Military Press had the privilege of interviewing San Diego Padre broadcaster Mark “Mud” Grant. In 1981, he was a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants as a pitcher, but in 1987 was traded to the San Diego Padres. He played for the Padres through 1990 and returned in 1997 as a color analyst. He has become well-known for humorous antics, quick wit, a gregarious personality, and detailed insights.
Military Press is also pleased to offer, on behalf of the Padres, a free Padres military baseball cap to the first five readers who answer a question based on this interview! (See the details at the end of this interview).
Elise Cooper: Who was your mentor or influence?
Mark “Mud” Grant: In my personal life I would say I admired my dad, Larry, the most. I have a great relationship with him, and in September he will be 89. He is the humblest man I have ever known and has supported me throughout my career. My dad was always on the coaching staff while I was an amateur. He was never negative, domineering, and never told me how to do things. Instead, he relied on the other coaches to teach me. He let me have fun, learn the game, and make friends.
EC: Who influenced you as a broadcaster?
MMG: I grew up on the South side of Chicago and became a huge Cubs fan. I listened to Harry Caray and enjoyed his broadcasts. Some of my former teammates helped me get into this business and laid the groundwork. After I became a Padres color analyst, I was able to work with Dick Enberg for eight years. He was the voice of sports when I was a child doing MLB, NFL, and college basketball. I thought it was pretty cool to work with him. Someone I greatly admire is Vin Scully. When the Padres played the Dodgers, I always made a point to visit Vin. After I entered the business, I asked him for advice. The first words out of his mouth, ‘be yourself. Learn what works and does not work for you.’ I realized I had to have my own personality.
EC: Now you work with Don Orsillo and have great chemistry. He seems like your straight man.
MMG: We have a genuine love for each other. He is one of my closest friends. It did not take long to develop a relationship where we know each other’s personalities. We want to keep the audience engaged and to keep tuning in to the game so sometimes we go beyond strategy. We have fun with each other and joke around like ‘teatime in the second inning,’ whether Earl Grey or Green Tea, and the pointer that I gave him as a gift.
EC: Concerning baseball what do you see as your job as a color analyst?
MMG: Don is the play-by-play guy. His job is to talk about what is happening in the game. My job is to explain why it happened and to give a player’s insight.
EC: How has Covid affected your broadcast?
MMG: Not traveling with the team and not being able to interact with the players on the field was hard. There is nothing like face-to-face interaction with the players and coaches that happened pre-Covid. Since the virus we had no access to the clubhouse or field. Luckily as of Wednesday June 9th we were able to have access again. Regarding traveling with the team, nothing beats seeing a game firsthand. Although we have monitors and camera angles it is still not the same. There are certain views we do not have. Overall, Don and I adjusted.
EC: Do you like the Covid changes to the game, like having a designated hitter in the National League, the extra inning rule, and seven-inning double headers?
MMG: Baseball is one of those sports which has not changed much during the years. I think the new rules liven it up a bit. I have no problem with these rules. Before these changes there were games, I was involved in, that went 16 to 22 innings. This affects a pitching staff in the worst way. I am all for change but do realize that the traditionalists are against these changes.
EC: I did some research, and it seems not having a DH in 2021 has hurt the Padres offensively. For example, in 2020 their team batting average was .257, while in 2021 it is .235; RBIs in 2020 were 312, in 2021 256; and homeruns in 2020 were 95, in 2021 61.
MMG: Good comparison because we have now played in 2021 about the same number of games as the 2020 season. Yes, not having an extra bat in the lineup has hurt the Padres in the scoring of runs. After last year I got used to the DH. Obviously, the stats reflect that the DH helped the offense.
EC: Are you as frustrated with the umpires calls of balls and strikes as many fans?
MMG: I get frustrated at times. I think a strike is a strike and am all for an electronic strike zone. Currently, strike zones are subjective. If balls are called strikes it takes away from hitters’ strengths. Not many hitters can take a pitch four or five inches off the plate and hit it. This is like before instant replay where people thought a system of reviewing plays would never happen, yet we have it today. Never say never.
EC: Twenty consecutive games, then an off day, which was a travel day, and now there are thirteen consecutive days straight playing games. It does not even out over the course of the season because the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres after June have the same number of off days. What do you think?
MMG: It is tough and a grind. Players must maintain their focus physically and mentally, to be on top of their game. This schedule is a challenge. At least there is not a twenty-game stretch in August. Maybe after June, players will be able to regroup and get healthy during the off days.
EC: Do the Padres have a good pitching staff?
MMG: The Padre pitching leads the majors in ERA, their bullpen is the best in baseball, and they average over nine strikeouts a game. Overall, I think they go after hitters. The Padres have very good catchers that make the pitchers feel comfortable. The more there is a relationship, and they get to know each other’s personality the more confidence pitchers have in the catcher. They do talk about the previous inning, what happened, and what they should do the next inning. For example, just because someone hits a slider for a home run does not mean that sliders should not be thrown but should be down and away.
EC: Right now, the Padre hitters are in a slump.
MMG: Good pitching will beat good hitting and the Padres have faced great pitching lately. Hitters need to adjust, so I do not blame shifts for the slump. Many great hitters have gone through slumps. Tony Gwynn only went 0 for 15 as his worst slump and that is remarkable. These guys get beat up by nagging injuries, yet they go out there each and every day trying to perform.
EC: Besides Petco Park which stadium has the best food?
EC: Would you like to say anything to those serving in the military?
MMG: I cannot thank the men and women who served and what they do for this country. They are very special people. I got traded to the Padres in 1987 and love it here. I love that I saw Marine recruits out there, every Sunday home game the team wears military uniforms, that I can broadcast with my best friend Don, and that San Diego is my home.
EC: For the interview question go to the Giveaway column.