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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Kickin' back with Josh Paul
Writer, musician, ballplayer, but mostly a dad
By Times Staff Writer
Published April 2, 2006
Devil Rays backup catcher Josh Paul set a record last season with the Angels by warming up pitchers 356 times between innings. He figures it's a record, anyway. Rays manager Joe Maddon, then Los Angeles' bench coach, kept track, and the pitchers gave Paul a signed home plate as a keepsake.
Paul, 30, from Evanston, Ill., is an eclectic mix. He has flown with the Blue Angels ("The pilot got me to pass out a couple of times"), admires comedian George Carlin ("He hits the nail on the head with what's going on in the world") and is writing a book about the mental part of the game. But what Paul really loved talking about with Times writer Damian Cristodero was wife Kelly and 18-month-old son, Jake.
What has fatherhood taught you?
Jake really has made my life a lot happier. When the game's over, no matter how bad I did or how good I did, I'm daddy after the last out. He brings a really fresh perspective and a fun perspective. He's a great little kid.
Does he take after you or Kelly?
Well, he never shuts up, so that's probably me. He's so active. I think that's a lot from my family. He's climbing all over stuff.
So you're from a family of climbers?
He's just really curious. We kind of let him do what he wants and explore unless it's going to hurt him, like an electrical socket. Anything else, he's got free rein. We're just letting him explore the world. It's really fun to watch.
How did you meet Kelly?
I met her in a bar called Dirtbags, and she always brings that up. Whenever I'm in trouble she says, "I should never have gone to Dirtbags." She was at the University of Arizona and I was down for spring training in Tucson. I kind of stared at her for a couple of hours. I'm not the shyest of people, but for some reason I couldn't get the courage up.
What was your line?
I told her I was a plumber.
The next night I told her I was an Air Force pilot, and when I actually took her out to dinner I told her I was a baseball player. She said she liked me a lot better when I was a plumber.
Who was the friend you lost on 9/11?
His name was Mark Hindy. He and I went to Vanderbilt together, he was a left-handed pitcher and worked in the World Trade Center. His family started the Mark Hindy Foundation, a charity that gives money to a local kid to go to a private school. My job is to collect autographs and auction them off.
What do you remember most about Mark?
He had the most infectious laugh. If he started laughing, everybody within hearing distance wanted to know what was going on. He was a wonderful person.
Natural disasters, 9/11, the war in Iraq. Did you and Kelly wonder about bringing another life into the world?
There is no life without death, so bringing a new generation, it worries me but every generation has been worried about that. Life goes on. Yes, I remember my friend Mark Hindy. I remember people I've lost. But you can't just stop. You've got to keep going and find happiness in other ways.
Lighter subject. You apparently did yeoman work last season for the Angels.
Yeah, I think I'm the all-time major-league record holder for warming up pitchers between innings in a season. Joe kept track. It was our little joke. I was going to take that to arbitration.
Nice to be recognized, but it also means you didn't play much.
Yeah, but if you're backing up both Molinas - obviously, Bengie has two Gold Gloves and his brother Jose is probably the best throwing catcher I've ever seen - I don't feel any shame or anything like that. I was doing my job. Part of my job the last two years with (Los Angeles) was keeping guys loose and having fun. If that was one thing that made people laugh and play loose, so be it.
Where is the signed home plate?
It will go up in my office.
Tell me about your book.
It's about what goes on between the ears of a catcher. A big part of that is handling a pitching staff and getting to know guys and understanding their capabilities, and trying to get them to perform to their potential as many times as they can. It's being on their side and being on their page and trying to make things work as smoothly as possible. I think that's a very underrated part of our game.
How do you do that?
You can control your thoughts and direct them instead of letting your emotions take over. Sometimes a pitcher may give up a broken bat hit or a walk on a close call. You can tell by their body language their emotions have taken over and bad things are on the way. Part of a catcher's job is to go to the mound and bring back his focus about executing this particular pitch. If you can get a guy to start thinking about this pitch, that takes the bad feeling out. It distracts him in a positive way into the focus he needs.
You also like photography. You play bass guitar. You have a lot of distractions.
I learned if all you ever do is think about the game, you're going to go crazy. I went pretty crazy when I was younger before I said I need something else to do. I would take the game home with me, and it would eat away at my stomach. It affected my performance. I just decided to lighten up. I'm a lot happier.
How did you pick up the bass?
One year in Triple A we had a really good guitar player on our team. We went over to the guitar center and I picked out a bass and a little amp and started learning. It's a diversion, but I do have a passion for music.
And the Dave Matthews Band, correct?
I like the message in a lot of their songs; live life because these are the 75 years you get, so make the most of them. The energy they have, there are not a lot of bands like them.
Maybe you could start your own band?
I'm looking for a regular guitar player. I'm sick of playing along with the iPod.