April 6, 2006

10 Questions With Baseball's Rocky Collis

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Old friend and senior co-captain Rocky Collis, who became one of the first Ten Question victims in the spring of 2004, made the mistake of grooving another inning of pitches to Sun Senior Writer Per Ostman.

1. You have arguably the coolest nickname in Cornell Athletics, at least of those that are printable.

Well, I like it. I mean, that’s the reason I use it. By now, I guess everyone knows that my real name is “Everett.”

That’s unfortunate. And your middle name is “Henry.”

Yeah, it’s a family name.

I got stuck with one of those, too.

I love my nickname though. Fortunately, I’m a fan of the Rocky movies, so I’m not embarrassed by it. Some people might think the movies are funny, or they’re too long and drawn out and they made too many of them, but if they’re entertaining, I say keep making them.

I heard a horrifying rumor that Stallone has signed on for Rocky VI. No word on whether or not the climactic fight will be held in the activity room of a nursing home.

Hopefully, it’s better than the fifth one.

Hey, I stopped watching the movies after Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War. When you come out of the bullpen to start a game, do they play “Gonna Fly Now” over the loudspeaker?

I would love for them to do that, but we’ve never gotten them to.

Do we even have an audio system at Hoy Field? The Athletic Department needs to get on this. At the very least, I demand a pipe organ.

Our coach would never let us come out to music – that’s not our style – but I have given a lot of thought to what song I would like to run out to. It would be “Eye of the Tiger,” “Gonna Fly Now,” –

Yeah, you HAVE to go with one of the Rocky training-montage songs

Or, there are a lot of songs that have the word “rock” in them, so maybe “Rock You Like A Hurricane.”

I think that was my high school class song. We had to choose between that and “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas.

No kidding? That’s a different kind of class song.

Never raise children in Pennsylvania. That’s all I’m saying.

2. Did you skip class to watch MLB’s Opening Day on Monday, or was that just me?

Well, the White Sox are my favorite team, so I stayed up through the rain delay and watched them the night before. But staying up that late did cause some problems the next day. And yeah, I guess I did watch baseball all afternoon.

It’s the best day of the year, isn’t it?

I LOVE Opening Day. Over the winter, you don’t realize how much you miss watching baseball. Then Opening Day comes around and you’re like, “Oh, thank God.”

And it doesn’t even matter who’s playing.

Yep, doesn’t matter. I just like to watch the pitchers. It gives me something to watch on TV. Through the rest of the year, I’m just searching – March Madness is fun, but it’s not enough.

Hey, baseball season is upon us, the sun is in the sky, and all is right with the world.

We like to say on the team that “spring is coming.”

Yeah, even in May. Spring is coming. In June. Hey, it’s almost here.

Exactly.

What was your favorite pitching performance from Monday’s games?

I got to watch Jake Peavy [of the San Diego Padres] throw. He was pretty awesome.

Peavy’s a beast. He’s anchored my fantasy staff for the past two years.

They were playing the Giants. I heard on the highlights that when Bonds came up and the pitching coach came out to tell Peavy to work around him, Peavy was like, “no, I’m going after him and I’m going to get him out.” And he did. Bonds flew out to the warning track, but still.

Well, Barry isn’t getting his daily flaxseed-oil rub-downs anymore, so I’d expect to see a lot of warning track power.

3. A lot has changed in the two years since we last talked, not the least of which was both of our favorite teams winning the World Series. Where were you when the White Sox won? How did it feel? Have you recovered?

I still have this nightmare that it didn’t happen. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and think that it was all a dream.

The same thing happened to me for awhile. Luckily, they released the entire Red Sox 2004 playoff run on DVD, so I have visual evidence. Best $130 I ever spent.

Yeah, I have that too. So, I’ll wake up and play one of the discs just to make sure.

You can be having the worst day ever, and then just turn that on. All of a sudden, everything’s okay.

It makes it a lot better. When it happened, I was watching the game in my apartment with another guy on the team who is a White Sox fan [sophomore Jimmy Heinz], and needless to say, we were very excited. We went nuts. We ran out in Collegetown all pumped up and screaming, but we were the only ones.

There was a slightly larger gathering when the Red Sox won, but that’s okay.

Well, you guys have Red Sox Nation. We have a community.

It’s more of a village. White Sox ‘burg. But it’s growing.

Yeah, and so now when I tell people that I’m a White Sox fan, they’re like, “Oh yeah, sure.”

I hate that. When I was a kid, I took a lot of abuse for being a Red Sox fan, and I knew that when they finally won it would be extra sweet because I had been in it from the beginning. But now, if people don’t know me they automatically assume that I became a fan in 2004. I think this is where my violent streak comes from.

And all those people that made fun of us for all those years, now they like our teams too. They’re like, “oh yeah, I was rooting for them.”

