A little back story on this one. I was recently approached about doing an interview with former Angel Adam Riggs by a representative for his Angels themed podcast. I accepted the offer not really knowing much about Riggs or how the interview would go.
What I discovered is that on top of being a great storyteller and fun guy, Adam has a pretty unique perspective on Mike Scioscia, his coaching staff, and key players that led to the Angels greatest sustained run of success. An interview I approached with a handful of questions turned into a conversation that lasted over 20 minutes and was really enjoyable.
Here’s a transcript of that call. I hope you enjoy it as well.
Adam, how are you doing today?
“I’m doing well, Jeff. Thanks for having me.”
Your agent reached out to me and told me you are doing a podcast based on the Angels. Can you tell me a little about that?
“Well, its called ‘Bleav in Angels’ and its on the Bleav Network. I have a co-host named Matt Gallant and we like to discuss all things Angels.
I also want to kind of do some interviews with some older players, see where they’re at. I just did an interview with Phil Garner, and I know he wasn’t an Angel, but he was Ausmus’s manager. He’s a good friend of mine so I wanted to get him interviewed and just see what he’s up to lately.
I’m going to do Ron Roenicke this week in New York. Mike Scioscia’s going to do an interview. I’m trying to get some older players like maybe Tim Salmon, people like that.
We just want to discuss the Angels but also reach back out to some guys that have been retired for a while, see what they’re up to, and see what they think about this current Angels team.”
Cool deal. You came into the team as they were defending a World Championship. What was Spring Training like with a World Series champion club. Did it feel any different?
“Oh yeah, it was an amazing team. When I got into that clubhouse, I’d never seen clubhouse leadership as strong as it was on that club.
I had played for Scioscia back when he was the manager in AAA with the Dodgers. I’d played for him in the Fall League. I actually gave him a call and said ‘hey, I’d like to play for you again’ and he actually got me a job with the Angels.
And so, when I walked in there we had guys like Tim Salmon and Erstad and GA and Eckstein and Spezio. Those guys...I just remember I was so impressed by the unity that those guys had. We would have players only meetings in Spring Training, which I had never seen before.
And I wasn’t, well I went to a ton of big league Spring Trainings. I didn’t have a ton of big league time but you could tell the difference. They sat us down and said ‘look, guys, on this team we get bunts down, we hit and run, we go first to third. This is our philosophy. This is how we play baseball here.’ And it came down from Scioscia but it was governed by the players.
And to be honest with you, it was amazing and I loved it. So those guys are all special, special guys who weren’t in it just for their numbers and their next contract. Those guys were together and they cared about winning and they cared about playing the game right.”
You bring up an interesting point. You are one of the few guys to play for Mike when he was a manager in the minors and when he was managing in the Major League. Did you notice any changes in Mike from one stint to the other?
“Never. You know the guy was principled and he doesn’t change. He treated me the same....you know sometimes in the minor leagues I was one of the better players and some people will treat guys who are better players differently because they help the team. And then when I was with the Angels I was one of the guys fighting for the 25th spot.
But Mike always, always treated me not by what I did on the field but who I was as a person and how I interacted with him. And that was something special about Mike. Mike would treat the bat boy the same way he’d treat GA. And you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat a person who can do nothing for them. So Scioscia was first and foremost a great, great man but he was also a great manager.
I love that guy and he did a lot for me in my career.”
The first year I went to Spring Training I did a barbecue with Scoscia, Hatcher, and a couple of guys fighting for that 25th spot. I know a lot of guys show up to those things looking to take a couple of pictures and get out of there as quickly as possible.
“Yeah, check the box.”
But Mike hung out, shook hands, had a beverage with me and my dad. He was a very genuine guy.
“Yeah. And that’s another great guy, right? Mickey Hatcher, my gosh, they broke the mold when they made that guy. That dude was amazing. He was actually the hitting coach in AAA under Sosh and I had known him for years.
Ron Roenicke as well. I had him as a manager my first year with the Dodgers in Great Falls and my second year in San Bernardino where we won the A ball, the California League championship. But he’s the same way.
When I started this podcast those were the first two guys I reached out to and I said ‘look, I’d like to do an interview with you’ and they texted back within an hour like ‘oh yeah, sure. Any time.’
That just says a lot about them and who they are as people. And I truly believe that if I did not have those guys in my life when I came through the Dodgers system I certainly would not have been playing very long.”
That’s great to hear. I tend to believe that coaching staff: Roenicke, Black, Maddon, Scioscia will eventually be looked at as one of the great coaching staffs of all time. I think had it happened on the East Coast is already would be.
“No doubt, no doubt.”
That’s a lot of success between those guys.
“Oh yeah. Its amazing. You know what, Scioscia’s had a lot of guys that he’s interacted with. He’s almost like the Mike Holmgren of baseball.
