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February 01, 1993 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-02-01

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The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - February 1, 19


The former Tiger discu


his religion,

salary structures, and the National League

Frank Tanana, a mainstay on the
Detroit Tigers' starting pitching staff
from 1985 to 1992, signed with the
New York Mets earlier this winter as
a free-agent. The Detroit native be-
gan his career as a fireballing Cali-
fornia Angel, blew out his arm and
became a crafty pitcher relying on
his change-up and curve. Tanana is
best remembered by Tigers fans for
his 1-0 shutout of the Toronto Blue
Jays to clinch the American League
East in 1987 on the final day. De-
spite never winning twenty games in
a season, Tanana has more than 200
career victories. Entering his twenty-
first major league season, the thirty
nine year old left-hander is a model
ofperseverance. Daily Sports Writer
Tim Spolar spoke to Tanana after
his recent Intervarsity Christian Fel-
lowship appearance.
Daily: As a career American
Leaguer, what are you looking for-
ward to in the N.L. with the New
York Mets?
Tanana: I think the obvious one
and the one that I'm really excited
about is the opportunity to bat. I
haven't had a chance to hit in the
American League, of course, with
the designated hitter. So now, base-
ball's going to be played like it's
supposed to be played and I'll get to
D: So you're a 'traditionalist'?
T: Yeah, it's a lot of fun to be
able to hit during the games.
D: Have you been taking batting
T: I've been working out a little
bit, trying to get back whatever skill
I had in the game. So I'm looking
forward to that, and meeting all new
people and pitching in new ballparks
and seeing new cities, so I'm really
excited about it.
D: You're known as a 'crafty'
pitcher. Are you planning on using
any of the distractions at Shea? It's
known for the airplanes and the rest.
How is that going to fit into the
Frank Tanana repertoire?
T: Yeah, I can only hope that
the timing is right and that maybe
when I throw that slow blooper ball
of mine that maybe a plane overhead
will distract them.
D: You are very well known for
openly discussing your faith. Could
you comment on where your faith
has brought you from and where it's
taking you in your everyday life?
T: Well, you know, I've had a
lot of ups and downs. I would have
to say that without Christ, without
Jesus in my life, I had ... I was very
close to ruining a career, to really ru-
ining my life. I was an alcoholic. I
was involved in drugs. I was in-
volved in pornography, sex, lust,
you name it.
I almost ruined my career, in fact,
hurt my arm back in 1977 because
of the simple reason that you live
like that and there are consequences
that you're going to pay. And I re-
ally tried to kill myself with that
stuff, and (almost) ruined my career.
But I came to my senses, God
graciously showed me, people prayed
for me. I was able to ... God made
me aware of my need for a Savior,
that there was something missing in
my life, that I had all the wealth and
I had all the fame and the glory, and
yet I was still empty inside in my
life. I was a lonely guy, and I had
So, I was just so thankful to God
that in 1983, after about five years
of really searching and looking, I

came to the realization that what I
needed was a Savior and I needed Je-
sus Christ in my life. So I trusted
Him and committed my life to Him
in 1983.
D: How does Christianity affect
you on the mound? There's often a
public misconception about a
'passiveness' that there is about
Christians and I guess a lot of peo-

ple would sit there and see that as
maybe a roadblock to the 'killer spir-
it' that you would need to be a
pitcher. How does that work out for
T: Well, it's a competitive game
and, you know, the Bible - God's
Word - tells me that I'm to do every-
thing that I do to the best of my
ability, and to do it in an excellent
manner, and to give it my very best,
and to strive to win. It never says
anything about passivity or being
less competitive or trying not to
win. There's nothing like that in the
Bible, so it is a misconception. It's
sad to say, but (the stereotype is)
something many times some Chris-
tians portray, to what I feel is the

excited when somebody says "I love
I'd love to hear when he talks
about God, talk about Jesus, because
there are many gods out there that
people are serving, but there's only
one true God, and that's Christ.
D: Let's get back to baseball a
little bit. What is your opinion of
free agency, especially with the ap-
parent decline in fan interest? There's
just sort of an undercurrent of people
resenting the fact that - I know a lot
of other sports are highly paid too,
but baseball is the one that gets con-
stantly attacked for the players being
greedy. What kind of effect do you
think that has on the game? Obvi-
ously, you guys have a realistic ar-

