BJ Upton chats with RSE

By on January 26, 2011

BJ Upton gets ready against the Cleveland Indians (Getty Images)

B.J. Upton has been a lightning rod for discussion among Rays’ fans since he burst on the scene as a 19-year-old in 2004.

People see his long, loping strides and assume he isn’t hustling. He’s been benched several times by Manager Joe Maddon, and few can forget his dust-up in the dugout with Evan Longoria when Upton appeared to loaf after a ball against Arizona June 27 of last season.

But then you remember 2007 (.300 average, 24 homers, 82 RBIs), or his dominating postseason in 2008, or his stunning catches time after time in centerfield. And there-in lies the conundrum fans have with Upton. He makes the game look so easy that fans constantly expect more, like he has more to give if he tried harder.

Upton’s heard it all for many years, and in an interesting chat with RSE at his celebrity bowling bash at Channelside Monday night, he answered the question head on. He also talked about the acquisitions of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, and who’s faster, he or Carl Crawford.

Rocket Sports & Entertainment: On his charity event helping the homeless.      

B.J. Upton:  I chose St. Vincent de Paul because I live right here in downtown Tampa and the homeless numbers are outrageous. I see it every day that I drive to the park. Even on the way home late at night I see a lot of homeless.

I was watching the show Rob & Big (a reality show that follows the lives of professional skateboarder/actor/producer Rob Dyrdek and his best friend and bodyguard Christopher “Big Black” Boykin) and they were both sitting in the house one day and he went down in the garage and put all his old clothes in a bag and drove to an area where the homeless stayed and opened his trunk and gave all the homeless people the clothes. That’s where I came up with the idea to benefit the homeless, and the last two years we’ve raised good money for the charity and this year we can do the same.

 

 

RSE: And the kids from BJ’s bunch benefit as well.

Upton: It’s a couple rec centers in St. Pete near the Trop that I stopped at, handed out some shirts and paid for them to come to a game. So they’ll receive some of the money as well.

RSE: Why the change this year from golf to bowling?

Upton: We used to do golf. But so many people do charity golf tournaments and we wanted to do something different where people can be more interactive and closer to the people that are there. In golf you’re so spread out, so we chose bowling. Splittsville is the perfect size, people can be close to the celebrities that are here and it’s fun. 

RSE: We understand your brother, Justin, is a good bowler?

Upton: Yeah, he owns his own bowling ball and bowling shoes. He said he didn’t bring them, but I heard he’s been talking a little bit of trash saying he’s going to win this thing.

RSE: Are you any good?

Upton: I won’t deny he’s better than me … at bowling.

RSE: A bunch of your teammates are here, as well as guys from other sports. What is it about athletes wanting to play other sports?

Upton: We’re athletes, we love to compete. And you put anything in front of us that we can win, we’re going to want to do it. That’s just our nature.

RSE: You just signed a $4.825 million deal to avoid arbitration, so it looks like you’re in a good place mentally entering the season.

Upton: The most important thing is to have a clear head going into spring training and just focus on baseball and not have to worry about anything. Last year neither side wanted to go through it, and this year we came to terms where we could agree and avoid it. I think it’s great for both sides and we can both do what we want to do, and that’s win.

 

RSE: On staying in Tampa long-term.

Upton: I love the area. I’ve met a lot of great people during the time I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area and it’s just a place where you can live and relax and I like that about it. If the opportunity comes up (for a long-term deal) about me staying here I’m definitely open for it.

RSE: The team lost a lot of talent this winter in Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano and others. Did signing Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez ease the pain?.

Upton: Obviously the guys we lost were definitely big pieces of the puzzle over the last couple years. And to bring in two veterans that have played in the AL East and know what winning’s about – both of them have two World Series rings – we lost some firepower but we just got some back adding these two guys to our roster.

RSE: Looking forward to playing with Manny?

Upton: I am. He’s accomplished so much; I can’t wait to be around him and soak up some of that knowledge.

RSE: Who’s faster, you or Carl Crawford?

Upton: Carl. 

RSE: By a lot?

Upton: Yeah (laughing).

RSE: Your son, Riley Emanuel, is 8-months-old. What has been the most interesting thing about fatherhood?

Upton: The time schedule is totally different. There’s no more sleeping in. When he gets up, you have to get up.

RSE: Favorite food?

Upton: Pork chops.

RSE: Favorite restaurant in Tampa Bay?

Upton: Bailey’s.

RSE: Favorite TV show?

Upton: I don’t watch TV that much. Let’s go with ESPN.

RSE: Latest song on your iPod?

Upton: Do it all, by Drake.

RSE: Hobbies or ways to relax?

Upton: Golf

RSE: You hear the criticisms about your play at times, where people say it doesn’t look like you’re hustling, etc. Are you concerned how people perceive you?

Upton: Everybody’s going to have an opinion. Obviously you want it to be the right ones. But not everybody is going to feel the same way, so you can’t really look too much into it. I’ve been dealing with that since I was 15, 16-years-old, where people think I’m not running. It’s just the way I play.    

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