Once you meet veteran outfielder John Gall, you may never listen to Guns N’ Roses the same way again (that is, of course, if you listen to Guns N’ Roses).
Gall, currently in the Houston Astros system, uses the hard rock band’s first hit, “Welcome to the Jungle” as his “walk up” music when he comes to the plate.
Not because he’s such an Axl Rose fanatic, but rather because to him the song says: “Welcome to the John Gall.”
This spring Round Rock Express fans will be welcoming Gall to town and will be treated to that song each night, as Gall’s .375 average in 16 spring training games as a non-roster invitee were not enough to crack the Houston opening day roster.
Express fans are probably already familiar with Gall, since he hit .357 with two homers and 12 RBIs against the club last year while with the Albuquerque Isotopes.
In fact, he’s been something of a staple in the Pacific Coast League for several years now.
Originally signed out of Stanford University in 2000 by St. Louis as an 11th-round pick, Gall moved quickly through the Cardinals’ Minor League ranks, reaching Triple-A Memphis by 2003.
Gall, who will turn 31 this week, has batted .298 over nine Minor League seasons with five .300-plus summers.
But despite posting consistently strong numbers across the board, and hitting a combined .292 over four seasons with the Redbirds, he only got a brief taste of big league time. In 22 games up in his 2006 debut he hit .270 in St. Louis, and got a 12-at-bat sniff the next summer.
Gall was granted his release by the Cards in July 2006 to sign with the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball League, adding international play to his resume. >
He also gained a huge measure of respect for how that country went about its baseball business, enough so that he was not at all surprised by Korea’s recent success in both the Olympics, where they won the gold medal, and the World Baseball Classic, where they fell to two-time champion Japan, 3-2, in 10 innings in the title game.
“I told one of my buddies that either Korea or Japan would come out on top,” Gall said. “The Korean team is full of talent and has been able to play together in multiple tournaments. Familiarity with your teammates and coaches helps quite a bit during international play.”
Gall also enjoyed watching one of his old teammates, first baseman/DH Dae Ho Lee, nicknamed “Big Boy,” in the WBC.
“He’s one of the best hitters I’ve played with and an even better guy,” Gall said. “I couldn’t help but root for him during the tournament.”
Gall couldn’t root for “Big Boy” quite as enthusiastically in the Olympics, however, since he himself was playing for the bronze-medal winning US Olympic Team in Beijing (the US lost to Korea, 8-7, in their lone head-to-head game).
“The Olympics was the best sporting experience I’ve ever been involved in,” he recalled. “Imagine the electricity of a World Series Game 7 everyday for over three weeks. The intensity was there during every pitch”
MLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
John Gall: My family. Happiness is at home with my wife and son. A cliché, but true.
MLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
JG: I’d be broke somewhere in mid-town Manhattan wondering what just happened.
MLB: Everyone has a “hidden talent.” What’s yours?
JG: Weatherstripping. No heat escapes my house in the winter!!
MLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
JG: I love cooking. I spend hours reading cookbooks and working my own recipes, rubs, etc.
MLB: Complete this sentence: It would surprise people to know that I …
JG: Drink five cups of coffee a day.
MLB: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
JG: Changing diapers.
MLB: What is your guiltiest TV pleasure?
JG: “Gossip Girl.” I’m a member of the Chuck Bass fan club.
MLB: What reality TV show would you kick butt on?
JG: “The Apprentice.”
MLB: If you could trade places with one person for a day who would it be and why?
JG: (Houston Astros GM) Ed Wade. So I could put myself on the Houston Astros 25-man roster.
MLB: Who would play you in the movie of your life?
JG: Mark Ruffalo.
MLB: Which aspect of life in the minors has surprised you the most, in comparison to what you might have imagined before you turned pro?
JG: The brutal nature of the business. Good players have their dreams crushed in a very casual manner. Sometimes guys that could have been productive big leaguers get pushed out. I feel lucky to have played as long as I have.
MLB: On your most recent club (Albuquerque Isoptopes), what was your favorite thing about playing there?
JG: We had a great group of guys. Somewhere on the internet you can find some ridiculous videos of John Baker, Tagg Bozied, myself and others re-enacting movie clips. ‘Topes Cinema.
MLB: In your career, what has been your favorite road trip and why?
JG: I like going to Salt Lake City to visit my good friend’s bar and restaurant, Lumpy’s. And both the city and ballpark are picturesque.
MLB: What is the best minor league promotion or visiting act you’ve seen? And the worst?
JG: The best promotion ever was the “Gall-mobile” during the 2002 season in New Haven. Somebody won my 1984 Cadillac El Dorado with the $2 purchase of a foam ball. What a deal! And the worst promotion I’ve ever seen was also the “Gall-mobile.” I think I signed some stinky cleats and game balls and threw ’em in the trunk.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CARL KLINE/MiLB.com!