These people need a fastball to the head.

I agree. I think I can take care of that.

You ought to carry around some baseballs, perhaps holstered in a bandolier, should the opportunity arise.

I heard that Randy Johnson does that, actually.

Really?

I heard that someone once asked him in an interview if he kept a gun in his house. He was like, “No, I don’t believe in guns. But I do keep a bucket of baseballs around.”

I’m not the world’s biggest Randy Johnson fan, but that’s hilarious.

4. Is Ozzie Guillen completely insane? Or is it all an act?

Oh, I don’t think it’s an act. That’s the real guy. And that’s why we love him! He’s Ozzie! I was excited when they brought him in.

Last year, everyone was calling him a loose cannon, and said that he was too crazy to manage in the big leagues, as if he’d have trouble handling his players’ egos. I’d say his first year turned out pretty well.

It seems like he gets along with the guys. They respect him for that and they play hard for him. He’s way out there, but he somehow gets it done.

As a sportswriter, I love his mouth. If I was covering the White Sox, I’d have him mic’d up at all times.

Yeah, he gets himself in trouble.

Hey, anybody who gets quoted in SI as saying that Alex Rodriguez is “full of [expletive]” is okay by me.

He deserved that.

5. Speaking of A-Rod being full of [expletive], what did you think about the World Baseball Classic?

I watched as much of it as I could. Anytime baseball is on, I’m watching.

Shouldn’t the United States have won? We lost to Canada and Mexico, for crying out loud. That’s like Canada losing to St. Kitts and Nevis in ice hockey.

It was very disheartening. We have a Canadian guy on our team – man, we didn’t hear the end of it. That was brutal. Even though it was embarrassing to lose, I think the WBC was a great thing. I hope they continue to do it. Maybe change the format a bit, put it in the middle of the season.

There’s really no good time to have the tournament, though. Do you really want to stop the MLB season at the All-Star Break and have a three-week exhibition?

I understand the arguments against doing that, but yeah, I’d like that. I think that it’s worthwhile enough to do it. The other thing is that it would give some of the other guys who aren’t Major League starters a chance to play everyday in the tournament.

Yeah, Adam Stern isn’t going to get more than 200 AB for the Red Sox this year, but on Team Canada he’s Willie Freaking Mays.

To me, the WBC is actually a much cooler idea than conventional baseball is. I’m a huge White Sox fan, but am I really attached to the players? No. They’re in and out.

We root for laundry.

Right. I love Jim Thome this year, but a few years ago I hated him. But when guys are playing for our country, it’s easy to get behind them.

See, I’m of almost the opposite opinion. I was actively cheering for the Dominican Republic because of David Ortiz. I couldn’t bring myself to support the USA with Jeter and A-Rod on the roster.

I guess it’s easy to root for someone who has something in common with you. Like if a guy is on the White Sox, I’m definitely going to root for him. But for me, if they’re playing for our country, then we can all get behind them. I think it’s a cool idea.

6. Barry Bonds was pelted with a syringe in San Diego on Monday, which is at the same time completely hilarious and ominously chilling. Our last interview came at the beginning of the BALCO investigation, and you were of the opinion that Bonds had used steroids and if he ever tested positive he should be thrown out of baseball. How should the new allegations from Game of Shadows and the “investigation” by Senator George Mitchell be handled?

I think it’s pretty complicated. The one thing I think they need to be careful of is that as much as I’m sensitive to the records that Bonds is chasing, you can’t JUST investigate Barry Bonds JUST because he’s chasing Ruth and Aaron. If other guys are cheating, they have to be treated in the same fashion. If it’s going to be addressed, it needs to be addressed across the board.

As for what they should do, I’m not really sure. I don’t know how far they can go within the rules of the game, like banning players or erasing stats.

Well, Mitchell doesn’t have subpoena power, so he can’t legally compel players to cooperate with the investigation. Essentially, it’s toothless. I’m disappointed that this was Selig’s answer, because it’s just window-dressing.

Hopefully, they actually find a way to investigate. I don’t know how they’re going to go about it. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like there’s a lot of information there, and if they can check the legitimacy of that, it’s probably a good place to start.

If someone came to you and offered you a pill that would guarantee you making the majors, and it wasn’t specifically against baseball’s testing policy, would you take it?

Is it an illegal drug in the United States?

Let’s say yes.

Then I can’t say I would take it. If it’s illegal in the U.S., then it’s still cheating.

What if it’s not illegal?

Then everybody’s probably already taking it.

7. What does it feel like to strike someone out?

It’s probably the second-best feeling in baseball, I’d say. It’s second to hitting a home run.

You’ve done both, I’m assuming?

Not since high school. I definitely haven’t hit any home runs in college. I’m 0-for-3. But the cool thing about a strikeout is that you can do it more often. And you can make the hitter look particularly foolish.

