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Kickin' back | Johnny Damon, LF

Kickin' back with new Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Johnny Damon

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

New Rays leftfielder Johnny Damon, 37, brings his two World Series titles and clubhouse presence to his "home" team. But the Orlando resident is also one of the game's most colorful figures, discussing his rock star buddies, foray into acting and favorite George Steinbrenner story.

Heard you sang at the Rays' annual spring talent show. How'd it go?

It was a good time. We were going off no practice. And so it sounded all right. Sang (Seven Mary Three's) Cumbersome and (Metallica's) Nothing Else Matters. It was fun.

So is singing your musical talent, or is it playing guitar?

It's probably singing. Not great, but I make it entertaining.

I understand you hang out with a lot of rock stars. You're buddies with Kid Rock & AC/DC.

Brian Johnson (lead singer from AC/DC) sang at our wedding. Sevendust and Alter Bridge, I know quite a few people.

How'd you meet Kid Rock?

Like six years ago when I had the long hair and everything. He wanted to meet me, so I swung by (NHL star) Chris Chelios' place (in Detroit). We stayed in touch. He came to my house one night. … He showed up and went back to the house and he played the guitar and sang until the wee hours.

Favorite band?

Sevendust. A few of them live in Orlando, but they're Tampa, Atlanta. They always seem to be in Orlando.

You've done your share of acting, from appearing in Fever Pitch to being a guest on Saturday Night Live. What was the movie experience like?

It was strange. Because (when) you don't have a speaking role, you're kind of just sitting there. And the speaking roles they do want you to do don't really flow like you think. My acting career is nonexistent, I should say. But I'd like to give it a try … down the road.

How often do you hear that infamous line from Fever Pitch in stadiums, "You've got the sweetest ass in the league?"

A little too much, and from a few too many guys.

Your hair has taken on a life of its own in your career, including the Jesus and Judas shirts from your long-hair-and-beard Boston days. People actually watched you get your beard cut after the World Series in 2004?

We shaved it for charity. And whenever I have some facial hair everyone's like, "So, you going to grow the hair back, too?" Everyone always wants to see what my hair's doing or my facial hair is doing. It's all right. It takes away from what people think about me as a baseball player. So I kind of just snuck in some pretty good numbers through the years.

It's ironic, because I understand your father (Jimmy, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army) used to pay you to keep your hair short?

My dad was a big military guy. He paid me to shave my head and when I came back with one side of my head shaved, he said, "No, both sides." I was into skateboarding and surfing, so that was a look we did have. When I did shave it, it stayed that way for a while.

How much did he pay you?

Twenty bucks. That was the going rate. It was perfect.

Worst job?

Probably being a busboy. I was the only busboy there. It was at a restaurant at the hotel my parents lived at. It stunk. I never got a tip.

Favorite George Steinbrenner story?

He called me up to his office at Legends Field one day. He said that he always wanted me, and I started talking to him about boats. And he obviously loves boats. So it was good to get him out of that baseball element.

Favorite ballpark?

Kauffman Stadium. I was born close to Kansas City, it was my dream to play for the Royals. The ballpark was way before its time. Even before the new renovations, it was awesome.

You've got a yacht (47-footer). Are there any other toys at your house?

I used to have a bigger four-wheeler, but now we've got two smaller ones for the kids. I've got a '69 Camaro, a '71 Bronco (and) a big party van so when we do go out on the town. We hire a driver or have a friend drive us. Got a full bathroom, refrigerators and TVs, PlayStation. That's a pretty nice toy.

Since you said the Rays were your "home team" and you plan on rooting for them when you retire, I've got a short Rays quiz for you. Only former Rays player to be in the Hall of Fame?

Wade Boggs.

There will probably be a few more after this year's team.

(Smiling) That's what we're hoping for.

Only Ray to throw a no-hitter?

I don't know.

Matt Garza (who threw it last year against Damon's Tigers).

(Smiles) Good to be part of it, I guess.

When you retire and bring your kids to the Trop and see a game, how will fans remember you?

Probably for being a great teammate. That's all I've ever wanted out of this game. The numbers and stuff are cool, and I've accomplished so much. But to be considered a great teammate is No. 1 for me.

Kickin' back with new Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Johnny Damon 04/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 11:35am]

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