09/02/09 5:41 PM ET
ChopTalk: Talking with Tommy Hanson
The Braves pitcher dishes on his family and teammates
By Patty Rasmussen / Special to MLB.com
Hanson: (Laughing) That all depends on what he said about me! Seriously, he really keeps you on your toes at all times. He's going to let you know if you've done something wrong, and he'll be the first one to tell you. He busts you constantly and doesn't let up! He's fun to have around, and he's one of my best friends. It's great to have him around, though sometimes, he gets to be a bit much.
CT: What do you do then? Send him to his room?
Hanson: (Laughs) He's figured me out pretty much. When I get mad, I'm quiet. So at first, he would keep going and going until I went overboard. But now he knows when to back off.
CT: You and Kris are roommates. Is there a divvying up of the chores? Have you hired a maid?
Hanson: Well, my little sisters are in town now, so I pay them to clean up when we go on the road. Hopefully, that will be a routine. Every once in a while, his girlfriend will come into town, and he'll decide to clean up and try to act like he's tidy. But really, when the dishes get backed up or something like that, whoever feels like cleaning up takes care of it.
CT: You guys have been roommates before, right? It's just that this is a nicer place.
Hanson: Exactly. We've been roommates since 2006 when we first signed. We lived together all through the minors and now, too.
CT: Both of you lived in California and played against each other in community college, but it wasn't until you joined the Braves organization that you became friends. How did you meet?
Hanson: We signed the same year . We had the same scout [Tom Battista], and he told me, "Go introduce yourself [to Kris]." I knew who he was, and it so happened that he was in the locker next to me when we got to rookie ball, so I introduced myself and talked. Being a new guy there, both of us being from Southern California, I knew who he was and he knew who I was, so it clicked from there. He keeps everything light and fun, and no matter what happens, we're going to laugh. And it was good to have a buddy [in Atlanta] when I got here. It makes the whole transition easier. Just watching him pitch here, having him called up before me, made it a little easier for me.
CT: Is your given name Tommy or Thomas?
Hanson: It's Thomas J Hanson Jr. It's my dad's name. He's called Tom. The "J" stands for a bunch of people in my grandmother's life whose names start with "J", like my Uncle Jesse. So, it's not an initial for a specific person. It's not J-a-y. There's no period after the "J". It's just the letter "J".
CT: Will you ever graduate to being called "Tom" instead of "Tommy?"
Hanson: I don't want to because it sounds old. All my dad's friends from high school call him "Tommy," and I don't get it. I'm like,"You're an old guy. You're Tom." D-Lowe [Derek Lowe] calls me Tom, and I'm not a huge fan of it. My dad's Tom. I'm Tommy.
CT: Did you ever have any other nicknames? Were you called "Red" when you were a kid?
Hanson: When I was younger, I can't believe I'm going to say this, because I hated it, but everyone [in my family] called me "Tom-Tom." They called me that when I got older, but I hated it and said, "You've got to stop calling me that."
CT: Or you'd do what?
Hanson: I'd keep being mad! There came a point when I started ignoring people who'd call me that, and it finally died out.
CT: What's one word that describes you as a kid?
Hanson: Quiet. Really quiet. I never said too much. When I was younger, I just did my thing and didn't talk a lot.
CT: Do you think you're still quiet? Is that how you'd describe yourself now?
Hanson: I would say I'm reserved. I don't talk a lot, though I will talk when I need to. I wouldn't say I'm not social, but I just don't talk a lot. I like to do what I have to do and stay in my little circle. I'm not into getting a lot of attention.
CT: You're in a business where you're going to get a lot of attention.
Hanson: I've already noticed that. I understand it comes with the job, but it's one of those things that "is what it is." I like to stay in my own shell, so [attention] is something I'm going to need to get used to. I know it comes with the territory, so I've just got to deal with it.
CT: Do you have any amusing Minor League stories to share?
Hanson: There were a couple of times when we didn't get to eat dinner. In the lower levels of the Minor Leagues, they don't have a spread in the clubhouse after the game. There were times when we'd eat at Applebee's seven out of seven days and a couple of times when we didn't even get to eat dinner. We got snacks out of the vending machine at the hotel, and the snacks were old and crusty. That was our dinner. That's the one thing that really stuck out with me because I remember that -- sitting there with those old, crusty snacks thinking, "Really? This is what I'm doing? I've resorted to eating out of a vending machine?" It was not fun.
CT: Growing up in Southern California, which baseball team was "your" team? Did you have a particular pitcher you admired?
Hanson: When I was younger, I really just liked watching baseball, any baseball. Once I got a little older, I started following the Anaheim Angels a little bit. That was really my team through junior high and high school. I watched them because they were always on and they were winning. I didn't start pitching seriously until I was in high school. In my junior year, that's when I realized if I'm going to keep playing, it's going to be as a pitcher, and that's when I started focusing on it.
CT: When did you grow so tall [6-feet-6]?
Hanson: It was the summer before my junior year. I grew four inches in two months, which was painful. It hurt my knees, my thigh bones always hurt so badly. I was 15 years old and I was about 6-1 or 6-2, and that's when I sprouted up. I didn't know how tall I would get. My dad is 6-feet-tall, and my mom [Cindy] is probably 5-5, so I had no idea how tall I'd end up. Then all of a sudden, I started having these horrible growing pains. Really, all my life I've had growing pains, but that was, by far, the worst. I was awkward. I was growing so fast. I was always athletic, but during that time, I was arms and legs all over the place. I didn't know what was going on!
CT: Do you have a minimum height requirement for women you date?
Hanson: (Laughing) I don't, I don't. It's never been an issue. It isn't something I think about.