Like when they twist themselves into the ground and fall out of the batter’s box.

It feels fantastic. There’s two kinds of strikeouts that I like best. One is where you just throw a fastball right by the guy and you beat him with pure power. He’s overmatched. That’s a great feeling. The second is when you fool a guy with an off-speed pitch and he thinks it’s going to hit him or something and he moves out of the way and then BOOM it’s a strike.

Is it better than sex?

[Laughing] That’s a tough comparison. I would say they’re really not similar at all.

Really? Grooving a fastball? Hanging a slider?

[Still laughing] No, I can’t make that comparison. They’re different.

I can hear my inbox filling with complaints as we speak.

8. What’s your best pitch?

Fastball.

What do you hit on the gun?

I think the highest so far was 92, or maybe 93. If I’m having a good day, I’ll hit 92.

What’s your changeup like?

I’m more of a fastball/curve guy. It’s my best off-speed pitch. I’ll through a slider and a splitter too.

Will you go to the split as your “out” pitch, a la Clemens and Schilling?

I can, but the problem with a splitter is that it can be really good, but if you throw a bad one, the guy is going to hit it out. I’ve thrown two bad splitters this year, and they were both home runs.

Maybe you should avoid the splitter.

Or maybe I should start throwing a good one.

9. Baseball is renowned for its practical jokes. What’s the best dugout prank you’ve seen?

I think hotfoots are my favorite. I must have done six of those this past summer. We even got our coach a couple of times.

Are things like this verboten on the Cornell team, or can you still get away with them? Like, the Ben-Gay in the jockstrap, etc?

Do you know that Roger Clemens rubs that all over “himself” before he pitches?

Yeah, I read that and was SHOCKED. He said he “doesn’t want to feel too comfortable on the mound.”

All the guys are like, “Oh, Rocky, you should put Icy-Hot all over yourself, blah, blah, blah.”

That’s a special kind of pain.

It doesn’t make any sense. That’s not going to make me throw any harder.

Right, it’ll make you pass out.

Look, if you told me that plowing the Arts Quad with a knife would make me throw harder, I’d do it. But Icy-Hot on the genitals? I just don’t think that’s going to work.

So, you don’t pull any pranks at Cornell, then?

My freshman year, we got a pretty good hotfoot going. But I don’t think our coach was a big fan of that. But, we do have a fine sheet. I love the kangaroo court.

What are some of the fines so far?

You know, I can’t go into it. It’s very private.

How about just a small example?

I’ll give you a generic one, because I can’t be airing out people’s dirty laundry.

Rats.

There’s a lot of stuff. Public displays of affection are an automatic fine. We can’t be having that.

What would the fine be for, say, writing your name on a girl’s ass with, say, a magic marker?

That’s not a fine. That might be a dollar credit.

There are about five people that know what we’re talking about, and it’s probably best kept that way.

You can’t just be going around writing on people.

By the way, you’re my hero.

10. When I asked you this question two years ago, you were forced by certain obligations to answer in a specific way. Now that your situation has changed somewhat, I’m expecting a definitive answer. What’s the hottest women’s team at Cornell?

I’ll give you an honest answer.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Okay, listen to my argument.

You have an argument? Oh boy. Here we go.

Well, I assume that you’re going to ask me a follow-up question.

You assume correctly.

Okay, my answer is women’s track. Your turn.

Okay, why?

Well, for track, the workouts they do are SO difficult-

I’ve heard this before. I get it. They run a lot.

Give me a minute. Anybody that can go through those workouts and have that kind of dedication is to be respected. And, yes, I think the spandex puts them over the top.

So, as an athlete, you appreciate their work ethic? That’s the intangible asset that makes them attractive?

Obviously that applies to other athletes too, but the sports bras put them over the top.

Swimmers and rowers wear spandex. What about them?

But I never see any of those people.

Is this because you’re actively pursuing a relationship with a track athlete?

No, no, that’s definitely not true.

Your teammates say otherwise. Who is it?

What is this, a gossip column?

What, you think it’s supposed to be legitimate journalism?

Well, it’s just not true.

The track girls read this every week. They love it. Now’s your chance. Tell her you love her.

I want all of them to be happy. I’m not trying to exclude anyone.

See girls, there’s plenty of Rocky to go around.

Hey, you said that, not me.

All in all, this is a stunning reversal from two years ago. Isn’t the women’s soccer team attractive anymore?

I still like women’s soccer! I’ve still got a number of friends on the team! They’re an attractive group, too.

Just lay off the magic markers.

Ten Questions with Per Ostman will appear every week, or until the women’s soccer team scrapes together enough money to afford the hitman. Suggestions can be sent to tenquestions@mac.com.

Archived article by Per Ostman
Sun Senior Writer