Former Maryland star Darrius Heyward-Bey stops by Nationals Park
On Saturday, we caught up with Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders, at his first MLB game ever. Heyward-Bey is on a three-day “break” in his hometown–he grew up in Silver Spring, Md.–after participating in offseason workouts in Oakland the past several weeks.
We discussed his Facebook page, how to pass University of Maryland classes while playing football and his fear of foul balls. Here’s what the rest of our conversation looked like:
You were an NFL rookie last season and the No. 7 pick in the draft, what has the past year been like?
“It was interesting…going all the way across the country, away from everybody that I know. Going to an organization like the Raiders, people love us or people hate us. Al Davis is one of the best in the game when it comes to coaching, ownership and being a GM. It just feels great to be a part of the silver and black.”
How was it different than what you expected?
“It’s a business. It’s not for fun. Well, it is fun, but it’s a business first. You have guys that are your friends with in training camp and then they’re gone the next day. You’re not used to that in college. There are guys that don’t play and they’re there all four or five years that you’re there [in college]. So that was a little different.”
Compare Raiders fans to these fans.
“Our fans would be dressed up in helmets, paint, yelling, cussing… crazy. If we do something good, they’re with us. If we do something bad, they’re going to let us know. But that’s good. That’s a good thing. Because we know how they feel, and we know how much it means, for them, to do well out there. Overall, baseball is a lot more laid back. The game’s a little slower. But it’s still fun.”
Yes, and they have a lot more games.
“Too many games. But the way I look at it, they don’t do a lot of practice, and nobody likes practice.”
So you’re jealous.
“I’m a little jealous.”
Yeah, but they’re never home.
“Ahhh, but their money’s guaranteed. So that makes it a little easier.”
Have you ever played baseball?
“I played a little baseball in eighth grade, in middle school. It wasn’t good. I was a right fielder. And I wasn’t good.”
You were a right fielder, which when you’re younger… the outfield is just…
“…Is just for standing. Yes.”
But you were probably pretty fast, right?
“I was fast. When I did hit the ball, it was good. But I didn’t hit the ball that much.”
And you were also in track, right?
“Track and football were my thing. I also played basketball. I was on the Junior Olympics team [for track]. I could have ran and I feel like I still can run in the Olympics. I was ranked sixth in the world in the 200 [meter] at one point in my life. If anything, that was probably my best sport growing up.”
So why didn’t you run track at the University of Maryland?
“The reason I didn’t do it in college is because too many people said I couldn’t play football. People said I couldn’t be good in football. And so I said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ And look where I’m at now.”
Now, how did you get set up to participate in the lineup delivery during pregame ceremonies today?
“Some people that used to work in NFLPA work here now. So I just called them up and I was like, man I really would like to check out a Nationals game. I’m from the area, and I’ve never been. They wanted me to do the opening pitch. I said no.”
“Because I’m an athlete and I’m a competitor. I want to throw it straight down the line. And I need to practice for that. I can’t just go out there and throw anything. So I told them next time. I’m coming back in June.”
How have the fans here at Nationals Park treated you?
“The fans have been great. People have been coming up, saying, ‘Good luck on the season.’ People still know me. I guess from being from the area, playing at Maryland. It feels good to know that people still care about your career and they still follow up on you.”