For this last installment of 10 Questions, columnist Alex Kuczynski-Brown ’12 sat down with center fielder Brian Billigen ’12 of the Cornell baseball team. They discussed the upcoming Ivy League Championship Series, Slope Day (obviously), the evolution of his nickname, Pittsburgh sports, Don Draper, and why he would fight Barry Bonds if given the opportunity.
1. First off, I have to offer my congratulations to you guys for winning your second-straight Ivy League division title and tying a program record for season victories. How does it feel to be hosting the Ivy League Championship Series for the first time ever?
It feels pretty special. I think they introduced the Ivy Championship [Series] in the mid-90s, and we’ve never hosted it. We won the division title my freshman year, had to go to Dartmouth — pretty tough to play in that kind of environment, so it will be nice to have the entire school be able to watch us at home. It feels pretty special.
You guys face Dartmouth this weekend in a best-of-three series. How does having a doubleheader on Saturday affect your Slope Day plans?
We have to still meet with the team about that. I think we might try to get everybody off-campus just to get away from the distractions ... maybe do a team event on Friday, just all of us have a BBQ or something at the coach’s house just to keep everybody [from] getting into Slope Day trouble.
Seeing as how this is the last 10 Questions of the year, I have to ask about Slope Day: what’s your opinion on this year’s headliner?
It’s Taio Cruz, correct?
I didn’t even know — someone had to tell me recently. I’ve only been to one Slope Day in my four years, and that was last year.
Last year — so Nelly?
I love Nelly, that was great.
That was the best one in my opinion.
Yeah, definitely. I heard Drake wasn’t that good live, and I heard — I forget ...
Pussycat Dolls freshman year, that was a little questionable.
Yeah. But Taio Cruz, I know maybe one song, so it’s not really a great start.
Is it safe to say you would prefer Childish Gambino?
Yeah, I know somebody on the Slope Day committee; they offered him, and I got so excited. He’s one of my favorite artists. Not many people on my team appreciate when I put him on in the locker room or in the car or anything — they get [annoyed] ... but I love him.
Would you say that’s your go-to pump-up music before games?
Yeah definitely. I have a couple songs that I play on every bus ride and on every walk to the field, and there’s a couple Childish songs.
2. I understand you’re a nut when it comes to Pittsburgh sports, but you’re not a Pirates fan?
Unfortunately I am, but I don’t have much to cheer for. The excitement I get for the Steelers and Penguins isn’t there because they don’t win. If they win, yeah, I’ll be excited, but there’s not much to cheer for when they lose a lot.
I can understand that, as a Philadelphia fan — there have been many ups-and-downs for our teams over the course of my lifetime.
Are you a Flyers fan?
I will readily admit, I am a bandwagon Flyers fan. So right now of course I’m all “Go Flyers” ... and on that note, I was wondering if you had anything to say about the Penguins’ loss to the Flyers in the NHL playoffs?
It was tough — I got a little annoyed, a little angry — they blew a bunch of leads ... I wish they would have won, but I’ve let it go.
Now you can cheer for the superior Pennsylvania team.
Of course, of course. Absolutely.
3. Why does everyone call you “Beans”?
Long story — I’ve maybe told it 100 times in the past four years. Freshman year I was not a big partyer, not a big drinker at all. But I would go to all the baseball parties — we throw a lot of parties in the offseason. I’d have a good time, enjoy myself, and all the seniors were wondering “How could he have a good time if [he’s] not going to ... enjoy the festivities?” And one time, just randomly I went to a movie with a couple of the senior guys, and I came back and there was a party going on. I had a box of candy with me from the movie, and they see me — they’re all ... having a good time — and they go, “Oh, this is how you have a good time — you’re always having sugar, you always have a sugar high.” “Sugar” got switched to “Jelly Beans,” “Jelly Beans” got shortened to “Beans.” So there’s a whole story built around it, and it’s just been four years of evolution.
What is a “Bean Dip”?
“Bean Dip” is when — I’m assuming Brandon [Lee] ’12 or Houston [Hawley] ’13 told you this one — it’s when I meet somebody in Collegetown, and we’re going to go somewhere as a team. I run into somebody I know and I just disappear with that person. I just leave and they have no idea where I went, and I don’t see them until the next morning or later that night, and they’re like “Where the hell did you go?” So they [nicknamed that] a “Bean Dip.”
What kind of people are you disappearing with?
Just other friends I guess. It’s a wide variety of people.
Are there places where you usually end up, or is it just totally random?
Fall semester it was pretty random ... honestly, I didn’t have a preference of where I ended up, but I usually ended up at CTP and then going home.
Would you say a “Bean Dip” is what caused you to leave $200 worth of chips on the table in Atlantic City over Fall Break?
Yeah, I would say that was it, but it wasn’t because I met anybody, it was just because I got lost getting back to the table.
I’ve never been to Atlantic City, but if it’s anything like Vegas I can understand you getting lost.
It was my second night there, and I went to the bathroom and could not find my way back to where the chips were. So I ended up getting lost in the hotel and ended up right outside our hotel room not knowing where any of my stuff was, so Jeeter [Ishida] ’12 — I had to call Jeeter — and he stole my chips, got my jacket, and brought it back up to the room for me because I completely just forgot where everything was.
4. You’re a senior as far as I know, so why is it that some of your teammates consider you a freshman because this is your “first year of college”?
I’ve been tied down my last three years in college; I had girlfriends at home, so they say this is my first year out to the college wild, so I’ve tried to enjoy it as much as possible — try to fit four years of fun into one year.
How’s that been working out for you?
