Mutual passion for competition
Both CM Punk and multiple-time all-star and National League Comeback Player of the Year Nomar Garciaparra share a passion for their sports and for competition. Despite his accomplishments, the veteran Garciaparra is one of the most humble players in baseball and doesn't mind passing on his knowledge to younger players.
The charismatic Punk is one of ECW's brightest stars and perhaps a future champion in the world of sports-entertainment. You would be amazed at what the straightedge Superstar and the Dodgers first baseman have in common:
Punk: So far this season, it's so far, so good for you. Your Dodgers are in first place in the NL West, and my Chicago Cubs are in second place in the NL Central Division so far. Were you pleased with how April went for you and your team?
Garciaparra: So far. We've got a good team, a good bunch of guys. That is what you look forward to when you go out to the ballpark everyday -- playing with a good bunch of guys, and we've got that. We had a good core last year, and we added on a few good guys. Hopefully we can continue that, with the chemistry and camaraderie and playing good ball.
Punk: So you feel like you have a good chemistry so far?
Garciaparra: They're just professional. They go out there, [and] they prepare themselves. We've got a mixture of veteran guys and young guys. And it works really well where veteran guys go out there and lead by example, and they're open to talking and have their ears open to any young guys who have any questions. And the young guys just soak it all in and realize what a luxury it is to have these veteran guys to learn from and pick their brains. It works really well.
Punk: It's really funny you mention that because it's kind of like that here. Do you have that kind of upper echelon where you have to pay your respects to certain guys, pay your dues, when you first get in?
Garciaparra: Oh, for sure. But I think it's kind of like more knowing your place. It's like when you're young, and you're the rookie, and people say you should be seen and not heard. It's about going about your business and understanding you've got to put some time in before you can do certain things. At the same time, when you show that and the veteran guys see that, you earn all the respect in the world. I think when you do the little things, bigger things come to you rather than you feeling like you're lost or have to make your presence felt.
Punk: Are there guys that come in and think they're big, huge superstars already?
Garciaparra: You know, that's what's great [about my team]. I've been on teams where it's been like that, but not this team. None of the young guys are like that. None of us veterans have felt like we have to step up and put this guy in his place. So that hasn't happened yet.
Punk: You have a reputation for performing well in the playoffs and high-pressure situations -- tell me what it's like. Do you relish those situations? What enables you to perform well in the clutch?
Garciaparra: I don't think of it as a matter of performing in the clutch. I look at it as just a matter of preparing yourself. I think deep down everything that you do, everything you do away from the game, prepares you. You think to yourself, "I've done everything that I can possibly do to prepare for this game. Now it's time for me to go out and perform on the field." And I think that has a lot to do with it. I think it has a lot to do with the work you do outside the field or away from it all that allows you to say, "Hey, I've done everything I could to prepare, now I'm ready to go out there and perform." … You take that attitude no matter what, and I'm sure you do the same thing. Whether it's WrestleMania or a big event where everybody is watching, or it's just something on Wednesday night, it's no different. It's the same approach every day…. And I think that's key.
Punk: It's cool that you say that. I kind of apply that here. Like you said, whether I'm in front of 1,000 people or 80,000 people at Ford Field at WrestleMania 23, I perform the same way, the same level…. Anyway, after battling injuries for a few years, you were the National League's Comeback Player of the Year last season. Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you would return to the form that made you a superstar in the Major Leagues? How would you rank the Comeback Player of the Year among your accomplishments?
Garciaparra: To receive an award that is voted on by your peers, the players -- and this game is all about respect -- I felt like, "Okay, they do respect me." That one meant a lot to me. That was a pretty cool feeling. Coming back, did I ever have any doubts? In any sport, everyone has doubts. It's how we overcome those doubts that makes us great. But at the same time, whenever I suffered an injury, I gave myself one day to say, "Woe-is-me! Why me?" And then the next day I was like, "Okay, what do I have to do to come back? … Where do I have to go? Okay this is what it is. You can't change what happened yesterday. Just tell me what I have to do to get back and I'll do it." ... That was my mindset at the time: To be able to overcome injury and come back and do what I love.
