing Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot. We wish them well. They have a chance to play for something. I wish we could’ve done it over here. Through everything, the fans have been out every single game. It showed last night and the past three nights. The fan base here hasn’t changed. Everyone loves the Cubs. Next year, we’re going to have to figure out a way to give them something to cheer about all year long and through October. When the end of the season comes, you start thinking a little about next year, and that’s what I’m doing now.
You don’t see 900 hits celebrated on ESPN or anything like when a guy gets his 1,000th hit. If you put it in perspective, 3,000 hits is a Hall of Fame career. Half of that — 1,500 hits — is a big goal of mine, especially considering where I started. I wasn’t sure after my rookie year going into my second year, when I lost my job, if I was ever going to be a starting outfielder again. To have 900 hits is huge. One thousand is a great career. If I get 1,500, that means I haven’t slowed down at all and that would be real nice.
I think the fans have to understand that getting hits in baseball isn’t easy, staying in the big leagues isn’t easy. I’ve been designated for assignment and placed on waivers. I’m going to keep going to see how many I end up with. I didn’t get the game ball. You get the ball on your 1,000th hit, 1,500th, 2,000th, 2,500th. I’ll work toward 1,000 next year and get that ball.
I know there are a lot of questions about how this team is playing and how we’ve responded since Mike Quade took over. We played as hard as we could for Lou and tried to win and it didn’t work out. He had to go home for more important business to take care of his family — everybody knows that. Quade has come in and done an unbelievable job. The atmosphere is the same, we’re still playing hard, everyone is still working hard. The coaches are still going about their business but for some reason, he’s getting wins. You have to attest a little to him.
He’s doing a great job. He’s putting guys in the right position and the right spots to win and for this team to win. I guess it’s like riding a bike for him after all the years he managed in the Minors. He took over, had a little meeting, and was ready to go on Day One. He’s done a very impressive job. He can manage and does a great job. He gets guys out there prepared and ready to play. If he’s not going to be here, hopefully he is managing somewhere soon because a team needs him and deserves him.
There’s not more energy here, it’s just a more relaxed atmosphere. I’m not saying it wasn’t like that when Lou was here. Now, it’s like, “All right, what else can we do? Let’s go play baseball and have fun.” There was pressure here because we were expected to win. I don’t know if that pressure is gone, but whatever Quade is doing, you can attest the wins to him.
We’re going to try to do the same thing against the Reds that we did in St. Louis, which is play well. We’re playing a contending team and we want to keep the streak going and try to win a series. Quade’s doing a good job, everyone’s still playing hard, as we’ve been doing all year long. The bullpen has been shutting guys down like we need and we’re scoring enough runs for the starting pitchers. We’ve got a Reds team, they might like us as players, but I think every team in the Central loves to beat the Cubs and they’re one of them. We can play the role of spoilers and make it tight for this Central race. Let’s see if we can win a couple here and let St. Louis gain some ground, and, at the same time, killing two birds with one stone, we play well. We’re trying to finish up strong. It’s a nice atmosphere in here when we’re winning.
It’s just a different voice with “Q.” Sometimes change is good for a team. At the same time, we lost a legend. It’s got to be tough on “Q.” It’s just something where I don’t know if it shocks players when you see a guy like Lou leave. Older guys have seen it. Young guys, it might be a little shock to their system. “Q” brings energy that he’s brung all year long. It’s just a different voice, and I think it’s showing in how we’re playing.
The last six weeks, Padres, Braves, the Cardinals again — they’re all first or second-place teams. They’re all in the thick of things. The Giants come to town and we’ve got Cincinnati again. You still have to get up for the games and that makes it a lot easier instead of playing teams that are having down years like we’re having. The competition is there, you see the fire on the other side. There is something to play for. It’s not fun getting spoiled if you’re the other team. When you’re the team doing it, it’s a lot of fun. It gives us something to play for. You can’t look past this season. You want to try to finish strong and go into the offseason with positive attitudes.
For me, personally, this is going to be fun. Seeing the team looking back at the scoreboard, seeing what the other team is doing to them and us trying to beat up on them. Cubs versus Cardinals, you will always see fire in those games. This whole homestand will be very difficult. Tough pitching. We have to put it together and try to have some fun.