Fall semester was a good time. A little wild, a little crazy. It’s nice that we’re winning this semester, too. I’m having a wide variety of fun.
Pat Lewicki ’12 started his email to me with “I hope your senior year is going as well as Brian Billigen's is,” so I took that as a positive indication.
Yeah definitely. I’ve made some good decisions, I’ve made some bad decisions but they all worked out.
5. Do you play any sports besides baseball?
I played basketball in high school, and we play some pick-up games here and there. We actually won the intramural flag football [championship] my sophomore year, which was fun.
That’s a prestigious title.
We got a couple tee-shirts, it was pretty nice.
What about golf?
I golf, yeah. We actually go every year for my birthday, which is actually next Friday.
Oh, happy birthday in advance!
Thank you. Me, Rick Marks ’12, Houston, Spenser [Souza] ’13 — all of us, we might have a lot of guys actually, because everybody I talk to wants to go. We’ll have a good time and relax on the course. It’s a nice way to celebrate my birthday.
One of your teammates described your golf game as the “Tiger Woods of the baseball team.” I didn’t know if this was a reference to your golfing ability, or your relationships with women.
Well, my golfing ability isn’t good. I try to hit the ball as far as I can, and I have a short temper when it comes to me making bad shots. I know Tiger has a short temper too, so that might be it. Or if someone wants to say that about [me] off-the-course, it might be that too, I’m not sure.
Whenever people talk about their subpar golfing ability, I always ask “Are you better than Charles Barkley?” Have you seen him golf?
I have. He can probably hit the ball straighter than me, but I can definitely hit it farther.
6. Are you a Mad Men fan?
Love Mad Men.
What are your thoughts on Don Draper?
He’s my idol. Me and Pat watch it every week; we sometimes try to pretend we’re on the show when we’re watching it — get some whiskey in a glass and watch it, just to get more in the atmosphere of Mad Men. It’s pretty nice, we enjoy it.
I don’t watch the show, but what is it about Don Draper that makes him such an inspiring figure?
He’s a man’s man. He worries about himself first; he had a family, but he kind of ruined that. I actually kind of want to do what he does job-wise, which is another catch. But other than that, he has a good time, never worries about anyone else.
7. Speaking of career choices, I was reading an article — I think it was published in 2010 — and you implied you would like to play baseball professionally. Is that still the case?
Of course, still my dream. Definitely. We’ll see what happens with the draft this year, and if not, there’s always a chance to play independent baseball or something else like that.
Could you explain what the draft process entails for people not familiar with it?
It’s a two-day affair in early June. Teams will send out letters to players they’re interested in, and you’ll fill out your information ... medical history and stuff like that. You’ll get some phone calls — agents will be calling you; I try to stay away from the agents — they’re just a bunch of guys trying to get some money. The week before the actual draft you’ll get some phone calls from some teams saying “Hey, we’re interested. You might hear your name called by us. If you do, we’ll give you a call, let you know what’s going on.” It’s 50 rounds — so 50 rounds, 30 teams ... good chance.
I know Jadd Schmeltzer ’11 got drafted last year. Have you spoken to him about what he went through at all?
Yeah, I talked to Jadd and his dad actually over the summer because I was in New York City with a couple of my friends — Mickey Brodsky ’11 and them, and Jadd’s dad actually owns a YMCA in New York City, so we worked out there. I talked to him a little bit about what Jadd went through. He was having a good time; he was working out in LA with some teammates. He was enjoying it — said it was stressful, but he had fun doing it.
I know you mentioned the Pirates don’t leave you much to cheer for, but is there a particular team that you dream of playing for?
When I was little, I always wished I could play for the Red Sox — I don’t know why — all the underdog stuff, Red Sox-Yankees, they never won [before 2004]. And my favorite player is on the Red Sox, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, so I always cheer for him — if not the team, I always cheer for him.
8. If playing professionally doesn’t work out, would you like to work in baseball?
Definitely, I know some people who are working in baseball now, some former teammates. I’d love to go work in the front office and stay involved in the game. If I can’t play, I want to be able to watch it every day at least.
Jon Daniels ’99! Hit him up.
My coach has tried to contact him a lot, but ... he’s just busy, the guy’s the general manager of a Major League Baseball team, he has very little time for that. We have a couple younger guys who are scouts in some team organizations that I’ve talked to, trying to get in with them.
I know Jon Daniels visited Cornell last year, did you get to see him?
I did not. We had practice when he was here. It would have been nice if I could have, but I never did get a chance to meet him or anything.
9. How do you feel about date auctions? Would you ever participate in another one again in your lifetime?
I will never even go near another date auction, and I will never touch a drink at a date auction ever again. I will sit in the corner, and twiddle my thumbs. I’m never volunteering for anything. It was a good time, but I don’t want to do it again.
Would you ever go as a bidder?
Nope ... waste of money. I wasted money this time, so I’m not going to do it again. If I don’t have to go, I will never go.
10. Seeing as how this is my last article for The Sun, and this is the last question I will ever ask a Cornell athlete ... in homage to my favorite movie, Fight Club: if you could fight any historical figure — or anyone for that matter — who would it be?
Wow. [thinking] Right now in my mind it would probably be one of the Flyers’ players, or it would be my high school baseball coach ... my new high school baseball coach I loved, but my first high school baseball coach I hated. Or Barry Bonds. Dude ruined Pirate baseball — last time we were good, he was with us and he just left. Just left us out to dry. So I’d fight him.
You know, I would fight Barry Bonds too if given the opportunity. I can definitely see him making my list.
He disgraced the game I love, and he disgraced our city too. So there’s two reasons why I would fight him.