Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Full Count: Jim Monaghan

Jim Monaghan has two of the best jobs in the world. His day job is co-host (w/Kim Mulligan) of the Morning Jolt on the metropolitan area's best rock station, WDHA-FM (105.5). He also works with the likes of Leo Mazzone and Sam Perlozzo as a full-time baseball instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Jim also had the opportunity to work at the greatest rock station of all time, 102.7 WNEW-FM in New York. I spoke to Jim about his passions for music and baseball and his beloved Boston Red Sox.

FCP: Jack McDowell, Bronson Arroyo, Bernie Williams. Who makes better music?

Jim Monaghan: I think Bernie is the best musician of the three of them. I wasn’t there the night he joined the Allmans at the Beacon, but I heard he fit right in with them last week. In terms of the actual music they play, I like Arroyo a lot.

FCP: Best sports-related song ever?

Jim Monaghan: There’s a CD I just got called The Baseball Project that I need to listen to. Peter Buck of R.E.M. is on it. That said, I love Sinatra’s “There Used To Be A Ball Park” and there are two folk songs that are baseball-related – Dave Potts’ “If I Broke the Record” and Erik Balkey’s “Baseball In My Blood.” – that I like a lot. Dion’s “(I Used To Be A) Brooklyn Dodger” isn’t really a sports-related song and of course, he was from the Bronx, but there are enough baseball references in it to qualify.

FCP: Okay, time for desert island discs. You can bring 3 CDs, which ones are they?

Jim Monaghan: My top 3 change all the time. But right as this moment, and assuming you can’t bring a greatest hits collection, they would be Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd by the Monkees, Making Movies by Dire Straits, and What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll give you at least two different CD’s. Other favorites include Something/Anything? by Todd Rundgren, Music Of My Mind by Stevie Wonder and Rubber Soul by the Beatles.

FCP: What are your concerns about the Red Sox this season?

Jim Monaghan: One of the biggest clich├ęs – you can NEVER have enough pitching. If Beckett isn’t healthy, and if Lackey pitches as he did for much of the middle of the season (was there a lead in July and August that he didn’t give back in the next inning?) the Red Sox could very well find themselves in a real AL East dogfight this summer. I love the offense. Ellsbury and Crawford should spend the season torturing teams on the base paths. And Gonzalez at 1st is going to have a monster season.

FCP: Does Jacoby Ellsbury bounce back this season or do the Red Sox move him?

Jim Monaghan: I love Ellsbury’s skill set; I don’t think the Red Sox have EVER drafted and developed a player like him before. And I didn’t get the way certain members of the print and broadcast media went after him last summer. I know that you’re not supposed to believe anything you see in March, but he’s been ridiculous in Spring Training so far in terms of BA, OBP and even showing some power. If it were my team, he’d be at the top of my lineup and in CF for the next 5-6 years. I think this is going to be a terrific season for him.

FCP: Is Josh Beckett on a downward spiral or was last year a fluke?

Jim Monaghan: Beckett concerns me. His conditioning the past couple of seasons has been suspect.

FCP: You need a hit in a key situation...who's batting? Yaz, Rice, Papi, or Manny?

Jim Monaghan: Do I have the pick of which era of each player? ;) Yaz was grittier than the other three. Jim Rice in 1978 was in a different stratosphere. Papi in the fall of 2004 (sorry to bring that up) was unconscious. However, Manny is probably the best pure hitter I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve spoken with a number of guys who played with him and to a man, they all rave about his work ethic. It wasn’t unusual for Manny to be in the Fenway film room at 10 AM the morning after a night game going over stuff. So I guess Manny it is.

FCP: How did you get involved with Professional Baseball Instruction?

Jim Monaghan: When I was still at WNEW-FM I wanted to do a station promotion for our listeners and their kids running a baseball clinic and having the proceeds go to charity. I had heard about Doug Cinnella (he grew up in Paramus and went to Seton Hall University) and his baseball training school and reached out to him. We did the camp here in Bergen County over a spring weekend in 1996. I loved everything about it – the organization, the way the coaches treated the kids, how the kids responded. Doug and I stayed in touch and I started working with him part-time. I didn’t know how little I really knew about the game until I started working with Doug and his staff.

FCP: Greater thrill, working with Scott Muni or Leo Mazzone?

Jim Monaghan: Doug (Cinnella) and I went out to Shea Stadium when Leo was still with Atlanta and we got to watch him work with John Smoltz during a bullpen session. Leo and Smoltz were talking about the tiniest of details (Major Leaguers are simply on a different planet than we realize). I literally stood there with my mouth open. Smoltz looked at me and said, “This is pretty cool, isn’t it?” and smiled. I just nodded.

Even though I started working at WNEW-FM in January 1980, I had actually been playing on their softball team for 2 seasons so I had a little bit of an advantage getting to know all of the station air staff members before I started working there. I had grown up in the area through high school and college and my dial was glued to 102.7 that entire time so it was definitely a thrill to become a part of that group of men and women. That said, I don’t think I ever really grasped all of what took place then until a couple of years ago when my oldest daughter was working on a paper for one of her college courses. She created a fictitious character from New Jersey who was trying to break into the music business and she started asking me questions about radio, the station in particular, different artists I had met, etc. 

She called me one day after doing some online research and said, “You know I knew what you did for a living when I was little…I knew ‘Daddy is on the radio’…but I had NO idea who you really were and how important that station was.” That’s when we really started to get into depth about the impact that WNEW-FM had on so many people and Scott Muni was a HUGE reason for that. When Paul McCartney is making a fuss over someone (still one of the biggest thrills of my life), you know that person is truly larger than life.

So to answer the question, I think it would have to be Scott. I also knew him a lot better than I know Leo.

FCP: What did you learn from Mazzone (a guest at PBI) about pitching?

Jim Monaghan: I learned that I still have a LOT to learn.

As I mentioned above, guys at the Major League level are simply on a different level than the rest of us. To watch a guy like John Smoltz effortlessly throw 90+ during a bullpen session while Leo is making subtle suggestions on what to improve is just amazing. This past fall, Leo came out to PBI and worked with a number of high school pitchers (one of the perks of this job was that my then 9-year old son got to throw for him) and he’d tweak something in a kid’s mechanics and you could instantly see and hear (the “POP!” of the ball in the catcher’s mitt) the results. 

If I had to pick one thing I learned from him, and something I use in almost every pitching lesson I do here at PBI, it would be the importance of proper balance throughout the delivery, and the necessity of regular throwing to keep a pitcher’s arm strength up.

FCP: Thanks for being our guest, Jim.

Jim Monaghan: You bet!

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