Governor Ron DeSantis Talks Baseball on Memorial Day Weekend

27 May 2022

CLAY: Prior to knowing about the shooting situation and the fallout from that, we had recorded an interview with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This was a couple days ago we did this. So thinking it was gonna be a Friday, relaxing Memorial Day, headed into the weekend, we did this interview. But I want you to know it’s not live and that’s why we’re not reacting to shooting related news and whatnot. But I do think you will enjoy this. This is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And I hope you enjoy it.


CLAY: I was talking earlier in the program today, Governor, about the fact that I’m going to be coaching and involved in Little League Baseball over the Memorial Day Weekend. Those are my big holiday plans. I don’t think your kids are quite old enough to be involved in Little League, but I always think this is pretty wild and I’m not sure a lot of our listeners know it. You played in the Little League World Series as a kid up in Williamsport, right?

GOV. DESANTIS: That’s right, and it was the type of thing where we at the beginning of the season in Dunedin, Florida. Our motto was WWT. We wrote that on the bottom of our hats, and that was for We Want Taiwan, because Taiwan at the time was the juggernaut and they would win the Little League World Series more often than not.

CLAY: I remember.

GOV. DESANTIS: It then came out years later that, you know, they were winning 12-year-old Little League World Series with 14-year-olds. But nevertheless, that’s just the way it was. And so that was kind of our goal. So we started from the district tournament, sectional state. the Southern Regional back then was Texas all the way to Virginia and the entire Southeast, 13 states, and there were only four American teams that would make it back then. And so that was a huge, huge undertaking, and we made it, and we didn’t end up playing Taiwan, but it was it was a heck of a ride. And just as now as a parent, my kids are five, four and two. So the two oldest have played T-ball.

CLAY: Okay.

GOV. DESANTIS: They both like it, and they’re going to they’re going to want to do it probably going forward. But you do appreciate how much the parents have to put in to these seasons. I mean, we were practicing every day. You’re traveling around the state for all these tournaments. It’s like, oh, all our parents had to work and do all that stuff, but you basically go along for the ride. And so you don’t really have summer vacation plans when you’re in the heart of Little League, summer baseball and the road to Williamsport.

CLAY: Preach it! I’m in the middle of that right now. Now, I’m curious, do you still have VHS tapes of that run? When was the last time you watched something from your Little League World Series team? You guys ever have any reunions or anything like that?

GOV. DESANTIS: So I went last year. They asked me to come for the Dunedin Little League closing ceremonies and that was the anniversary. So this is 2021. It was the anniversary of our Little League World Series run, and when they asked me to do it, I’m like, “Yeah, man, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years.” He’s like, “No, no, governor, it’s been 30 years.” I was like, “Oh man, time flies.” So we had some of my teammates were there and we were able to do that. And then we were able to speak to obviously all the current players and the families and whatnot.

So that was a neat thing. And that was the same field that I played on back when I was a kid. Back then we had Dunedin National, which is what I was. You also had Dunedin America, and they’ve since added those. That’s just one little league now. But it’s interesting. When I was 11, Dunedin National, we lost in three games, and we were out so very quick, all-stars, didn’t have really much of a chance.

But Dunedin American was one game away from Williamsport. They lost in the Southern Regional Championships. So that kind of gave us the notion of, “Hey, maybe we can do it when our when we’re 12,” and so we ended up doing that. But we had Dunedin America and one game away from going in to in 1990 and then Dunedin National, my team, made it in 1991. So pretty incredible for one relatively small municipality.

CLAY: I think, by the way, you also played at Yale, and if I’m not mistaken, George Bush senior, wasn’t he the Yale baseball captain as well? Am I wrong or is that an overlap there?

GOV. DESANTIS: He was the Yale baseball captain in 1948, and so he had already served in World War Two and then went to college after that.

CLAY: Oh wow.

GOV. DESANTIS: And back then, Yale would go to the College World Series. They were they were a good program. But the most iconic picture in the history of Yale athletics is Babe Ruth coming to Yale Field to get an award from the Yale baseball team, and George Bush 41 gave Ruth the award — and Ruth, he died within like a year.

