Interview Tales – The Pitcher

Spring is in the air in Georgia, and that means little league is already underway, and it seems that as long as it isn’t raining, the local fields have something going on nearly every evening. That reminds me of the time I interviewed a major league pitcher for a production job.

We had candidates from all sorts of careers applying for positions at our new facility, and I met people from all kinds of work. Teachers, bankers, nurses, mechanics, salesmen. But then a tall, athletic guy walked into my office, gave me a firm handshake, and the interview began.

“Before we start, do you have any questions about the materials we provided? Any reason to think you might not be able to perform the work to the degree you understand it so far?” I started a lot of interviews that way, just in case the candidate had any second thoughts. It happens.

“No sir,” he replied. “You and Indian’s fan?” He had taken a quick look around my office, and saw the picture of my older son and I wearing Cleveland Indians caps.

“I grew up there and have always followed the Tribe,” I told him. I probably bragged a bit that Rocky Colavito lived just down the street from my house. Plus, it was 1995, and the Indians were on their way to their first World Series appearance since 1954.

“I used to bunk with Orel Hershiser,” he told me. “That was back when I was pitching with L.A.” Orel, playing with Cleveland at that time, was one of the reasons the Tribe was having such a good season.

I had to remind myself that for both the candidate’s sake and my own I needed to get to the interview. I eventually got to the part of the interview focused on safety.

A Baseball Field in the Future

“Have you ever had to perform work that you didn’t think you could do safely?” I asked. “How did you handle that situation? Did you stop the work?”

“If I had it to do over again, I would have. But I didn’t,” he told me. “I was pitching in the fourth inning, and having a good game, when the rain started. We play in rain all the time. But as the rains got stronger, my footing wasn’t quite right. The coach came out, and the umpire moved us along. He didn’t want to stop the game. He wanted us to keep it moving to get it in the books as a regulation game. The next pitch, my forward foot slipped and I fell. I’ve had two surgeries, but never got my leg back to the full function and it took speed off my pitch. It ended my baseball career.”

The interview team recommended him for hire, but we knew he wasn’t likely to come there. You get a feel for these things after a while. But it gave a great example to our safety program. You have to make decisions for what works for you. If you can’t perform the work safely, then refuse to do it.

I still haven’t ever seen a baseball player take himself out of a game when the rains get heavy. I guess it’s just not acceptable behavior. But I know one player who might have played much longer if he had done just that.


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