Flashback Interview with Former 1st Round MLB Draft Pick Michael Tucker
Former 1st Round Draft Pick
As a baseball fan, I’ve spent the better part of my 43 years playing, watching, coaching and just interacting with this amazing game, and after the lights go dim and the spotlights are no more, you wonder where do the stars go, what is their life after the show.
Here at Legends on Deck, we always strive to share the forgotten stories of many ball players working towards reaching their dreams of playing Major League Baseball, but what about those ball players that actually made the majors and had good careers, where are they now, what impacts do they still have to the game. We decided to take a look back to the ball players we once rooted for.
In our new feature, Where Are They Now, we start off with former MLB veteran Michael Tucker.
Tucker was born on June 25, 1971 in South Boston, Virginia, and as a youngster, he just watched baseball, without rooting for any particular team, even though his loyalty may have been towards the Pittsburgh Pirates as he recalls having a lot of their baseball cards.
After attending high school at Blue Stone in Skipwith, Virginia and college at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 1st round (10th overall pick) of the 1992 amateur draft.
On April 26, 1995, the Virginia native made his major league debut and recorded his first hit off Baltimore Orioles pitcher, Mike Mussina, “It [first hit] was probably one of the best ever, because you always dream of getting a hit in an actual game off a big time pitcher,” says Tucker as he recounts with me the start of his career.
After being drafted in the first round, many ball players and those in their circles would probably have major expectations as to how far their careers can take them, but Tucker felt his plan was simpler, “I didn’t put any pressure on myself to live up to expectations, I just drove myself to be in and remain in the big leagues.”
Playing and staying in the big leagues is any ball players dreams, and having the right people in your corner makes all the difference, “Coming up in the game, George Brett was a big influence on me, and I also had good coaches including U.L. Washington and Rafael Santana for my first two years,” says Tucker.
When playing in a sport some deem to be predictable, one unpredictable aspect of the game is being traded. In Tucker’s 12 seasons, he was involved in five trades, but he shared with me some humor as to his outlook on moving around the league, “You never really get easier to deal with trades, but you start to expect it sometimes when you’re doing good on a bad team.”
One of those trades that Tucker probably looking back would not disagree with, sent him to the Atlanta Braves, who in the early to mid 90’s were the team that seemed to never lose in the regular season. They won a record 11 straight division crowns and from 1997 to 1998, Tucker, who was in the league for just two seasons, found himself a part of their dominance, “That was the first team I went to the postseason with and it was a great first experience of being in the playoffs.” Tucker continued, “The Braves I loved, especially playing for skipper Bobby Cox and wish I stayed there longer.”
Looking back on a baseball career there are memories that stand out and one for a batter is, who he loved or hated facing at the plate, “I loved facing the top pitchers. I did well off Kevin Brown and Curt Schilling, but I had a tough time off Jamie Moyer, just throwing slow, slow, and slower,” shared Tucker.
A 12 year MLB career is not an easy one to have, with so many aspects of the game that can change at any moment, but if looking back on a career, some questions on the what-if’s do come into play, “I don’t have any regrets. I just wish I had the opportunity to end my career on my own terms,” says Tucker.
It was tough for him to move on and continue to hit and run well after injuries to his back in 2005/2006, which forced him out of the game and ended his career earlier than expected.
Overall he played with seven different organizations, the Braves, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Chicago Cubs.
In his career he batted, .256, with 625 runs, 208 doubles, 49 triples, 125 home runs, 528 RBI’s, and 490 walks in 1417 games.
Looking at the game today there are many disparities if comparing it to the past, Tucker shared with me what he felt were the differences since he graced the diamond, “I don’t think that the players today seem to work on the things they don’t do well to improve. ‘This is what I do and I’m not going to make adjustments to any part of my game.’
After a career cut short, some ball players have that thought in their minds of maybe getting back in the game in some sort of capacity like a coach or player development, “I would love to get back but I think most coaches are intimidated by people coming in with more experience than they have. It’s a job security situation for them. They don’t know as much as I do or have the real life experience,” says Tucker.
Tucker may not land a MLB coaching job at this time, but he at least can give back to the next generation of ball players with his vast knowledge of the game.
For the past several years, from 2012 to 2015, Tucker has traveled throughout the United States and the world, making stops in Barcelona, Spain and Parma, Piacenza, Bologna and Rome, Italy as well as in Frankfurt, Germany teaching the game of baseball in camps, clinics and lessons.
“I started traveling after doing lessons and coaching with a few Elite teams. We started to talk more about what I saw and how I was able to see things that happened in the game as they were being played. After explaining how I saw the game, teams began to ask if I would come and show there kids some of the things I talked about.”
Tucker continued, “That also turned into working with MLB’s Elite Development staff the last two years. Teaching the game is way better than telling them the game. Teaching involves giving them the understanding of what is and can happen.”
Baseball has grown tremendously especially if you look at the way the World Baseball Classic has been received in countries that baseball may not have been a factor in years past, and with former players like Tucker giving of their time to invest in the growth, there is always something to learn about new talent, “The talent abroad is making advancement through leaps and bounds. They are starting to get better information of how to train and things to do. There are some really talented individuals that might get over looked right now but that won’t always be the case,” says Tucker.
Tucker also talked about what he can bring to the development of the young ball players as they work on honing their skills, “The experience of playing and seeing the game from a whole different perspective and a different thought process to the game from a Major League perspective not high school or college.” Tucker continues, “To be the best players they can be regardless of what level they play.”
Any great ballplayer has one thing they can truly share with the younger generation and I asked Tucker what he can share about the grind, “You have to love the grind and bring it everyday, competing to succeed.”
One thing we all do is look back on the game for the moments that last a lifetime, and Tucker shared his moment, “It gave me a new life experience for myself and family.”
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