So that was like one of his last public appearances, and so that’s something that’s kind of reverberated now. I was the baseball captain in 2001 there, and it just so happened to be Yale’s 300th anniversary. So they did this big jubilee in the spring to kind of celebrate that. And Bush 41 was kind of the featured speaker. So, he was in town for that, and he asked to come and meet with the baseball team, and so I was getting ready to go out to practice, and Yale Field is not on the Yale campus.

You kind of got to take a bus. It’s in West Haven, Connecticut, and so you go; they’d run busses from the athletic department out there. So I’m getting ready to go on the bus. No different from any other of the practice. The athletic director yells for me. “Hey, are you are you going to go out to practice?” “Yeah. “Get out there, hurry up, hurry up! Get out there!” But I’m like, it was weird. Why would you care about it?

So people are like asking me about practice, like it was this big deal. Why get out there to the field and there’s all these guys with suits and the earpieces in kind of like in the bullpen area. And I’m looking at myself. I’m like, “This is really weird.” So my coach called me over and he’s like, “Listen.” He’s like, “You see those guys out there with the suits, their Secret Service agents. George Bush, 41, is here. He’s like, you tell all those guys before he comes here, do not drop any F-bombs in front of the former president.”

CLAY: (laughing)

GOV. DESANTIS: So I was like, “Okay, I see.” But he came out and basically just started, um, you know, talking about, uh, you know, our season and everything like that. But I thought that that was really nice of him to be interested in coming out there. And this is a guy that obviously had done a lot in his life, and he was a really nice guy. And at that point, you know, I was somebody, you know…

I was a blue-collar kid from the Tampa Bay area. I end up there playing baseball, but I had never really met anyone that was that was that well known. And so it was kind of an interesting thing. But since I was the captain, I welcomed him to Yale Field, introduced him to the team, and we kind of had a powwow session there, all the way back in 2001.

CLAY: Are there pictures of that or video that? I don’t think I’ve seen it.

GOV. DESANTIS: You know, it’s interesting. There definitely are pictures somewhere. So it was the local paper in New Haven, the New Haven Register, was there and they were taking pictures, and so I remember after that happened, one of the guys at the athletic department is like, “You need you should get that picture, send it to him, he’ll sign it to you and give it back.” But, you know, I was I was graduating. I had all this stuff going on. So I just never did it. So they are out there somewhere. They may not be on the internet, but they’re definitely there, probably within the newspaper’s archives.

CLAY: There you go. APB. I bet we’ve got people who could track that down. We’ll see if we can find somebody out there to find that. Now, by the way, how would you assess your baseball…? If you were a scout, what would you have said about Ron DeSantis, college baseball player? How would you have assessed your game?

GOV. DESANTIS: I was a good Division One player. I think I hit .336 my senior year. I was a four-year starter. I always hit in the middle of the lineup third, fourth, fifth. I stole… I think my coach actually, I had him come when I was running for governor, and we did a rally, and I had a bunch of people just speak. People I knew from the military or Congress were like, “Hey, you know, Congressman DeSantis, great guy.

“Here’s what I know about him.” Well, he spoke about about coaching me and everything. And, and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. These are like 500 activists down in Boca Raton. And he said, “Now, listen, people ask me, ‘Was he a good player?’ Here’s what I’d say. I calculated his career stats and I calculated Bush 41’s career stats. And Congressman DeSantis hit 100 points higher than George Bush 41,” and everyone started laughing about that.

So, yeah, it was fun, but it was interesting. The guy that succeeded me as captain of the Yale baseball team was a fellow named Craig Breslow, who’s a left-handed pitcher from Trumbull, Connecticut. And, you know, he got drafted, I think like the 15th, 20th round. He got released after a year or two. But then he got hooked up with an independent ball. He started throwing in the low nineties.

He ends up in AA with the Padres, and lo and behold — as a left-handed pitcher, throwing 92, you’re one call away from the big leagues. So he ends up in the big leagues a few years after he graduates from Yale. And he ended up playing 12 years. Fast-forward to me getting elected to Congress in 2012, and people know that I’m friends with him and they know that we played together.

