Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baseball place No. 83: Mike Greenwell's go-karts, 83A: Scott Radinsky's Skatelab -- and a tough interview

We’re back on the trail after giving Josh Pahigian a break, and heading back to Comiskey Park’s final game, too.

Josh heads to Cape Coral, Fla. To Mike Greenwell’s Bat-a-Ball and Family Fun Park as place No. 83 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Greenwell’s career ended in 1993 and opened the amusement park, which sounds like it has the usual assortment of go-karts and batting cages, and is a short drive from where the Red Sox spend spring training.

I’ve never met Greenwell, and have not been to Cape Coral, though we did once buy a house from a family that moved there.
But we did spend some time with Scott Radinsky, who also spends his post-baseball time running an action park. That would be:

Alternative place No. 83A: Scott Radinsky’s Skatelab, Simi Valley, Calif.

Will and I were Radinsky fans, and he was a promising rookie in 1990 when the White Sox were saying farewell to The Baseball Palace of the World.

He was finishing the season with a 6-1 record and somehow grabbed four saves in the season where teammate Bobby Thigpen obliterated the record with 57.

And he was a colorful guy, playing in a punk band when he wasn’t pitching.

As you know from the Ken Griffey Jr. conversation, the scene before the final game at Comiskey was surreal. There were all kinds of people roaming around foul territory; some of them even had legitimate reasons to be there.

Will and I were out there, fighting our way through the people with disc cameras and sprayed on gray hair, and were taking in the scene for our Flint Journal story. We saw Ozzie Guillen with his uniform number shaved into his hair, and Ron Karkovice holding one of his kids, and we were looking for someone to interview.

Ideally, that would have been Frank Thomas, our new hero. But Frank must have known what awaited, because he remained in the safety of the clubhouse, which was off-limits. Usually reporters are allowed in the clubhouse, but the White Sox were wise enough to limit access on this day given the “media” in attendance.

But Scott Radinsky was brave enough to enter the fray.

I caught him as he stepped into the dugout. I must have looked pretty goofy, pad in hand and laptop case slung over my shoulder. We called the computers “portables” at the time and I didn’t dare let it out of sight given the suspicious-looking crowd.

Soaking in flopsweat, I started to ask “Rads” some questions. And he was being, well, really difficult.

Granted, I was star struck, nervous and probably stammering. And my questions were not especially insightful, stuff like, “What’s it like in the clubhouse with all this going on?”

And Rads offered up stuff like, “What do you think it’s like?”

After several rounds of this, I was crushed, thanked him and turned away.

I guess Rads sensed my dejection and called me back, “I’m just messing with you. What do you want to know?”

And he was perfect after that.

“He was just making you work for it,” said Will, who snapped photos from a distance throughout the interview.

Rads went on to have an 11-year career in baseball, also pitching for the Dodgers, Cardinals and Indians. He compiled a 42-25 record with 52 saves.

This year he’s the Indians’ pitching coach, though he probably doesn’t brag about that, especially after the Mets sweep.

He had a second job even while pitching, working as lead singer for the band Ten Foot Pole and then Pulley.

Being a true California skater dude, Rads also runs Skatelab , a massive complex dedicated to all things skateboarding. Aside from courses for grinding and other stunts, Rads has a skateboarding hall of fame and museum.

And, hopefully, when a young, starstruck reporter shows up to ask the owner some questions, Rads supplies the answers – after making him work for it a little.

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