Mike Bordick could field his position, and as one of the game’s steadiest shortstops for over a decade, Bordick set a pair of big-league records when he handled 543 chances over 110 consecutive errorless games in 2002, a season that saw Alex Rodriguez awarded the AL Gold Glove despite having a lower RFg and nine more errors than the sure-handed Bordick. Signed by Oakland as a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Maine in 1986, Bordick went on to play 14 seasons with the A’s, Orioles, Mets, and Blue Jays, logging 1,500 hits and appearing in two World Series. An American League All-Star in 2000, Bordick is currently the head baseball coach at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore.
David Laurila: You’re known as a native of Maine, but were actually born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Can you talk a little about your background?
Mike Bordick: My dad was in the Air Force, and he was stationed at K.I. Sawyer [Air Force Base] near Marquette [Michigan], and I was there for about a year. From there we actually went overseas and were stationed in Okinawa. Then we went to Oklahoma, so I was basically doing the Air Force-brat thing, traveling around. My mom was from Maine, so whenever there was a hiatus in our travel we’d go back to Maine; that really became our home base. Growing up, I played Little League for a year in Maine, and then I went to high school in Maine, and then college. My wife is from Maine, and that’s my home now.
DL: What is your history as a baseball fan?
MB: Well, I’d say Red Sox fan. Probably, like most kids, on Saturdays I’d get to watch the Dodgers a lot on TV, so I enjoyed watching them. But we’d keep coming back to Maine where it was always Red Sox stuff, so it was either the Red Sox or Dodgers. And then, when I ended up living in Maine when I was in high school, it was all about the Red Sox, playing whiffle ball in the backyard and having the Green Monster be the spruce trees in the backyard.
DL: You were signed by the A’s and came up through their farm system. What do you most remember from the time you spent in the minor leagues?
MB: Oh, goodness. I think it was all just incredible, a great experience. I was pretty naïve about the whole process of the minor leagues, and each level was great, getting to meet some great former players who were coaches. Actually, one of the things that stood out is that Rick Burleson was one of the coaches. He ended up being our hitting coach, and when I went down my first year-I was up and down in the big leagues-I made a hitting tape with him. I ended up getting called back up in the playoffs when the A’s beat the Red Sox because Walt Weiss got hurt. I got put on the World Series roster in 1990, which was pretty nice.
DL: What do you consider to have been your best year in the big leagues?
MB: Oh, my goodness. 1992 was a good year, not because-actually, offensively it might have been my most productive. But it just felt like the whole team was on the same page; everybody knew what they had to do. In ’92, the A’s were kind of overachievers, so that was a fun year. I think that in ’97, going over to the Orioles, there were just a bunch of great players, so that was a lot of fun too. But just to be a part of a team that had to overachieve to reach the playoffs: I think that ’92 was probably my most memorable.
DL: Some people might expect you to say that it was 2000, the season you hit 20 home runs.
MB: Hitting 20 home runs was fun, but I think I was a better hitter in ’92, just because I had a hitting coach, Doug Rader, that believed in me and cut me on a consistent path. Every day I did the same thing. I wouldn’t vary off of it, and I stayed consistent through the whole year. Offensively, that’s probably one of the hardest things to do-at least it was for me, as a hitter, throughout my career. That year I was [consistent], so it was probably the best.
DL: Who was the most influential teammate you had in Oakland?
MB: Probably Carney Lansford. He was a great leader. Not only was he a great player who did things the right way on the field, he was vocal and he got you motivated. He put you in your place when you did things wrong; he kept you up. He was just a great all-around teammate. And that team really had a whole group of those guys. Dave Stewart, Terry Steinbach-just a great group of professional baseball players who knew how to do it.
DL: How about in Baltimore?
MB: The same idea, but it seemed to me like that A’s team was more vocal. The Orioles just had such great talent. There weren’t many vocal leaders, just guys who knew what their jobs were and went out and did it the right way every day.
DL: How important is the relationship and camaraderie between double-play partners?
MB: For me it was crucial. I had to have a good relationship, or at least an understanding, out there in our practices when we would prepare. Basically, my hope was that my double-play partner would do things in game-speed motion so that I would understand what he was going to do come game time. But, for the most part, every guy in the big leagues is pretty much like that. And you have to be able to communicate out there to a point where you’re doing it without actually talking. That’s the way it has to be in the middle of the infield.
DL: Who was the best second baseman you played with?
MB: I think the most talented would probably have to be Robby Alomar. He was a pretty incredible player, and could do things that no other second baseman could do defensively, and offensively as well. Robby was the best, all around.
DL: What was your best attribute as a defensive infielder?
MB: Just catching the ball and making the plays. I was always taught, especially at the major league level, that you have to make every routine play. If you make great plays, well, that’s awesome, but you better make sure that you catch the routine ground ball. You have to get those outs, or you’re not going to be there.
DL: Gold Glove awards are often debated. Do you think that the voters usually get them right, and do they use the right criteria in making the selections?
MB: I don’t know if I even know how they do it, to tell you the truth. I don’t really know how the voting works, and I’ve never really had much interest in it. I do know that guys who get Gold Gloves are generally pretty deserving of them. There might be other players who maybe that year had better defensive statistics, but usually the guys getting the Gold Gloves are pretty darn good players.
DL: From range factor to zone ratings, defensive value is now measured by a variety of metrics. From a defensive standpoint, which numbers meant the most to you as a player?
MB: I didn’t really pay attention to that stuff. I just wanted to catch every ball, and to have that kind of mindset coming into every game. I didn’t want to give the other team extra opportunities. So, just catch as many balls as you can, and get them out.
DL: How particular were you about the glove you used?
MB: I was very particular, I used a Mizuno glove. I started using that glove when I was in college, and back then it was called “The Close.” When I ended up playing professional ball, they had a Rawlings glove waiting for me in the locker, and I tried that for a little bit, but I went right back to that Mizuno glove and used it my whole career.
DL: When you think back to the infield coaches you worked with, who helped you the most?
MB: You know what? There was a time that I went through some changes, and when I was with the A’s, the guy who had the most influence was probably Rene Lacheman. He was kind of the catching-slash-infield coach for the A’s in the early 90s, and he would always position me. In the big leagues, everything is by the book, right? All the tendencies, so you follow the charts and you make your adjustments, and we’d have meetings on that, but when you’re out on the field-he would literally scream, “Bordick! Take a step to your left!” and I’d move over. What it did for me is that it reminded me of the importance of how much just an inch makes with the movement you make as an infielder. It made me learn that I would have to pay more attention to the books, and the tendencies, and the statistics on how offensive players hit our pitchers. And that is what is so unique about major league baseball, that you have all those books and statistics, and the tendencies that the hitters have. So it was fun for me to really get inside the game that way, and he really had a huge impact on me early. Sam Perlozzo is someone who ended up helping me a lot when I went to the Orioles. I was going through a transition coming to the Orioles, and he helped me to relax and focus.
DL: You played with Mike Mussina in Baltimore. What are your thoughts on his career?
MB: He is a Hall of Famer in my mind. He was the epitome of consistency for a right-handed pitcher. I think that he did so many really good things. He pitched on a lot of bad teams, but still did well. He had a great work ethic and he was successful for a long time. I just think that he was a great right-handed pitcher in the big leagues.