So these reporters would ask me, they’re like, “Um, yeah. Your friend Craig Breslow playing baseball,” I think maybe for the Red Sox, and he’s like he’s like, “Why didn’t you play in the major leagues?” I was like, “If you think I was good enough to play in the major leagues and I would choose Congress over the big leagues, you’re nuts. I mean, of course, I wouldn’t be in Congress if I if I could do it!” So but it was interesting to be able to see that, and Eddie ended up having a really good career. And I think other than Ron Darling, he probably had the longest pro baseball career of anyone that that has played at Yale.

CLAY: The reason why I bring up baseball, obviously — and I appreciate you coming on with us here as we get ready for Memorial Day Weekend. Maybe you can share your Memorial Day Weekend plans with your family and whatnot as well. But you’ve got baseball cards that are out and you’re raising money, which I think is a really cool idea, based on autographing those baseball cards. And it’s a limited edition. Explain where the idea came from, what is on these cards, how people can get them.

GOV. DESANTIS: Well, Clay, we’ve sold so much merchandise. People love the merchandise. We have Fauci Pound Sand flip-flops. We have these T-shirts that have all the locked down libs that have visited Florida and all this stuff, and it’s fun, and we raise money and it helps spread the message. But you’re like, you know, maybe we should do some stuff that people would actually be able to keep as a memento. And so just growing up, I did the baseball cards.

And so what we decided to do is we have a normal baseball card. So it’s me in college, a picture of that, and that’s numbered 1 to 500, just typical card. Then we have numbered 1 to 25, an autograph version, and then we have numbered 1 to 10, an autograph with a relic. So they actually cut up my old pair of black boots and they put a piece of that in there, because that’s what they do nowadays. They could have a bat or a jersey or all that stuff. So we ended up doing that.

CLAY: Oh yeah.

GOV. DESANTIS: And so those are those are being sold and people are doing thousands of dollars for the relic autograph. So we so we have that. We’re also going to do so in my staff was like, “Governor we need to get those boots they need to do it to make the cards.” I’m rummaging through my closet, and I found a handful pairs of these old desert cami boots for when I served in Iraq. And so I’m thinking to myself, “Okay, well, maybe we do something with that.”

So we’re going to also debut in the not too distant future a Governor DeSantis Iraq War addition, where I’m in there in the desert fatigues and they’re going to do the relic and it’s going to be pieces of the desert cami boots that I that I wore when I was deployed back in 2007. So those will also be an autograph. I think those will be numbered 1 to 10. So, you know, these are people that they want to contribute.

They want to help the cause. And that’s great. And you know people can go to like my website and just give and that’s fine and people do it. But for them to be able to get a little bit of a memento, I think people really like it, and these are limited. We’re not going to just produce a bunch of them because they lose their value. So any collector could know we’re very sensitive to making sure that these are limited edition.

CLAY: Did you have a favorite baseball card — last question for you — when you were a kid growing up, was there one you were most proud to have? Did you collect?

GOV. DESANTIS: Of course: 1989 Ken Griffey Jr.

CLAY: My favorite too.

GOV. DESANTIS: Would say. I mean, the first one that was a really big for me was the Don Mattingly, 1984 Donruss. I mean, that was like the hottest thing ever. I had to fight. I searched far and wide to get that. I did get it. It wasn’t in great condition, but I did get it. But then when the Griffey came out, I mean, that was just there. And so, you know, I still have some of those Griffeys.

CLAY: Me too.

GOV. DESANTIS: Some of them are in very good condition. I’ve got some PSA 10. And so we’re going to just keep those. I would never sell those. I don’t think I could ever sell them. It’s just it just is what it is. So yeah, that was that was kind of the that that the epic rookie card.

CLAY: Amen. Hey, have a good Memorial Day Weekend, you and your family. I appreciate you swinging by. I know how busy you are, and I hope you guys have a great time.

GOV. DESANTIS: Okay. God bless. Take care.

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