Jeremy Guthrie, now a 10-year Major League veteran, got his feet on the mound with a collegiate start at BYU (his most vivid memories involve The Creamery) before serving an LDS mission in Spain and transferring to Stanford.
This 34-year-old father of three keeps in shape with the American Fork High School baseball team in his off-season and tweets in every season to his 50,000 followers of @TheRealJGuts.
“It gives people insight into who I am — like me or hate me,” he says. “And there are haters out there about my style of play or my religion. But I don’t respond to negativity because it invites more negativity. I don’t want to give them fuel for their fire. Hopefully I’m somewhat of a small example by the things I do and say.”
This childhood chess champ and high school valedictorian doesn’t shy away from talking about his LDS faith or his belief that a mission didn’t deter his athletics (he’s one of two RMs in Major League Baseball).
He also has strong opinions about Utah Valley being the “fast food capital of the world,” which means he can get his five favorite foods in four minutes flat. He has a taste for ’90s music and a case of Bieber fever (including a cardboard cutout of the Biebs in Jeremy’s “shoe room”), which has all led to good-natured jabbing over Twitter and one hilarious YouTube “intervention.” His quirks and his pitches are turning heads and filling seats while his family is still the ace up his sleeve.
UV: What’s the greatest thing about being Jeremy Guthrie?
Jeremy: This family that I have.
UV: What is the worst thing?
Jeremy: That I don’t get to enjoy my family as much as I would like. When baseball is over, I’ll make sure that changes.
UV: I know you met your wife at BYU. What are your vivid BYU memories?
Jeremy: I was All-WAC, but I don’t remember doing a lot of homework. Jenny and I played a lot of Scrabble. I walked her back and forth from Heritage Halls to May Hall. We’d go to The Creamery about four times a week because we could use our meal cards there — I’d buy Jenny’s groceries, too. The only time I remember being in the library is when I did a biology paper on global warming. At Stanford I was in the library nonstop and had “my table.”
UV: You’re known as one of the only LDS baseball players who managed a mission and the majors. How did you do it?
Jeremy: When I was 18, I got drafted in the 15th round by the Mets. I had been planning on a mission my whole life, but now I was facing a tough decision. I got conflicting advice — the people I thought would tell me to serve a mission told me being a baseball player would provide the platform to do good things for the church. And the ones I thought would tell me to play baseball would point me toward church service. The more people I asked, the more confusing the issue became.
UV: What did the Mets have to say?
Jeremy: They flew me to New York, and I was there alone. No agents. Nobody to counsel me. I told the general manager that I wanted to follow the example of McKay Christensen who had been allowed to go on a mission after being picked first round — and he got a $1 million signing bonus. He told me it was impossible for a pitcher to sit out for two years and I’d have to choose between a mission and the Mets. He asked what it would take to keep me home. He offered me $500,000 and then he asked if I’d stay for a million dollars.
UV: How did you turn that down?
Jeremy: I took a big gulp. I stopped asking people what I should do because I knew what the Lord wanted for me. I believe if the Lord wants you to play baseball, you will still play baseball after a mission. But if you pass up a mission, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. It’s a service to your brothers and sisters. And that will be my advice until people stop asking.
UV: Does your mission still affect you?
Jeremy: I think about my mission every single day. As a kid, I got frustrated with failure. But in Spain, there was an awful lot of failure and rejection. It was engrained in me to work hard and to trust — and then accept the results.
UV: So this comes in handy when every pitch doesn’t go as planned?
Jeremy: Exactly. Failure is a test to strengthen you. In life, we’re going to have a lot of failures — or what we perceive as failures. Our ability to deal with those situations dictates our path in life.
UV: So what have been some of your non-failures — your highs and lows?
Jeremy: At times I’ve been highly touted and accomplished great things. Other times I’ve been told “this guy’s career is over” or that I’ve got “nothing left.” I’ve developed an even keel — I don’t believe I’m the best, but I know it’s not over.
UV: This issue comes out in time for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. What did you learn from your father?
Jeremy: Hard work, commitment and home teaching. He used to home teach seven or eight families. Sometimes he’d go late after he got done selling used cars.
UV: What did you learn from your mom?
Jeremy: Compassion and service. She’s always there to help and give a smile. She was a substitute teacher when I was growing up.
UV: How do your parents react to watching you play?
Jeremy: In high school, my parents were always at my sporting events. My mom gets so nervous. My dad doesn’t even like baseball all that much, but they are supportive.
UV: What kind of father are you?
Jeremy: Yesterday I was an angry dad for a minute (laughing), but I’m usually a happy dad. I let them be kids.
UV: You’ve chosen to raise your family here. What do you love about Utah Valley?
Jeremy: People are active and want to enjoy the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle. And we’re never lacking for things to do. I have a great group of guys I like to go out and do things with.
UV: You also have friends worldwide via social media.
Jeremy: Twitter suits me because when I see funny things, I like to share with people. Nike has occasionally asked me to promote something they are doing, and I’m glad to do it for them.
