Bengie Molina has been through it all. He played in the major leagues from 1998 to 2014, winning two World Series titles along the way with the Anaheim Angels in 2002 and the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
To be fair, he was on the Texas Rangers when the Giants won the World Series in 2010, but because he had been traded from the Giants earlier in the season, he managed to win by default.
Though Molina’s numbers weren’t ground-breaking, he was an integral part of the team both on the field and off.
He was the guy who called games behind home plate for 16 years, winning two Gold Gloves as a catcher in 2002 and 2003.
His career batting average is .274, with 144 home runs and 711 runs batted in. He was a steadying influence on teams that played together as one, rather than a hodgepodge of superstars and big contract guys.
Bengie Molina’s story is unique, not only because of him, but because of his younger brothers — José and Yadier. All of them are familiar with only one position: catcher.
They are the only three brothers in league history to each win World Series rings. José won it with the 2002 Angels and the 2009 Yankees, and Yadier won it with the 2006 and 2011 Cardinals. Yadier, the winner of seven consecutive Gold Gloves, is considered one of the best catchers in the game and finished fourth in NL MVP voting in 2012.
Each brother has forged their own path to the league, but, as Bengie puts it, it never would have happened without the sacrifices of their father and mother, who raised them in Buyámon, Puerto Rico and helped them stay on track, in school and on the field.
We sat down with Bengie to hear his thoughts on his upcoming autobiography, his views on how the game has changed over the years, and the best pitchers he’s ever caught for.
- His thoughts on baseball’s new change of pace rules: “I don’t agree with it because we’re supposed to do it on our own. We’re baseball players. We don’t need guys telling us, ‘Hey, you need to hurry. Hey, you need to do this. Hey, you need to step up.’ We are professionals, we can do that without anybody telling us. I’m OK with it, but we need to do it on our own.”
- The best pitchers he ever caught for: “Roy Halladay is probably on the top of my list. Tim Lincecum is the other. Obviously, I’ve caught for so many good ones, but those two stand out in my mind.”
- The teams with the best chance to win the World Series: “My first pick would be the Cardinals, for sure. I think the Nationals have a good team, same with the Dodgers. That’s it for the National League. In the American League, it’s hard to pick. Kansas City has a great shot at it, the Angels have a great shot if they can pitch, and I think those are the guys that have a great shot. ”
Here’s a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length.
BUSINESS INSIDER: Can you go in depth about how your family — especially your dad — was he the driving force in helping you and your brothers reach the MLB?
BENGIE MOLINA: The reason that happened was that my dad and my mum had to sacrifice so much, and had to teach us and show us the way of going about things, how to be humble, all those things. They helped us stay on track for what we wanted to do. After that — hard work, dedication, motivation, all had to do with it, because you have to have that to succeed. I think that’s really what made it happen for us.
BI: When you were younger and still aspired to be in the big leagues, how many hours a day did you play baseball?
BM: We went to school — we weren’t out there all day. We weren’t just in the field. We went to school and when school was over every day from 5 PM to 9 o’clock — 4 hours. When we didn’t have classes on Saturdays and Sundays we had doubleheaders. And when we had vacations or days when we didn’t practice or it was raining, we’d play baseball on the streets. We’d take a ball and a broomstick and just play ball. So, we were always playing baseball. It was in our blood. That’s the only way to put it.
BI: What was it like playing in your first MLB game?
BM: It was very nerve-wracking. I was very nervous — not only because I was in the major leagues and this is what I wanted — but the thought of what happens next. You want to do so well so fast and if you don’t do well fast you might lose your chance. That’s what was in my head. So I was very nervous, excited, and happy to be given the opportunity to even be in the major leagues.
BI: What does it take for a player in today’s game to have a long and successful career?
BM: You have to have dedication, you have to show respect. You have to have respect not only for the game but yourself and what you do. You have to have a lot of motivation, a lot of heart and be able to work hard. You can never be down on yourself because baseball is a sport that will bring you down [at times]. If you have that will to survive and make it, the will to come back and try again, you need that if you want to make it.
What are your thoughts on baseball’s new change of pace rules?
BM: I don’t agree with it, but I accept it. I don’t agree with it because we’re supposed to do it on our own. We’re baseball players. We don’t need guys telling us, ‘Hey, you need to hurry. Hey, you need to do this. Hey, you need to step up..’ We are professionals, we can do that without anybody telling us. I’m OK with it, but we need to do it on our own.
BI: Do you think the new change of pace rules diminish the potential of some of the players?
BM: Not all of them, because not all of them care. But the ones who are worried about it and care about it, those who worry about being late — yeah, they’re going to be bothered by it. And they’re going to be rushed, and it might hurt their game. But the ones that don’t care — they just want to be out there and want to perform. They don’t care what anybody else says.
BI: Who is the player you most enjoyed playing with?
BM: Oh, wow. I’ve played with so many great ones. I liked playing with David Eckstein (former Angels shortstop). I’m not talking about players with top skills, I’m sure there were players with way more skill than him, but there were very few people in the league that had the heart like him. Not only on the field but off of it as well, helping others. He helped us [his teammates] succeed.
BI: Who was the most skilled player you ever played with?
