Dodger Stadium rises above downtown Los Angeles, giving you a spectacular south-facing view of the city. Beyond the grandstands it stretches from the green hills of Elysian Park to the San Gabriel Mountains in the north. The famous field is said to favors pitchers, but the Dodgers ensure no team gets an easy ride when they visit.
So what better place to interview the star pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenley Jansen? The 30 year-old is from the Caribbean island of Curacao and is one of the pillars of the squad. Quite literally. At 1.96 metres (6’ 4”) tall and 124kg (273 lb), he can singlehandedly raise the roof.
Ever since his 2010 debut in Major League Baseball, Jansen has been a Dodger. Career highlights include two visits to the MLB All-Star Game in 2016 and 2017 but what does inspire Kenley Jansen?
Q: “Kenley, you’ve played for the team since 2010?”
Q: “What does representing the LA Dodgers mean to you?”
Jansen: “Representing LA Dodgers means a lot. With the LA Dodgers you hear about Jackie Robinson, change of culture, everything you know? This organization changed the whole lifestyle of this world, for us all to be connected. To give us a shot, like for me today, to impress a young kid coming from Curacao. Never thought to play the big leagues but here I am and doing my part. So to me this organization is a lot. Like I said, they changed the whole world.”
Q: “What is one of your happiest memories as a Dodger?”
Jansen: “My happiest memory as a Dodger is winning the pennant last year to go to the World Series. Me throwing the last pitch against the Chicago Cubs. They’re the division champions and had to play them to go to the World Series. That was one of the happiest days. I can’t forget that day. Even then we fall short but still, that is my happiest moment.”
Q: “Other than winning the World Series, which is what we’re all hoping for, what are some milestones you still want to accomplish in your career?”
Jansen: “A milestone is winning a championship here in the Dodgers, that’s all I care for. I can get the most saves in this Dodger history. Just being a Dodger, more saves in the Dodger uniform, I can do all that. But still, it doesn’t mean anything to me if I feel we don’t accomplish the goal of winning a championship, that’s what it’s all about. We all play for the championship, you know? We want to bring that trophy back here in LA.”
Q: “When did you start playing baseball?”
Jansen: “Oh, I was six years old. My two older brothers were playing and I wanted to play too so at six years old I started playing baseball.”
Q: “We all know you as a pitcher, but we’ve heard you’ve played some other positions as well.”
Jansen: “Yeah. I was a catcher. I was a really good catcher. I could throw the ball very well so that’s why I moved around. But growing up as a position player I pitched a little bit in the little leagues but also I was a little league hitter but then I moved over to the professional league and I kind of lost it. And me being a good catcher, I could throw from my knees to second base. I had a good arm. God just made that position for me. I made my shot as a pitcher.”
Q: “Which sports star inspired you to succeed?”
Jansen: “Michael Jordan. I mean Shaquille O’Neal is my favorite player of all time, my hero, but Michael Jordan is just the man, you know? He’s undefeated, he won six championships. To me, he’s the one that inspired me.”
Q: “Do you have a hero outside of sports?”
Jansen: “Yeah, I have a hero. My mom and dad, always. Like both of them take that shot on me, that me as sixteen years old, asking them like, ‘Please, let me go play baseball. If I don’t succeed I’ll come back. Trust me, I’ll come back and finish my school.’ You know, that’s a tough thing to do. I wouldn’t recommend any parents to do that, but the fact that they let me try and they always was hard on me in school. And every game they never punished me if I did something wrong. They never punished me in sports. Every game that I play baseball, every game they was at the park watching me play. No matter what they have to do or they find some room to watch me play baseball. So, I will never forget that. Family is everything, so to me they’re my hero.”
Q: “At Pirelli we say, and it’s our tagline, ‘Power is nothing without control.’”
Q: “How do you feel about that in your sport and what you do for a living?”
Jansen: “I feel really good about it. I feel really confident about myself. Like you said, it’s all about power, you know? It’s all about you having control out there. Especially when it comes down to the 9th inning, I want to have that control. That’s what I feel about it.”
Q: “What part of control-- How much of it is mental with all the pressure on you?”
Jansen: “I would say 90% is mental. If you be distracted, mentally distracted, especially in what I do. Coming in a tie game or a one run lead, it’s gonna be tough because if your mind is not in the right place, you’re gonna be distracted and next thing the game is gonna speed on you. So, I feel like it’s more I’m gonna be, the ten percent-- Let’s say I’m already in great shape so my body’s already in that pitching shape to throw so to me it’s like how can you control yourself, control your emotions and deal with that situation out there.
Q: “We know you have a passion for cars, so what was your first car?”
Jansen: “My first car, it was a Nissan Altima when I was first signed and going to the Dodgers. And then when I got into the big leagues I had the Dodge Charger, it was my second car. And then, when I started making good money for myself I went to go get my dream car. It was the Mercedes CL65.”
Q: “The AMG?”
Q: “Big power. Alright, so that’s your dream car right now.”
Jansen: “That’s my dream car still, I won’t let it go. Even when they stop making it I’ll still keep telling Mercedes like, ‘S-class is nothing like that CL.’ That C-class. That CL65. It’s still the beast that they have so I really love that car.”