Sunday, February 16, 2014

Exclusive Interview w/ Bleacher Creature Fred Weiland

 We wanted to go into a little different direction with our interviews associated with Prospects Month today and we did when we interviewed Fred Weiland. Weiland is a Twitter follower of ours, a Bleacher Creature, someone who has been a continued presence at Yankees Fantasy Camp, a great guy in the community and with charity work, and an all around good guy. Fred was nice enough to take time out of his Fantasy Camp 2014 schedule to do this interview for us and for that we truly appreciate it. Enjoy the interview! 

The Greedy Pinstripes: Mr. Weiland, how are you today sir? We appreciate you taking the time to do this for us!

Fred Weiland: Hello, getting ready to write a book about Jackie Robinson and his tennis counterpart. Had a lengthy discussion with Al Downing who was the first black Yankee SP down here in Tampa at Yankees Fantasy Camp 2014.

TGP: How long have you been a fan of the New York Yankees?

FW: I have been a fan of the Yankees since the late 90's. My boss was a huge fan and he would always have the games on at work so he got me hooked. Then when I retired in 2008 the trips to Yankee Stadium were pretty regular.

TGP: How did your son become a Yankees fan? You're side of the story anyway.

FW: My son used to be a Mets fan. [Carlos] Beltran was his favorite player. On his 8th birthday I got tickets to Yankees-Orioles and had his name put up on the scoreboard twice during the game. The Yankees lost but he was now a true fan of the Pinstripes.

TGP: How long have you been a member of the bleacher creatures?

FW: I started following Bald Vinny on Twitter in 2011 and was a big fan of Freddie "Sez" Schuman. I had seats in a different location (234) but always noticed the acvivity across the way in left field with Nicky Swish and The Creatures and wanted to be a part of that.

TGP: How long have you had season tickets to the Yankees?

FW: In 2008 after I retired I started going to a bunch more games with my kids and bought a partial season ticket package that expanded every year. In 2011 I had two packages for 61 games and was a very happy baseball fan. The next year I curbed it back to 41 games but in a location in the Granstand with a better view. Then started buying tickets online in Section 203 for 5-6 games a season. I asked my ticket rep if I could get Section 203 for a complete season but was told that the waiting list was very long. This summer our family moved to Columbus, Ohio but I have kept the tickets. Because I cannot imagine not being a part of the Pinstripe family. In 2012 we got Spring Training season tickets as well. Last year with the move it was too difficult to get to Tampa. Now we renewed our tickets for Tampa in 2014. Every Yankee fan needs to see them at least once in Tampa and go to Himes Field to watch the rookies train and play intrasquad games.

TGP: Thoughts on the new stadium and Section 203?

FW: I love the new stadium because it is so open and the view are amazing as you walk around the stadium. We love to either watch games in  Section 203 and celebrate Yankees victories with the best fans anywhere in any sport, the Bleacher Creatures. As much as I love Section 203 my son loves it more. In our house we have a section of the bleachers from the old stadium. On the day Udi died my son got his Bleacher Creature scarf and wore it all day and then placed it across the seats in memory of his friend. They bonded last summer at an event with Bald Vinny. Udi told some great stories to my son and his friend Shaun.
On my last day in NY after our move at the Mariano bobblehead giveaway I saw Udi by Vinny's booth and thanked him for befriending my son and how he loved his stories. He smiled and walked off into the night.

TGP: Favorite reaction to roll call? Has to be Nick Swisher, no?

FW: I love Gardner's muscle move, Johnny Damon always was entertaining with his response, Swisher was great as well. Even the former Yankee Curtis Granderson had a good shoulder roll. Should be interesting with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Mickey Rivers and Mike Torrez just walked by. Mickey says hello. Both great guys! Imagine what Mickey's roll call reaction would be.

TGP: Hey Mickey! What would your roll call reaction be?

FW: I just asked Mickey and he said he would do a dance. Either a salsa like Victor Cruz or a very hip original style of his own. If you sit in Section 203 you feel the energy.

TGP: What is the process in accepting new members into the Bleacher Creatures?

FW: Being accepted to the inner core of the Creatures is like any group. Spend time out there and watch the games and talk to the fellow Yankee fans. Be passionate about your team. Vinny and a lot of the other Creatures are out there day in and day out. In crappy weather and beautiful sunny days rooting for the team.
In a way being a Creature is a calling. When you go out there and sit among those fans you know that this is where you were meant to watch the games. It is like a Field of Dreams for the fans. Not just to do Roll Call and leave but to sit and interact with these great fans that truly bleed Yankee Blue. We had my son's room painted in 2009 and we searched for the color Yankee Blue. We located it and added some Fat Heads. If we hadn't moved there would be a stadium mural on his wall with a picture taken of him in Section 203.

TGP: Much respect and our condolences go out to Udi Latarre, his friends, and his family. He will truly be missed. Tell us a little about him and maybe share your favorite memory with him. 

FW: As I mentioned above Udi had a special bond with my son and luckily I was able to share it with him. I regret not getting to know him better. I really feel bad for my friends Bald Vinny, George Brew and Nannette Simmons. They lost a very dear, close friend and that hurts me as well.

TGP: I think this answer may be obvious but in my time around social media I have noticed there are two kinds of fans when it comes to prospects. You have the "prospect humpers" (myself being a self professed prospect humper) and a name yet to be determined (due to my lack of creativity) describing those who want to sell all the prospects off for the 37 year old "sure thing." Which category do you think yourself as a fan falls into?

