Q&A: Bill Mueller

Updated: January 15, 2004, 12:42 PM ET
ESPN.com

The Red Sox winter caravan, on a six-day, six-state run through New England, made a stop at the Worldwide Leader in Sports (Bristol, Conn.) on Wednesday, Jan. 14. Bill Mueller, the 2003 AL batting champion, Kevin "Cowboy Up" Millar and Wally The Green Monster made the trip.

Bill kindly took a few minutes out of his hectic day to answer your questions.

Your individual statistics last year were remarkable. Do you feel pressured to come in next season and duplicate those numbers? And if so, how are you preparing to approach the upcoming season?

I approach every season the same in regards of my own personal goal – that is to be a part of a championship team that wins the World Series. I'm not after any type of award or title other than to be a part of a unit that won that World Series ring. I think every guy in the big leagues would hit less to win a World Series ring than to hit better and not. So my ultimate goal is to win the World Series.

You were six outs from the World Series. You had 5-2 lead. What's it like being at Yankee Stadium with a raucous crowd, the game tied at 5 in the eighth and Pedro walking off the mound knowing nothing went right that inning?

Well, that means that everything right could happen next inning. You just stay positive. It's not over; it's tied. You play it out. We have every chance to hit a home run just like they have. Being at Yankee Stadium is such a great thrill and being able to be in that excitement in that position is awesome. And win or lose, it's a great experience and you wouldn't trade it in for anything.

Every time you get up to bat you look like you're going to "slap" the ball a la Johnny Damon. What's surprising is that you don't often slap the ball, but instead hit it pretty hard. How did you develop that kind of swing from both sides of the plate?

I have to give a lot of credit to Jeff Pentland, who was the hitting coach in Chicago (Cubs) when I was there. And because of the injury I had to my knee cap, and the atrophy I had to my thigh and hamstring and glute, it was hard to implement the mechanics he was teaching. I really enjoyed listening to him and working with him. I think his philosophy and his style has helped me improve as a baseball player, as a hitter.

How did you hurt your knee?

I hurt my knee sliding into an advertising sign on Mother's Day of 2001 at Busch Stadium. I had surgery that year, missed probably five months of baseball, came back in spring training and had the 'scope again because I came back too soon. I played the last month of the season, which I shouldn't have. … Out of those two years I missed six months of baseball, which is almost a whole year.

I have been putting a lot of effort into becoming a more strong and accurate thrower from third base, and was wondering if there were any exercises that you would recommend to accomplish those achievements other then long toss.

 Bill Mueller
Mueller makes difficult plays at third base look routine.

Basically, you can do the Jobe exercises to maintain strength and build your rotator cuff. … With accuracy, it's just a matter of going out – it's like shooting baskets. You just keep shooting. There's probably tapes or videos to make sure that you have the proper technique of throwing – and it all starts with your feet. So make sure that you're using the proper mechanics to throw and you know, obviously, it's like anything else, you just to continue to throw over to that first baseman. … Practice all different types of throws, fielding balls to your right and your left, going forward and back, and just continue to get repetition.

Have you ever tried to hit Wakefield's knuckler in BP? Is it as bad as it looks?

You know, he doesn't pitch to his own team, thank goodness. So, no, I haven't. I faced a couple knuckleballers in my time, and I think the very first one I ever faced was (Tom) Candiotti. And that was a thrill because he was such a great pitcher.

Who are you rooting for to win the Superbowl?

My Rams are out. I was born and raised in St. Louis, so now that they're out I think that I have to root for the Patriots because my wife's family knows the Brady family. So there's a little bit of a connection there.

How old were you when you started hitting from the opposite side of the plate, and do you have any advice for my son who just started?

I started about the fifth grade and it took me about a year before I went into a baseball game. Don't take the statistics part and rely on that. I think you have to look at how you handle yourself through the bad times, because there's just gonna be times when you struggle at the beginning. So I would say always stay positive, worry about your strike zone making your sure you're hitting strikes, be patient with it – it takes some time – and stick with it. Because I believe it's a great asset to have. And again, patience is the key; it's gonna take some time but keep working through it and practice – practice, practice, practice.