* Infielder Mark DeRosa, shown here on the set of the MLB Network with former Seattle Mariners infielder Harold Reynolds, has moved easily from the diamond to the TV studio. .... Sign up for CBN Newsletter
By Bob Elliott
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.–Lugging his own suit case, Mark DeRosa entered Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort for the 111th winter meetings.
It was his first for the former Blue Jay, who is now an MLB Network analyst.
“The disappointing thing about my year in Toronto was never realistically having a chance after the April and May,” said DeRosa. “We won 11 games straight to get over .500 and that jacked us all up. We would have had to do that two or three times to be relevant.”
Finishing seven games below .500 is not exactly what DeRosa and the Blue Jays had in mind when they got together in Dunedin last February.
“I didn’t know for sure we’d win–you never know how you’re going to do against the likes of the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox ... but when we looked around the field that first day: R.A. Dickey on the mound, what we had in our lineup ... we were confident.”
DeRosa was brought in as a free agent signing to provide backup infield help and also be a mature, calming influence on third baseman Brett Lawrie to watch.
“I’m a huge fan of Brett’s,” said DeRosa. “And I won’t allow this to be a fleeting thing. I’ll be watching, keeping an eye on him.
“He kept me young. He is so passionate. He’s all about the right things. He wants to win, he wants to work out, he wants to be great. I could not keep up with him.”
DeRosa turns 39 in February and was willing to return to the Jays, but not at the $750,000 US contract the Jays offered. So, when the MLB Network came calling after his successful debut with TBS and MLB Network during the post-season, he accepted the TV job.
He turns 39 on Feb. 26, but that did not stop his wife Heidi from planning a surprise birthday party last week in the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee, Ga.
“I played golf at East Lake (home course of Bobby Jones and the PGA Tour championship) in the afternoon with Jeff Francouer and my agent Lonnie Cooper,” DeRosa said. “My wife had told me we were going next door to her girlfriend’s surprise party. I turn the corner and the street is jammed with cars.”
DeRosa walked in and there was Francouer, who played last season with the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants, and Cooper.
Also yelling surprise were his former Atlanta Braves teammates Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Brian Jordan and Brian McCann.
There were 50 to 60 people there and DeRosa had zero idea of what was about to unfold. There were toasts. There was karaoke.
“There was a lot of Bon Jovi, Livin’ on a Prayer and Wanted Dead or Alive, said DeRosa, although his wife is partial to George Strait.
Maybe DeRosa, New Jersey born and bred, will be in the group with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and N.J. born Bon Jovi when they try to bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto?
Last week the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers of America Association named DeRosa winner of the John Cerutti award, given annually to the person who exemplifies the goodwill, co-operation and character displayed by the late John Cerutti, who died on the final day of the 2004 season.
“I didn’t know John, but I did some research on the award and I’m honoured,” said DeRosa. “John obviously impacted a lot of people in Toronto.
“And it’s fun to beat out some guys like Pat Hengten.”
What advice was DeRosa been given about his new profession?
“I’ve talked to some ex-players and they tell me ‘don’t let them coach you too much’,” said DeRosa.
During his briefing/grilling session on Monday, manager John Gibbons was asked about DeRosa.
“We’re going to miss him, I enjoyed having the guy around,” said Gibbons. “I was watching him on TV a while ago. He’s a rare guy, too.
He can do anything.
“He could be a GM or manager, take his pick of whatever he wants to do in this business.”
Gibbons said he bounced dugout subjects off DeRosa.
“I’d talk about strategies, different managers he played for, especially the successful ones, what they would do and things like that,” said Gibbons. “He was a sounding board on me as well. He did a tremendous job with Lawrie. Lawrie loved him. I’m sure he’ll miss him and his friendship.
“You can see why he’s on TV and Jerry Howarth‘s on the radio.”