Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Interview: Former MLBer Andrew Lorraine

The story of Andrew Lorraine is a really story of the successful journeyman of Major League Baseball. Raising star who made it to the Big Leagues quickly. But like many Major Leaguers its hard to find a perfect fit. Many fizzle out or cannot overcome the adversity. Lorraine was not that guy. While he played all over the league and World, teams continued to find value in his services. Longevity was the strength of his career. Truth be told, teams are still finding value in him now as coach and scout. Lorraine was part of the mastermind of Team Israel. And we were lucky to get to spend some time talking to Lorraine and hear about his journey and where he is today.



1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself?

I have been in professional baseball now for upwards for 25 years. I played college baseball at Standford University for three years. I was drafted by the Angels. I made a quick ascension to the big leagues as a prospect and then kind of putted out a few times and bounced around a lot, most of my career. I ended up playing for eight Major League teams. And basically bouncing around the Minor Leagues most of my career, AAA with 14 organizations. Played multiple years in Latin America, winter ball in Venezuela mostly, over 10 times in Venezuela, several times on Puerto Rico, Dominican and Mexico as well. I went overseas and played in Italy and Taiwan. I was a player coach in Italy and then I took over as a coach in the collegiate summer league in the Hamptons in New York, in its first year in 2009 for the South Hampton Breakers. Got some coaching experience there.

When I was done playing I took a job with the Mariners as a pitching coach, worked  seven years with the Mariners in the Minor Leagues, basically all levels up to Double-A. Last year in Jackson I was the Double-A pitching coach and we won championship. And in the meantime got working with Team Israel first in 2012 with Brad Ausmus, was his pitching coach and we didn't make the qualifier in the World Baseball Classic we got eliminated by Spain. And came back on the team in 2016 with Jerry Weinstein and we qualified in Brooklyn and made it to the World Baseball Classic and I was the pitching coach for that club in Korea and Japan. We ended up winning the first region in Korea and finishing in third place, as the last team eliminated in Japan. It was a wonderful experience. In the meantime last fall between the qualifier and the start of the season I was hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a professional scout so right now I work as a pro scout for the Pirates covering Pacific Coast League and the Mariners and the Rangers.

2) How did you first get started with baseball?
My parents enrolled me in TBall as a kid and park and rec softball. I began hardball at 11. My parents were a little afraid of the hardball because when I was younger I got hit in the head in a pickup baseball game with some friends, smacked by a line drive and fractured a bone in my face when I was 9. My parents were always worried about me. I began playing in Pony League in Valencia California. Played different levels based on age. I was a late bloomer actually and didn't pitch much. I didn't end up getting on the mound as a left handed pitcher until my last year in Bronco League, eventually moving to the Junior Varsity at Heart High School as a Sophomore and then Junior year on the Varsity. I had a pretty good Senior Year and started getting recruited by Division 1 schools and was drafted  by the New York Mets but ended up going to Stanford, played three years at Standford and eventually drafted by the Angels as a Junior. Then went back to school to finish up my degree.

3) Many times a middle relief pitcher can bounce around the league; what was the most difficult part of that experience and how did you make the best of it?
I did a lot of starting early in my career. I ended up being a jack of all trades, able to pitch as a veteran swing man later in my career. The good thing about my career was that I was very durable. I was able to pitch without injury. I had a few minor injures (neck and back), never had an arm issue. I was able to take the role and roll with it. I think there were times it was difficult because of moving around a lot. I got to the Bigs quickly as a 21-year old kid and I thought I was going to be there forever. I wasn't ready for the bounce around, up and down. Looking at things now from a scouting perspective its easy to see why I had the career I had but I obviously didn't see it from that perspective at the time, I felt that I just had to work harder. I made a lot out of my career but at the same time I didn't pitch as well as I would have liked to to stick with one club and landed a good contract.  For me it was knowing there was always an opportunity somewhere, I just had that knowledge I could add value to a team and as a teammate. It was a challenge, and one has to grind it out and wait for an opportunity to apply your trade. The big leagues were always the goal.


4) Who was your favorite manager to play for? Who was the toughest hitter you faced?
Hard because you usually equate your favorite to how you perform. I didn't have fond memories of playing in Oakland because I didn't pitch well there. But honestly it wasn't bad at all there. By the same token I loved Chicago because that's where I pitched my best baseball for the Cubs. I had some cool managers. Terry Kennedy was my AAA manager in Iowa with the Cubs and Jim Riggleman the manager with the Cubs in '99. I was lucky to have Buck Rodgers my first spring training, Marcel Lachemann and Art Howe, Lou Piniella with the Mariners, some were cool people. Charlie Manuel was in Philadelphia while I was there and Davey Lopes.

As far as players, for me the toughest guys were right handers. Barry Bonds comes to mind. The right handed hitters who had power who could eliminate pitches on me and drive the ball the other way. Jeff Kent stands out as a really tough out. Gary Sheffield. And other guys in AAA because I was a soft throwing left-hander so if I left a ball over the plate they could drive the ball. Bond was maybe the best guy I ever played baseball with all things aside. He could be the greatest player of all-time. He was the only guy I could think about that we all said "Barry is coming up soon."


5) How did you get to coach for Team Israel and what was that experience like?
Got involved with Peter Kurz the President of IAB and then Brad called me and got involved that year and then stayed with the team four years later. The experience was incredible. I can't even describe it. Seeing the kids and how tight-knit they were. It began with the club being close in Jupiter in 2012, it was such a let down. And to see them come back and the leadership they took. I thought it would be tougher to bond them together again, but they are even closer. As far as representing Israel with Israel across my chest that was a dream for me as a kid, I felt tremendous pride. There was nothing like that when I was playing. I could imagine how those kids feel to be on the field. Great feedback from people all over the world. Japanese fans wearing Israel stuff. Great people, selfless, we want to get Israel back in the WBC in four years. We are really proud of what we accomplished.

6) Can Team Israel, with maybe the help from Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Alex Bregman, etc compete for the championship in 2021?
If we had all of the Jewish ballplayers that identified as Jewish we'd have a much better club but I think we were proud to have the guys we had who wanted to play for us. We want the guys to want to play for us. I'd love to have all those guys on our club. I do believe if we have Joc, Kevin Pillar, Braun, Bregman, and Scott Feldman those are great ball players. Do they want to play for Team Israel? I don't know. We'd be a tough club. We could give it a good run. It will be tough to beat what we did but on paper a much better chance.

Big thank you to Andrew. A real mensch on the bench! Looking forward to Team Israel 3.0.

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