Q & A with Ronnie Belliard
Second baseman answers fans' questions Thursday
WASHINGTON -- Ronnie Belliard is a World Series champion, but when kids asked Thursday to see his ring, he had to tell them some disappointing news.
"I still don't have it yet," he said. "They haven't sent me the ring yet."
Belliard spent the afternoon at ESPN Zone in Washington, fielding questions from fans and signing autographs. It was the third in a series of monthly guests, although this was the first time that a player was featured by himself.
A large percentage of the crowd was children, and they had plenty of questions for Belliard, who stayed on stage until everyone had the opportunity to ask one. Some of those questions were:
Question: You play back in the grass during games. Where did you develop your unique positioning style for second base?
Belliard: I first started when I was in Triple-A in 1998. I was playing third base, and a lot of hits got by me. So I moved back into the grass. When I came up, I was playing in Milwaukee, and they never let me play that way. Then I got to Cleveland, and they said, "Hey, do whatever you want. Just help us win ballgames." Now Felipe (Lopez) does that. When he makes plays in the grass he's always looking at me like, "You see what I did?"
Question: What's the difference between playing in the American League and the National League?
Belliard: In the National League, you have to face the pitcher. In the American League, you'll face a designated hitter who has 30-plus home runs. So in the NL, it's easier to walk the eighth hitter and try to get the ninth. That was one of the reasons I came to the NL, because you can pinch-hit and double-switch. In the AL, you don't get in as often to play. You're sitting on the bench watching the game.
Question: After spending all winter without a team, is there a redemption factor now that you are hitting so well?
Belliard: After I won the World Series, I thought, "Hey, I'm going to play for somebody." But then nobody called me. Then the Nationals called, and I thought, "Manny [Acta] is there, there are Dominican guys there; I'll come and help the team win games."
Question: You were part of a rebuilding team in Cleveland. Is it a similar situation here?
Belliard: It's almost exactly the same. We've got a young third baseman and he's going to be an All-Star for five, six, seven straight years. Felipe Lopez is a good player. Nick Johnson and Ryan Church are good. They're young, but they're going to develop and they're going to be good.
Question: What's it feel like to play with Dmitri Young?
Belliard: It feels good. He's an an All-Star, and I like to be around All-Star players. Something good comes when you're around a player like that. He's fun.
Question: How excited are you about the new stadium?
Belliard: It's going to be good. At RFK, for me, a little man, if you hit it hard, they're going to catch it. So I hope the next stadium is going to be a little smaller, so hopefully, I can get more home runs.
Question: Will you still be here next year?
Belliard: I want to stay. Only time will tell.
Question: When you go out onto the field, you write something in the dirt behind second base. What is that?
Belliard: I write "Jesus." That's what I write when I go over there.
Question: It is tough to play in a transient city like Washington, because you always have a lot of fans from the other side at the game?
Belliard: Yeah, sometimes when I'm at second base, like when we play the Mets, they'll cheer for the Mets. I don't want them in our stadium cheering for the Mets. They have their own stadium in New York. So I just go out there and try to beat them.
Question: When are you going to bring a World Series to Washington?
Belliard: It could be this year. It could be next year. You never know. They said we were going to be the worst team in the Major Leagues, but we've got Manny, and he has focused us to win. They said we weren't going to win 50 games, and look where we are now. I think all those positive things come from our manager, Manny Acta. He's a winner. He's going to do what it takes to win the ballgame, day in and day out.
Question: Why do you carry your batting gloves while you are on base?
Belliard: Some people put them in their pocket. But for me, when you slide towards a base, you want to keep your fingers closed so you don't injure something. It helps me keep a fist while I'm sliding.
Question: What's your favorite place to play?
Belliard: I like U.S. Cellular, in Chicago, the White Sox. Every time I go there, I hit a home run or get three hits. The Diamondbacks also have a nice stadium.
Question: Who's your favorite player?
Belliard: I used to be a shortstop, so it was Ozzie Smith. Then when I got to the Minors, it was Manny Ramirez.
Question: Where did you go to college?
Belliard: I actually went straight to the Major Leagues after going to high school in Miami. My mom wanted me to go to college, but I told her that this was my opportunity. I always wanted to play in the big leagues. Even when I was 3 or 4, I told my mom that at one point, I'm going to get to the Major Leagues. And I made it.
Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.