Billy speaks to the Ferrum Baseball team (more pictures below)
Astros' Relief/ Ferrum Alum Returns to See Naff , Get a Workout
Ferrum College senior catcher Brian Strong took over 50 pitches off Houston Astros' Billy Wagner during practice on Friday, January 26.
Wagner, one of the top closers
in the National League, was business as usual on the off-season visit
to his college turf, giving Strong a taste of The Show. Several friends
of Wagner and most of the team watched the grueling session inside Ferrum's
new indoor bullpen. Wagner also ran two miles and numerous sprints before
giving the team a motivational speech and answering questions from Coach
Abe Naff's players.
Wagner also pushed the student-athletes to study hard. "You can't give more to baseball than you give to your classes. You want people to say that you're a good person and good student, not just a good baseball player," Wagner told them.
Mark McGuire's name came up in the Q&A session. Someone wanted to know what Wagner felt when McGuire launched a 485-foot home run over his head. "I never had turned around to look at a home-run before, but I turned to see that one go over. They told me it was 485 feet, but it looked every bit of 500," Wagner responded with a grin.
Wagner reflected on his 1999 All-Star nod. "I saw my first pro game in Boston and then got to go back and play as an All-Star, that was very special. When we got back to the hotel there was a reception for the present and past All-Stars and Frank Robinson held my son. That's been the best moment of my career."
Overall, Wagner seems to be doing well and feeling good about his return to Houston in February. He and wife, Sara, live with their sons, Will and Jeremy, near Charlottesville, Va. in the winter, then all travel to Houston for the season. "It's nice to get back to Ferrum and see the people and the changes. This is the first time I've seen the new scoreboard, the indoor bullpen, and the stadium. It's great to see the new facilities, I wish we'd had them when I was here."
Other quotes from Wagner during the speech:
"Your baseball career starts here at Ferrum. Without focus and commitment here, you'll never make it to the pros. There are days that you don't feel like practicing and giving 100 percent but you have to because you never know who's here watching and looking at you as a potential pro player."
"I'd rather be respected as a person than as a baseball player. You gain respect with your character and character is how you act when Coach Naff isn't looking. I know you guys want to go out and have fun but you have to put limits on that and stay focused on every practice and every game."
"When you play here for Coach Naff, you are a part of the bigger team of guys who've played here before and those who will be here after. You have to have pride in that and pride in yourself."
"I'm right handed but pitch left-handed.
When I was a kid, I broke my right arm twice. While it was broken I
still wanted to pitch so I just started using my left hand and it stuck."
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