CT: You're a West Coast guy living on the East Coast. Is there a big difference? Is the pace faster on the East Coast than on the West?
Hanson: I don't think it's that big a difference, to be honest. Being in Atlanta makes it seem pretty similar, not that big of a difference in pace from where I grew up [Redlands, Calif.]. I think at home everyone is in a rush. There are cars everywhere, and everyone's in a rush. People here are a lot nicer. I mean it -- it's a lot more friendly. At home, and I'm not bashing, everyone's always on the go, doing what they've got to do.
CT: What was your favorite subject in school?
Hanson: I always liked history, so if I had to pick one, it would be history. I liked U.S. history. But I was never big into school. I always wanted to be outside. Kris always makes fun of me, because I'm good with numbers. He thinks it's a big deal that I can add numbers really fast in my head.
CT: Large numbers?
Hanson: Not large numbers, but, like when we're playing a game, I can do basic math really fast, and he'll say, "Wait, how did you figure that out?" I was never big into school. I had to get good grades or my dad would have been all over me.
CT: Would he have taken away playing ball?
Hanson: No. But I wouldn't have been able to do anything but that. He never would have taken baseball away from me, because he knew it would crush me and I would have been furious. But anything besides that. Even now, with my sisters, you can play a sport or you can get a job, one or the other. You had to do something else, other than school. You couldn't sit around and do nothing.
CT: You didn't have to be pushed into playing baseball then?
Hanson: Never. It was always something I wanted to do. Neither one of my parents played baseball or softball. When I was young, I started playing and loved it and kept playing. Both my parents have been so supportive all the way, growing up. My dad never pushed me, always encouraged me, and sometimes, if I didn't want to go to practice or something, he'd find a way to talk me into wanting to go. My dad is a really good motivator.
CT: What has he said that's really stuck with you?
Hanson: I think it's more just watching him. He's retired now, but I watched him go to work every day and seeing what he did [iron worker]. There were days when he didn't want to go and he went anyway. He didn't have to talk about it. Just seeing him do what he needed to do. There are days I don't feel like doing stuff and days I'm not feeling well, and it's always in the back of my mind that he didn't miss work, no matter what. He was on time, early and did his job. He told me that his dad did the same thing, so he didn't have to say a word to me. I think it's in me now that I'm going to do the same thing. That's the biggest thing I've learned from my dad.
CT: You mention your family a good bit, how supportive they are. How many siblings do you have?
Hanson: I have two younger sisters, 17 and 13, and one older sister, 25. And I have a half-brother and a step-brother, 21, [from my mom]. I have five siblings connected to me, and I'm pretty close to all of them. My two younger sisters I'm really close to. I think because I'm the older brother and do the whole "look after them" thing. It's nice having them [in Atlanta] now, because I have been so close to them. Every year when I'd leave, I'd have to see them cry. I talk to my older sister every couple of days. I speak to my step-brother every once in a while and my half-brother, I don't call him my half-brother, he's my brother, I talk to him all the time. He cracks me up. He's too funny.
CT: What was your favorite vacation or vacation spot?
Hanson: Once a year, my dad and my grandpa and some other folks would go deep sea fishing in La Paz, Mexico, and before my grandpa died, when I was 8 years old, I got to go there with him ... my Uncle Clifford, my dad and some other friends. It was definitely the most fun vacation I ever went on. I was really close to my grandpa, and being able to go down there and experience that with them was an awesome time. We went a couple of years back, and it's one of my favorite spots. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, and being out on the water, relaxing, and catching fish is unbelievable. I can't wait to go back.
CT: Are you a big concert-goer? What's the best concert you've been to?
Hanson: I love going to concerts, but a lot of them take place in the summer when we're playing, so I don't get to go as much as I'd like. We went to the [May 28] Kenny Chesney concert [at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Alpharetta], and that was an awesome concert. We had a blast! I went with a group of guys I played with at Gwinnett. We were in the fourth row from the stage, and I turned around and looked back ... there were so many people, it was ridiculous.
CT: Do you have any pets?
Hanson: I have a dog, a mastiff named Hooch. He lives with my dad. He weighs more than me. He weighs like 225 pounds. He's enormous; he's a beast. He's about done. He's 8 years old, and that's about how long they usually live. His hips are really bad, so it's definitely going to be sad when his time comes. It was awesome seeing him when [the family] moved here. He hobbles around, but when he saw me, he was freaking out, jumping all over the place.
CT: What's your favorite food?
Hanson: Anything my parents make. My dad is an awesome cook. His spaghetti is my favorite, and my mom makes shepherd's pie. I've never had anyone else make it the way she makes it. It's ground beef, mashed potatoes -- a lot of people put gravy in it -- she doesn't put in gravy, [but] corn and Velveeta cheese on top. It's so good! She makes garlic bread with it, too, and for whatever reason, the way she cooks it, it's unbelievable. My dad makes these huge meatballs with Italian sausage and all kinds of meat and stuff.
CT: You must be so glad they moved to Atlanta. Do they like it here? Now that they're here, will you stay in Atlanta during the offseason?
Hanson: Yes. My family has moved here for good, and Kris and I are staying here. One of our good buddies that's pitching in Mississippi, Ryne Reynoso, is going to live with us, too. If he plays at Gwinnett next year, he'll live with us then, too. My father is retired, so he didn't have to live any place in particular for work. My sisters were up for the move, so they made it. It's definitely a transition for my sister who is about to be a senior in high school, but we like living close to each other. I'm really close to my sisters, so it's good for all of us. I live in Buckhead and they live in Kennesaw.
Patty Rasmussen is a contributor to MLB.com. This article appears in ChopTalk magazine. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.