Punk: Now you and your lovely wife -- a soccer star that people may have heard of, Mia Hamm -- are the proud new parents of twins. How is that going? How's fatherhood treating you?
Garciaparra: It's great. People who are parents, who are fathers, say you can't put it into words, and it's true. You can't put it into words. You can't describe the feeling when you see them, when you hold them in your arms. It puts life in a whole new perspective. It's the greatest thing ever. It's pretty special. Lucky for me, I have an amazing wife that allows me to go out there [and play baseball], and we enjoy parenthood together. It's wonderful.
Punk: Speaking for me personally, I spend a lot of time away from home. How is that for you guys?
Garciaparra: It's hard. It's hard to be away, but you make due. There's some understanding -- I mean because this is what you do. You make it work. I think it's a matter of showing that just because you're away, it doesn't mean you're not thinking of the kids or one another. That's really the effort, the understanding that goes along with it.
Punk: Baseball has had its share of so-called loudmouths and "villains." It's the same way in ECW -- we have a loudmouth named Elijah Burke walking around. Growing up, which athletes -- in baseball or otherwise -- did you admire: the more humble guys or the guys with swagger who weren't afraid to say they were good and let the world know that they were good?
Garciaparra: I never had one particular hero, or "oh, he's my favorite player," or guy that I always wanted to watch. I loved the game of baseball, and for me the sport was kind of like my heritage. You'll never know everything about the game. Somebody who says they know and understand it is lying. I think that it's intriguing because you're constantly learning. But at the same time, the game constantly humbles you. So, it's a game of failure all the time. That tends to humble you. So with that, you learn to respect it [the game]…. So if you can talk, you're loud, that's fine. As long as you show that you respect the game and respect others, that's the key. If you're loud and show no respect for the game, there's just no place for that.
Punk: Was there anyone that you admired growing up?
Garciaparra: When I was really young, not really. But when I actually got to the big leagues, I was just really grateful that I had guys like Mo Vaughn, John Valentin -- these were veteran guys that were on the club that I was playing with. And me being the rookie, being that quiet guy, these guys kinda took me under their wing, showed me the ropes, showed me unbelievable respect and helped me along. And I really, really appreciated that. I always said [to them], "How do I pay you guys back?" And they said, "Remember what we did and just pass that along."
Punk: That's really cool.
Garciaparra: Really cool. … That helped me out a lot.
Punk: I accomplished a dream this year by competing in my first ever WrestleMania. Competing at WrestleMania is like making it to the World Series or the Super Bowl. You haven't made it to the World Series yet, but what would it mean to you if you made it? Some of Major League Baseball's greats never had the opportunity to play in a World Series, so would you give up any of your accomplishments -- one of your batting titles -- just to play on baseball's greatest stage?
Garciaparra: I don't set any [individual] goals. I only set one goal every year, and that's to make it to the World Series and win the World Series. I recognize that I'm part of a team sport, and that I'm part of a team. I think that's what makes it special. Even with the accomplishments I have or the awards I may have on my wall, what I love about them is when I look at them, I'm not thinking about what I did. I'm thinking about the team that allowed me to accomplish those things. And I'm always grateful because when I look at that plaque on the wall, I think about the players I played with that year.
Punk: Before the season began, you signed a two-year contract with the Dodgers. You'll be 35 by the time your two-year deal ends. Do you know how much longer you would like to play? And do you see yourself ending your career in your home state with the Dodgers?
Garciaparra: That I don't know. I've never been one to look forward too far. I deal with the task at hand, make the decision as it goes. Right now, I love putting on that [Dodger] uniform. I've had respect for that uniform every since I was kid, and now I'm wearing it. It's unbelievable. When that time comes, we'll see what happens after that. Until then, I'm definitely enjoying the moment now, and putting the uniform on everyday.