UV: What was one of your most popular tweets?
Jeremy: Last year I tweeted that I was going to go get my five favorite fast-food items:
• Junior bacon cheeseburger from Wendy’s
• Spicy chicken sandwich with tomato from Carl’s Jr.
• Whopper from Burger King
• Baja Chalupa from Taco Bell
• Burger from In-N-Out.
And I got to all places in about four minutes. If we tried to do this in Baltimore, it would have taken so long. Utah Valley is the fast food capital of the world.
UV: Do you have a pregame meal?
Jeremy: At Stanford, I would have lunch in the dorms, but before the games, I would eat four Spicy Chicken Sandwiches from Carl’s Jr. at 5:30 before a 7 o’clock game. It was my good luck charm for two years.
UV: What do you do to stay in shape?
Jeremy: I’m always trying to move around. I lift weights, ride my bicycle, sled — I’ve shoveled the driveway six times the past few days (this interview took place in late January). You want to know what I don’t enjoy? Running. I don’t get running.
UV: But you do “get” baseball. Do you watch baseball when you’re not playing?
Jeremy: If I have an off day and there’s a game in town, I’ll go every time. In the minor leagues, as pitchers we would chart the games for our teammates. In the majors we don’t do that, but it’s valuable to get the perspective from the stands. It makes me more grateful for what I do.
UV: What makes the difference between someone who is successful in baseball and someone who gets benched or cut?
Jeremy: In baseball, you are alone in the batter’s box. You are alone on the pitcher’s mound. Some of the best players I ever played with didn’t make it very high because of their mental makeup. That speaks to how difficult baseball is. In the major leagues, everyone has talent — exponential talent. The ability to deal with ups and downs allows you to continue to use that talent.
UV: How do you stay mentally strong?
Jeremy: Working hard is the easiest way to do it. I do things to get better each day, and I’m confident I will get better and continue to be successful. I saw a tweet yesterday from another pitcher who said he was trying to get 1 percent better each day. I liked that.
UV: What is going on in your mind out on the mound?
Jeremy: If you’ve seen “For the Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner, it shows it pretty clearly. We “clear the mechanism,” and everything goes fuzzy except for the catcher. The less thoughts, the better. You react and do what you’re trained to do. You struggle when you are thinking, “What did I do wrong?” Human nature is to think like that, but it causes more struggles.
UV: What do people misunderstand about baseball?
Jeremy: The sports reporters are sometimes part of the problem. Reporters will say I had a great game, but I didn’t execute about 14 pitches in key situations. I don’t need to take credit when it’s the center fielder who makes a great play. I’ll always be honest with reporters and not build equity when it isn’t due. Other times, I do throw the perfect pitch but the guy hits it off the end of the bat and the reporters say I had a bad game. When I played in Baltimore, I had a shutout going into the 9th inning in Fenway. We were ahead 5-0. The coach took me out with two outs to go. Afterwards, a reporter asked, “How do you feel about your manager’s questionable decision?” I told him that was the kind of attitude we didn’t need. It’s crazy. As early as May 15th, I’ll get asked if this loss is going to ruin the season. I don’t know what demands they are under to create buzz, but it feels like I get asked questions with no substance — they are just trying pull anger out of me. If we lose 4-0, they ask if it was my worst game ever.
UV: What helps you prepare for your “best game”? Are you a creature of habit and superstition?
Jeremy: Yes, I lead the league in sunflower seeds consumed. I have two bags in each pocket, and I eat them as soon as we start stretching — even at 8 a.m. I was accused by a dentist of chewing tobacco because of deterioration of my gums.
UV: Favorite flavor?
Jeremy: Frito Lay Barbecue is the greatest sunflower seed ever made. Spitz is a close second. Most players like the Spitz Pickle, but I don’t like pickle. David is my least favorite. If I get to the venue and David seeds are the only ones around, it’s going to be a long day for me.
UV: I know you also love certain music when you workout or practice.
Jeremy: I love Justin Bieber and the Backstreet Boys and Justin Timberlake. Last year I was really big into Mariah Carey. I like ‘90s music. “You’ll Always Be My Baby” was in a mix I made my senior year.
UV: Obviously you originally came to Utah County for BYU, but why did you come back?
Jeremy: I’m super adventurous, but as the kids got older we realized we’re in “real life.” It’s not just two adults having fun and traveling. I would love to live in Spain in the off season, but my wife says there’s no way. We plan for this to be home base as I pitch for a few more years. Then if I still can, I’d like to play baseball in Japan where my family tree comes from. I don’t speak Japanese — my grandma was the last one in our family to speak it, but I’d like to live there for the experience. I’d also like to play in Italy.
UV: Do you ever see yourself as a coach?
Jeremy: I have no interest in coaching. I recognize the difficulties in coaching your own kids — or anyone else. I compare it to a mission. You know what you are saying works and is right, and it’s heartbreaking and frustrating when people can’t do it or refuse to it. Coaching is hard.
UV: What you do isn’t easy but you make it look like it. Good luck this season!