As the son of a former MLB player and manager, Victor grew up in and around baseball. By following his dad into the family business, albeit on the broadcasting side, he has spent his entire life in the game. After discussing all things Angels and the broadcast booth, I wanted to get his perspectives on the life lessons of baseball and Buttercup.
Here is how that conversation went:
Q: First off Victor, how is Cookie doing?
"Dad's doing well, thanks for asking. He's the toughest SOB I know. He's battled through prostate and lung cancer and still standing. Every test to date has been very positive and that's all you can hope for.
My parents make their home in South Florida and dad still gets involved with the game periodically. Scioscia's had him out to spring training and the Royals have him go out to Fantasy Camp each year and send him to Kansas City on occasion for personal appearances at the ballpark. He still loves the game and wants to be a part of it, especially in talking with young players. I joke that he's going to be pissed if he doesn't die on a baseball field, that's how much this game means to him."
Q: Has he taken advantage of the new travel rules and gone back to Cuba?
"He hasn't been in a couple of years. He visited a couple of times prior to the restrictions being lifted because his brother was still there and was very ill. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago, so dad hasn't been back since.
I've talked to him periodically about it and there's no real desire for him to return just yet. I know others have gone back, but because there's a Castro still ruling the island, I'm of the belief he won't visit his homeland again until he's gone and it's probably from where I derive my feelings on the subject. Personally, I won't go until Raul's gone and if/when I do go, I want it to be with my parents (hopefully that time will come before they're no longer with us).
They've indulged us over the years with their stories of what a beautiful island it used to be prior to the revolution and they've painted a perfect picture in my mind's eye, so it's difficult to see pictures/events occurring on the island today. Time has stood still in Cuba and to me, it's sad. It's an island/people that have never really experienced independence. Whether it was Spain, the United States or dictatorships, the people of Cuba have never truly been able to establish their own path without any interference and it's disheartening."
Q: Speaking of Cuba, where is the best Cuban food in OC outside of the Rojas kitchen?
"In Orange County there are two places: Felix's at the Orange Circle and Bella Cuba in Costa Mesa (across from South Coast Plaza). Both are very casual in atmosphere but serve some incredibly good food. Back in 1988 when Dad was managing the club, I spent the summer with him and we went to Felix's pretty much everyday for lunch. Bella Cuba just opened a couple of years ago but it's tremendous.
Q: You definitely grew up around the game. What life lessons do you think the game imparts?
"It's easy to say the basic stuff like teamwork, hard work, perseverance and they're all true cause all sports should, in some form, teach you those types of lessons. The game has given me the opportunity to see so many different things and interact with an incredible cross-section of our society, so for that , I'm grateful
Honestly, life lessons are learned at home and sports, school, and work are the places you eventually practice them. Most of mine came from my parents. They always taught us to be humble and to respect authority, among others. It's amazing how so many of the things they used to say to us as kids, we'd shrug off but are now being repeated to our own kids at home because we've come to know them as valuable lessons. The hope is it becomes cyclical and our kids take what we're teaching them and apply it to their way of life when they ultimately have children."
Q: And how do you feel parents can best incorporate baseball into their kids lives?
"From a pure fandom standpoint, baseball's one of the easiest sports to get kids hooked on early. It's pretty much every day for 6 months, it's on television and on-line wherever you go and for the most part, it's affordable to attend. So the possibilities of consuming the game are endless but it takes a parent(s) to open that door for the child.
I also believe you should get them involved at an early. It's a sport that truly begins for kids at a remedial stage with tee ball, giving kids the chance to get to know the game and interact in a team setting. My son's 11 now and he's still learning the nuances of the game, so it's not something you feel overwhelmed with if you're just starting out.
I'm also of the belief that it shouldn't just be limited to baseball or any singular sport. Let kids explore with every sport or interest they have especially at an early age. Let them find out for themselves what it is they truly love, sports or otherwise. It is that exploration that allows them to grow in a number of different ways.
The worst is when parents are living vicariously through the children, especially at an early age, and raise the expectations to unrealistic levels. It's the perfect way to turn off a kid from whatever sport they're participating in but also creates friction. In addition, there's a lack of honesty, I believe, when parents talk with their kids about their actual abilities. Don't build them up so much that it becomes a burden. Every parent thinks their kid's the best but the unfortunate reality is they're probably not and that's a difficult pill to swallow. Stay positive and encourage instead of constantly focusing on the negative and they should be good to go."
Q: You write an awesome blog. Any thoughts of writing a full book some day?
"Very kind of you to say. I know I've gone back and forth over the years of keeping up with the blog but this year I decided to commit to it and see where it takes me.
On the book front, I'm currently in the process of writing down ideas for a couple of them. I enjoy putting my thoughts down on paper and think it'd be fun to see if I can see it through to the finish line. One of the ideas is about the inner-workings of this business...the good, the bad and the awful. The other idea would be a piece of fiction and I still have a long way to go in flushing the storyline out."
Q: And now for the most pressing question in Halos Heaven land: As you know the Angels "treat" their fans to a song about being let down every 7th inning stretch. Do you have any sway to end the terrible reign of "Buttercup" and which song(s) would you pick to replace it?
"I have zero say in my own personal life, let alone whether or not Buttercup stays as the 7th inning song. After so many years of hearing it plus having it played during the game, I've learned to drown out a lot of things because we have so many other things going on with headsets on.
If I could pick one to replace it if, of course, I were ever asked...how about 'Shout" by the Isley Brothers. I really have no idea what would classify as a 'good' song for the stretch but I know we've heard songs like "Friends In Low Places", "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and "YMCA" to name a few around baseball. This answer is way longer and more detailed than I could've ever imagined."
Thank you Victor. I greatly appreciate your time.
So there we have it. A baseball lifer's thoughts on baseball, broadcasting, and Buttercup. I can't help but admit I've become an even bigger fan of Victor over this time and sincerely hope he'll take me up on my offer to buy lunch, particularly at the spots he named above.
I hope you've enjoyed the series, and hopefully I can bring you another interview with him in the future.