But it is, so you've just kind of
got to deal with it. You know, the
player, it's not his fault what he's
D: If the salary trend keeps go-
ing, obviously there will be a prob-.
lem somewhere down the road with
the economics of it all. Do you fore-
see that ever coming to a head, as
where there might be a problem?
T: I think with the economics of
it, and the simple supply and de-
mand, I think the market will just
take care of itself.
D: Salaries are just going to top
T: Well, I don't know. I do
know this much, that when the
owners stop making money, there
will be a change. The problem is,
see, that the owners in the past have
proven that they're not trustworthy.
And because of, you know, even
with the collusion that they were
proved against, it's very hard to take
their word.
You know players are the last
people that want to hurt the game. I
mean we don't want to do anything
that's going to jeopardize anything
for us (with our livelihood). So, I
think we're just going to have to
wait and see on that, how the eco-
nomics go.
D: Do you think that there's a
possibility somewhere down the road
of having a salary cap like the NBA
does, where the players on each team
get a certain percentage of the team's
overall income, and the team can't
go throwing (around money) if
they're already in financial trouble?
T: Perhaps, perhaps. I don't
know how that's going to work it-
self out, but there'll be a few things
talked about and bandied about.
We've got a major negotiation com-
ing up soon. I think the agreement
expires at the end of this year. I
know that they're talking right now,
but probably the major talks will be
next year.
D: What (negative) effect do you
think the materialism that's associ-
ated with professional athletics has
on the kids?
T: Well, I really don't know if
there are any negatives, to tell you
the truth. I think that athletics are
wonderful, I think they teach people
an awful lot: sportsmanship and dis-
cipline and, you know ...
D: I saw a survey of a lot of
(Detroit) public schools that asked
PSL athletes about their expecta-
tions of whether they could go pro
or not. And I think the statistics are
something like .2 percent of all high
school athletes make it as a pro.
T: Uh huh. Oh, no question the
odds are against you.
D: And yet 40 percent of the
kids said "I plan on becoming a pro-
fessional athlete."
T: That's the dreams of youth
though. You know, it's not realistic,
the numbers speak for themselves
and (the numbers are) not wrong.
Very few people will make it, but
there's certainly nothing wrong with
trying or having that dream. It
would be nice if they had some mod-
els and some teachers and somebody
to influence them to realize the value
of an education. You know, of de-
veloping other skills in the event,
the likely event, that the pro career
doesn't happen.