FW: I guess that I am part pro-prospect and part quick fix guy sure thing guy. Older guys have a lot to teach younger guys. I played professional tennis for 4 years and my coach was an older (65) year old ex player. He taught me so much as a rookie. Many of the times I learned those lessons were when we played in a match against other guys and he could show me how to execute a strategy during a match, same way a Beltran can show the younger guys how to compete. Or an Ichiro can teach the younger crew. But then you have to allow the young guys to get the oppotunity to succeed ....and fail. Then learn from both.

TGP:  Many people don't probably know that you had a big time role in bringing Bald Vinny back to Yankee Stadium and the creatures in 2012. Tell us about that. 

FW: In 2011 I had noticed on Twitter that Vinny was having a rough time with the terrible weather. I had also reached out to Vinny to do an event for charity. We were never able to get the event going that year but after the season ended Vinny expressed his regret at not being able to return to the Stadium on a full time basis in 2012. I was deeply saddened that the number one Yankee fan would be gone. The year before during the 2010 playoffs Freddie Sez had died and we as a family had so many great memories of seeing him at the stadium and pictures with my son. To lose Vinny would have been too great of a loss. So I reached out to him and asked him to stay. He really means so much to Yankee fans. He is the heart and soul of the New York Yankees fan base. I expressed those words to him. I know he has his own family. So at times it is difficult to be away from them. But being in his element in Section 203 breathes life into the stadium.
My family loves to walk by his booth before every home game to say hello to Vinny and George Brew, his assistant. My friends know that when we go to a game that they will have to make a stop by Bald Vinny's booth. That is my ritual. It makes me sad to think that our move to Ohio will keep me away from the Bronx so much but knowing that Vinny stayed on is something that makes me personally very happy.

TGP: Tell us about participating in the Yankees fantasy camp with Jeff Nelson and Tanyon Sturtze. 

FW: Nellie and Sturtze are great guys and great Yankees. Our team the Clippers had them coach us for 2 years along with Ron Shelton who was a pitcher in the Orioles organization as our team coordinator. They play a good cop/ bad cop duo. Nellie is the good cop and Tanyon is the bad. On a daily basis he lets you know on every occasion when you do something wrong. It is a  lively atmosphere with them as our coaches. You definitely need thick skin with Sturtze. He is a great coach and pushes you to improve yourself every day.  If I was a kid playing youth sports then I'd want a coach with Sturtze's passion for the game. Nellie has a great sense of humor. Always has me cracking up over something that he has observed on the field.
For a guy that has 4 World Series rings he is on of the nicest pro athletes that I have been around. Very humble. Highly intelligent. We have organized a charity event the last 2 years with Bald Vinny to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis/NY and Stomp the Monster; which assists cancer patients that have financial hardships.

TGP: If you could be the Yankees GM for a day what would you do? Don't have to really be realistic here. 

FW: If I was Yankees GM then A-Rod would not be my enemy. Maybe not a model citizen but he does want to play ball in NY. I would encourage him to do more community service and spend a year just interacting with regular NYers. I'd also give Bald Vinny a lifetime job as a Yankees goodwill ambassador. I'd never have let Dana Cavalea get fired as trainer.....big mistake!

TGP: Hopefully a dumb question but should we expect to see you in the bleachers for the 2014 season?

FW: Yes I will be in  Section 203 in doubt!

TGP: What do you think of our chances this season with all the new additions?

FW: With new additions including #19 [Masahiro Tanaka] the Yankees will be a tough squad. Lookout AL opponents! Especially Bahston.

TGP: Most famous person in your cellphone?

FW: Hmm. Tanyon Sturtze would say it was him. Neal "Colt 40" Feinberg from Howard Stern is a likely one.  Dion Graham "The Wire" actor and voice for "First 48" is another. Third is Bob Ryland, The Jackie Robinson of Tennis.

TGP: Most embarrassing song in your iPod?

FW: "Katy Perry" Kissed a girl or SpongeBob Squarepants "Best day ever"

TGP: Keep or fire John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman?

FW: Hire Ryan Ruocco & fire John Sterling, give him a weekly show on YES. Fire Suzyn and give her a co host job with Sterling on YES. Hire a former player to work with Ruocco, Nellie [Jeff Nelson] would be good but he is newly married and lives out of NY area. Maybe have 3 or 4 ex players rotate like on YES broadcasts. They need players on the radio broadcast desperately. People that know the game.

TGP: Michael Kay or Mike Francesa?

FW: Michael Kay is a great voice for ESPN and YES, Francesa is knowledgeable for sure. I listen to both but if you asked me who I'd like to hang out with then it would be Michael.

TGP: We'll finish with this very controversial topic, to ban the wave or not to ban the wave?

FW: Ban the Wave in the Bronx. After all this is Yankee Stadium. Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Berra, Mantle. The Wave belongs in Flushing. Although that team never has a reason to do The Wave.....cause they always lose.

Wow what an interview, no skimping on the answers here. Thank you so much Fred for taking the time once again to do this for us and our readers, it is very much appreciated. You can follow Mr. Weiland on Twitter by following @islandofweiland, by following his blog, or by going to Section 203 at Yankee Stadium and hanging with the Bleacher Creatures. Thanks again Fred and we hope to speak again with you soon! Ban the wave!

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