So he’s just a special guy. He’s a teacher. He has the philosophy that he believes in. That guy’s just a wealth of knowledge.”
You mentioned that you were often one of the better guys in the minor leagues and a quick look at Baseball Reference clearly shows that. Lots of impressive numbers. You also played in the absolute peak of the steroid era. Do you think maybe you were one of the guys who spent more time in AAA than you should have because other guys were doing something a little funny to pass you up?
“No, I don’t think so. I think what happened with me was I [exhales]. I got injured. I was a top prospect and I got injured as I was coming through. And the Dodgers were a team that didn’t call many guys up. Usually when they started a rookie, he won Rookie of the Year. They had five straight.
And I had a guy named Wilton Guerrero, Vladdy’s brother, ahead of me. So there wasn’t a big window for me to get up there in the big leagues.
So I think if back in the day I was with maybe the Expos or a smaller market team, I would have had the opportunity.
What ended up happening to me was I got injured, I tore a labrum in my shoulder. I was having a great year that year in Albuquerque. And then from there, I came back, and they had sold the Dodgers to a different group. And they brought Kevin Towers in and all these guys from the Expo organization, and when they brought them in I was just coming back from my injury and I wasn’t as strong and I didn’t have that great of a year.
I think I hit like .280 something and in Albuquerque that’s not very good, it’s like an airport there. And so I just didn’t have a very good season there and they ended up kicking me off the roster.
And its like a business, its the same way. If you bring in an all new management group, they’re going to change out everybody. And the following year they actually platooned me at third base.
From there, once you lose that and you start getting older it becomes very, very difficult to break in and get some time to where they say ‘look, play for a month. We don’t care what you do. You’re going to take your knocks but it’s OK.’ The problem was once I got called up to the Dodgers for a little bit we were always in the race so if I made a mistake it was like life or death.
And when I got older and got called up, I knew I was there to do a job. They don’t give you much leeway. So you play with a ton of pressure, and when you play with that pressure it is very difficult.”
I’ve often wondered how much comes down to when you were drafted, whose ahead of you, things that maybe you can’t really control.
“Look at Paul Konerko. I played with him with the Dodgers as well. He was the same way as me. He went up with the Dodgers and struggled a little bit, then got sent down, then traded to the Reds then traded to the White Sox.
And the White Sox were like ‘just go play’ and they gave him the time. He was a lot younger than me, but they gave him the time and they gave him the freedom to make some mistakes and get sent out there again.
And I think that’s the key. Once you feel comfortable enough to stop thinking about results, it frees you up and you can play.
Some guys can do that on their own and other guys need the opportunity and I guess I was just one of those other guys. I kind of needed the opportunity and put too much pressure on myself.”
Well you had a really good year in 2003, especially for the role that you played. I don’t know how big of a stat guy you are, but your On Base plus Slugging showed you were 19% better than the average MLB hitter that year.
“Oh really? That’s cool.”
Yeah you were.
“That’s awesome. Thanks for letting me know that.”
What was your favorite minor league ballpark that you played in?
“Probably Memphis. It was pretty nice.”
Favorite Major League ballpark that you played in?
“Have to go with Dodger Stadium but I hit the best in Comiskey, so I’ll go with Comiskey.”
The old Comiskey before they built the new one?
“I don’t know if it was the old Comiskey, but the White Sox stadium. I don’t know which one I played in but I hit 2 of my 3 career home runs there so that’s my park [chuckles[.”
What year was it?
You know what, it was the new one. I had to take a look.
And the number one question that we ask everybody. Which is better, In N Out Burger or Five Guys with Fries?
“Oh my goodness. [Pause]. In N Out. I’ll go In N Out.”
You spent your career on the West Coast, so you know your audience.
I think I can let you go, Adam, this has been fun. I haven’t talked to somebody who played for Scioscia in both the minor and major leagues.
“Oh yeah. That dude was like my baseball dad. Funny story is when I went over to Detroit, got released, went down to Mexico to play then ended up in Memphis with Cardinals and got released.
I couldn’t get a job. I mean, I couldn’t get a job anywhere. And so I called up Mike and said ‘Mike, I need a job can you help me out’ and he said ‘sure, man, I got you.’ That was the end of 2002 going into 2003.
The next day my agent called me and he said ‘hey, you’ve got a job with the Angels and you’re going to big league camp.’ I couldn’t even get a job to minor league camp. So, he extended my career by six years. I ended up playing two there and four in Japan.”
And what is Japan like, as an experience?
“It’s incredible. Being a player there is really, really cool. They love baseball. The fans are great, they never boo you.
Its a great place to live. It’s like New York City without crime. And I loved it.
We used to sit...me and my buddies used to go out and we would sit and laugh with each other and be like ‘man, if more guys knew what it was like out here we might not have jobs right now.’
That is great. And a perfect way to let you get back to your day. Thank you Adam, I appreciate your time.