John Niyo
Blame It On Niyo
The recruiting game
has very few winners
Tavian Banks certainly isn't the first kid ever to get a lot of fan mail.
Neither is Randy Kinder.
It is commonplace these days, really, with big-time college athletics
providing such a huge windfall for schools. The scenarios vary.
For some top athletes - for those whose talents surface later - the
letters don't start coming until they are juniors, or even seniors, in high
school. But for others, like Banks and Kinder - two of the top high
school running backs in the country last fall - childhood ends much
sooner. Kids like them dominate their peers athletically in seventh and
eighth grade, and, before they've even set foot in a high school
classroom, the college recruiters are after them night and day.
Damon Bailey, Indiana's "underachieving" point guard and the most
famous Hoosier prep since Larry Bird, had Bobby Knight sitting in the
stands to watch him play as an eighth-grader. 'That kid,' Knight told
people then, 'could play for my team now.' And Bailey was doomed
forever by impossible expectations.
Chris Webber, Michigan's prized basketball recruit two years ago,
faced the same problems. He and his father quit answering the phone -
it was constantly ringing - and opened the mail only if they wanted a
good chuckle now and then.
When recruiters found out that Webber was a deeply religious young
man, for instance, they wrote letters telling him they, too, were deeply
religious. How sincere, Chris thought, and he promptly tossed the notes
in the garbage and scratched the schools off his list.
He finally chose Michigan, he said, for a variety of reasons. One,
certainly, was the other Wolverine recruits. Another was the sincerity of
the coaching staff throughout the ordeal. And then there were the high
academic standards at Michigan.
But critics, and those from schools he turned away, didn't (and still
don't) believe any of that.
Tavian Banks can empathize. He is another smart young man who is
also a very good athlete.
The latter we know because Banks rushed for 4,292 yards and 74
touchdowns and led his Bettendorf (Iowa) team to large-class state
football titles in his junior and senior seasons. He runs 40 yards in 4.3
seconds. An all-state soccer player, he will play in the Olympic festival
this spring. He says he has an outside shot at making the Olympic team.
As for the former, it can be measured in several ways.
He is an honor roll student, and he and his mother told recruiters that
school, to them, was more important than football. They wanted to get
that straight. Tavian's mom, Merrikay, reportedly told recruiters that she
"didn't care if Tavian never scores a touchdown."
He will, undoubtedly, and when he does, fans clad in black and gold
will cheer. Banks chose to attend the University of Iowa last week,
turning down Miami (Fla.), Washington and Nebraska. Actually, he
says, he was recruited by about 40 schools - those were just the top
four. It came down to Iowa and Washington in the end, he said.
Banks didn't go to Miami, he told reporters, because, "I'm not that
arrogant." And he said he chose Iowa over Washington for scholastic
reasons. He cited the university's masters program in physical therapy as
a major factor in his final decision. A smart, well-thought-out decision, it
would seem.
But the folks at Washington are saying now that Iowa got Banks
because the Hawkeye recruiters bad-mouthed the Husky program, which
is under investigation by the NCAA.
Kinder, the top prospect from East Lansing, hasn't made his decision
official yet. He says it is between five schools. Michigan, Michigan
State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Boston College are still on his list. He,
too, is a good student. Like Banks, he says academics are maybe the
most important factor for him.
He has scheduled a press conference for today at 3 p.m. to announce
his choice. One school will rejoice. The rest will turn on him. They will
draw a line through his name in their notepads.
And then they will pick up the phone and began hounding another
young man blessed with great athletic talent.

Frank Tanana, seen here pitching for his old team, the Detroit Tigers, has
found a new home in New York. The lefty was signed as a free agent by the
Mets last fall.

detriment of Christianity and the
name of Christ.
He wants Frank Tanana to be the
very best and I'm not out to - you
said a 'killer spirit' - you know I
don't have a 'killer spirit,' but I've
got a ...
D: No Eckersley six-guns fol-
lowing a strikeout?
T: Nooo, I'm not going to show
anybody up, I'm going to do my
very best, and, you know, pitch to
the best of my ability and try to
D: What do you think about ath-
letes who kneel in prayer after scor-
ing a touchdown, or sit there and
when they get on camera say "Oh,
first and foremost I have to thank
God" and that's it - there's nothing
else in these athletes' lives, they just
make this one little statement? I'm
talking about guys whom you don't
see any fruit of the Spirit anywhere
else in their lives. What do you
think about that and how do you
think that affects the spread of the
T: Yeah, you know, it is cer-
tainly something that needs to over-
flow from a genuine commitment
and anything done for show, cer-
tainly it's the wrong motive. You
know, on the other hand, we have to
be careful to avoid judging them.
God knows their heart and we have
to be very careful about doing that.
You would just hope that their
actions are certainly in ... you don't
really know what a person's think-
ing or doing while they're doing
that, even somebody who says, you
know, "I want to praise God" or
"Thank God." Well, as a Christian,
as one who loves Jesus, I get very

gument, a very good argument in the
fact that these guys are willing to
give you the money.
T: Right, right, right ...
D: It's not your fault for taking
it. But, the average person looks at
that, regardless, and says "these guys
are greedy, they're just out for
money." What kind of impact does
that have on the game?
T: Well, hopefully that's not
one (sentiment) that will become too
widespread. You know, fan interest
and fan support remains very high in
the game of baseball. Practically ev-
ery year baseball sets new attendance
records. So people are coming out.
What you really hope is that cer-
tainly guys that make that kind of
money give back to the community,
make themselves involved in the
community, try to do something, try
to not over flaunt their wealth,
which very few of them actually do.
You know, the sad thing is that
much of it is reported when ...
D: Right, when somebody does
something bad, it gets in the paper.
T: Yeah, well, publicity as far as
even what a guy's making. You
know, it'd be nice if that wasn't
even brought into the picture.


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