BM: It’s hard for me to pick one because I’ve played with so many. I’ve played with Darin Erstad. I’ve played with Garret Anderson. They were true professionals. [Troy] Percival is a closer I played with, Tim Salmon — I played with those guys, too. I also went to Toronto and played with Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Vernon Wells, and Troy Glaus. When I went to San Francisco I played with Barry Bonds and all those pitchers — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain. They were winners. I went to Texas and I had a chance to play with Vladi [Vladimir] Guerrero, who was one of my favourite players. There are so many of them it’s just hard to pick one.
BI: You mentioned Barry Bonds as one of the best players you ever played with. Do you think players who are accused of taking steroids should have a chance to be in the Hall of Fame?
BM: If they were found to be guilty of using steroids, I’d tell you right now that they shouldn’t because they don’t deserve it, for the respect of the others that have been there. On the other hand, if they haven’t been found guilty and don’t have any proof, I don’t see why not.
BI: You played in the MLB for 16 years. How did you manage to stay in the game for so long? Did you have a workout routine?
BM: When I got to the stadium, one of my biggest things was watching video of hitters. That was one of my biggest things. I watched video of hitters and opposing pitchers because I have to get ready for pitchers like Kershaw. I got to the field around 1, and I started by getting in the hot tub and cold tub to try and relax my body. Some days, I would workout in the gym, and then I’d hit the bike for 20 minutes. After the bike I’d stretch my legs and my back for a little bit. After that I did some BP [batting practice] for some extra hitting. Then, after BP I got something to eat. Once I got done eating, about 45 minutes before the game, I got my lineup and their lineup in front of me, put my music on, sit down on the floor, start stretching, and just watch the lineup and think to myself, ‘What am I going to do with these guys?’
After the game, I’d go into a cold tub just to get my body relaxed and then stretch, do another 20 minutes of bike, and go home. That was my routine.
BI: What are your thoughts on the 162 game season in the MLB? Do you think it’s just right where it is, or should it be shortened?
BM: I think it’s right. I think it’s pretty good. I mean, nobody is getting overworked and in my opinion, I think everything is fine.
BI: Who’s the best pitcher you ever caught for?
BM: I have a few. Roy Halladay is probably on the top of my list. Tim Lincecum is the other. Obviously, I’ve caught for so many good ones, but those two stand out in my mind.
Roy Halladay stands out because of the pitcher he was and the way he went at it, how he never backed down. The way he’d attack the hitter — he wanted them to hit it instead. Sometimes, he’d tell me ‘Put it right in the middle and I’ll throw it quick and make them hit it.’ That was something I liked. Lincecum, I liked his power. When I first got there he was throwing 98 [mph], 97 [mph]. He had a nasty split [splitter], and I really enjoyed catching for him because we made a lot of people look bad.
And another guy who I loved to catch for when I first came up was Chuck Finley. He was a lefty for the Angels. He was one of my favourites, because wherever I put the glove, he would hit it. It was so easy to call the game for that guy. I wasn’t afraid of calling any pitch because I knew he could execute it.
BI: What’s the relationship between you and your brothers like?
BM: I think my mum and dad did a great job with that, because we never had any competition in baseball. We always tried to help each other. Yadier, being as young as he was, he would always say, ‘You gotta do this. You gotta do that. You gotta stay back. They’re throwing a fastball next.’ Things like that. We never had a competition other than Nintendo or things like that. We wanted to win at things like basketball games or baseball games, but off the field we never felt like we had to compete with each other.
BI: Are there any guys you played against who you didn’t particularly like?
BM: No, I’m a pretty easygoing guy. I’m not hard to get along with. I never had anybody that I had trouble with. On the other team, sometimes you don’t like players because of the way they act, but then you get to know them and then they’re very good people. But I never disliked anybody.
BI: There was a recent ESPN story about how some players wear their emotions on their sleeve when they celebrate, while others take that celebration as an offence. Do you think baseball players should wear their emotions on their sleeves?
BM: That’s a very easy question to answer. If you’re a pitcher, and you’re pitching and you strike me out and you start celebrating on the mound and showing me off, whenever I get a hit off you, I’m going to go and celebrate, and you shouldn’t get mad. If you’re a pitcher and strike me out and show me respect and you don’t show me up, when I get a homer or a hit, I’m not going to show you up. That’s what I believe.
Is this what’s happening in the major leagues? No. There’s a lot of disrespect in the major leagues right now. I believe that the disrespect in the major leagues is at a high rate and is really bad for the game. Really, really, bad for the game. I don’t like it one bit. When the pitcher finishes the game, why do you have to showboat? That’s what you’re supposed to do — win the game and save the game. Same with the hitter. You’re paid good money to hit the ball. You hit homers or hit singles or whatever you want, but you don’t have to show off. I’m an old school player. I’m not saying hit people, but I’m saying when the pitcher gets mad, they have every right. If you get one hit out of 20 at bats and you celebrated like it’s the World Series, I’m going to be mad.
If I get a hit to win the game, that’s a little different. You celebrate with your teammates, but you still don’t show anybody up. In the major leagues, it’s not about style. It’s about your teammates and winning games.
BI: What are you doing now?
BM: I was an assistant coach for the Cardinals two years ago, and I was a 1st base coach for the Rangers last year. I’m a family guy and I obviously have a book that just came out. That’s what I’m doing right now.
BI: Which team or teams do you think have the best chance of winning the World Series this year?
BM: My first pick would be the Cardinals, for sure. I think the Nationals have a good team, same with the Dodgers. That’s it for the National League. In the American League, it’s hard to pick. Kansas City has a great shot at it, the Angels have a great shot if they can pitch, and I think those are the guys that have a great shot.
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