ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran outfielder Cliff Floyd signed with the Rays during the offseason, fully knowing this could be his swan song. The 35-year-old, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, brought his history of winning (1997 World Series with Marlins) and a potent left-handed bat to Tampa Bay's designated hitter spot.
But Floyd may have another pro career in his future. The avid bowler, who averages 210, hopes to join leagues — and potentially the pro bowler's tour — when he retires. Or maybe he'll just own an alley or two. Times baseball writer Joe Smith caught up with Floyd to chat about his near-perfect game, his "pose" and "Purple Thunder."
What got you into bowling?
I've just always liked bowling. It's a challenge to hit the pocket each time. Some people like golfing, some people like hunting. I like bowling. I'm definitely going to put in a lot of time when I retire.
So how good are you?
My high game is 280. Probably for a four-game set, I average 210. When I get it going good, I do well.
Is it an offseason hobby, or can you crank it up year-round?
I don't do it during the season. It takes a lot out of you. You're sweating. But for me, it's relaxing. It gets your mind away from everything. You relax and get away from the so-called real world.
Do you compete with a group?
I like going by myself, 'cause I get a chance to work on stuff. Sometimes, I go with the kids and that's just a fun time. I'm competitive, but I don't try to beat my kids.
What's with your name for your bowling ball — "Purple Thunder?"
I was messing around one day, hitting a couple strikes and somebody called out the name and it kind of stuck.
Sounds like you really take it seriously.
Oh yeah, I got a nice bag, two balls. I really pay attention to the lanes — if they're oiled down, if they're dry. I put a lot of time into it, believe it or not. I'd like to one day open up a bowling alley, that's something I'd really be interested in.
What would you call your alley — "Floyd's Frames?"
That's a good one. The one I always liked was "Lucky Strikes" and that's taken. So we'll see.
Do you find an alley in each city?
Everywhere I've played (baseball), I've bowled. I'm not into the neon lighting and all that stuff. I'm pretty much going during the day, to get time away. From Montreal to Boston to New York, whenever I got a chance to go, I went.
Any other ballplayers give you some competition?
Last year, (Cubs second baseman) Mark DeRosa — he's pretty good. We had a tough one. He beat me by a couple pins — he bowled like a 240. But I bowled like four games (before that). I have no excuse, but I was tired, he wasn't. That was probably my best competition.
Ever get close to a 300 game?
The closest I've been is a nine-spare first frame and then I struck out. And I'll probably never get there again. That day, I could do no wrong. I think the first frame, though, someone said something to me as I was getting ready to bowl. I hit the pocket, but the 10 pin didn't fall for me.
What's harder — scouting a lane or scouting a pitcher?
I'd say a pitcher, 'cause pitchers can change. Once you figure out a lane, it stays the same.
Does your fianc?e, Maryanne, ever go with you?
My girl keeps everything so competitive with me. I have to give her pins, and she tries to beat me every single time. We've had some good battles.
You get animated on the lanes?
My girl thinks I'm showing off — I've got a little pose at the end. Nothing crazy. When it comes out perfectly, when you know it's gonna hit that pocket, you hold (the follow-through) a little bit.
You had mentioned the possibility of trying to go pro bowling-wise. Think you could make it?
I don't know. I doubt it. But I never thought I'd be a pro baseball player. So you never know.
Your last meal — what would it be?
Believe it or not, meatloaf. I've loved meatloaf ever since my mom made it for me as a kid. Meatloaf and gravy, some mashed potatoes, and I'm on my way.
The best concert you've ever been to &
When I was in New York, I went to see Wyclef (Jean), and that was an awesome concert. People were relaxed, and he was great.
Your favorite flick?
Usual Suspects. I like the little twists at the end. I'm into twists — I don't like figuring out the movie in the first 10 minutes. That (movie) had me fooled.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MLB preview 2008