Interview with Bucky Dent, a two-time World Series Champion– MVP, three-time All-Star Shortstop, Babe Ruth Award winner, and owner of Bucky Dent Baseball School in Delray BeachInter.
CF–Let’s start with the roots of Bucky Dent. Growing up in Hialiah, Fl, and influenced early on by a group like The Fellowship of Christian Athletes. How did you get started in sports overall?
BD–Actually I started when I was about 7 years old as I always wanted to be an athlete. My first experience in sports, my brother was my coach, he was my mentor and he was the guy that kind of got me playing competitively. He instilled that pride and discipline that you need to have as an athlete. I can still remember the first game and the first day I walked on a field at Barry University and that little green shack as that’s where I started to play football. I got involved with a real good program called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes(FCA) and we met every Wednesday night and we had about 50 kids that met and it gave me a really great background and Christian side of sports. It showed me that it wasn’t always the big tough guy approach but there was a Christian element that was also successful.
CF–How did you see the influence of the FCA impact your growth when you decided on baseball and started to get more into the limelight?
BD–It made me strong both mentally and the spiritually. It gave me a good base and background to deal with a lot of the daily challenges as an athlete.
CF–How tough is it as a professional athlete with all the temptations and travel involved to be able to keep your faith up front?
BD–It’s very difficult and those are some of the things that here at the Baseball School we try to instill as part of the program with the kids. Larry Hoskins, my director for the past 35 years and a strong man of God, always gives that positive reinforcement at the end of the day and how a 30 second wrong decision can change a career. As you go along in life and if you know the difference between black and white and can make the right decisions on and off the baseball field it goes a long way towards success. We teach that one wrong decision can destroy all your hard work and passion to be a professional athlete or successful person in any walk of life.
CF–Athletes are considered role models to our youth, whether a lot of them want to admit it or not, and they do make mistakes. What are some things that you try to instill in the kids about these role models?
BD-I agree, athletes are role models, and we try to teach them about the character and developing a strong foundation as people first. They need to realize the challenges of alcohol and drugs are going to be there and they may be tempted because athletes today make so much money and have a lot of time on their hands. The athletes today need that strong foundation to stay on track. One thing I’ve always done is to be a good role model for kids as I’m in the kid business and have to be aware of every decision I make. I focus on the dedication it takes, the hard work, and how important an education is today. Those are things I’ve always tried to do.
CF–Who were your role models growing up in baseball as a shortstop or just as a baseball player?
BD–Actually as a young kid, Micky Mantle was the guy I wanted to be like when I was in the backyard playing ball. I’d simulate being Mantle up in the World Series with a 3-2 count and a chance to hit a homerun to win the Series. Actually got a chance to meet Mantle in 1975 when I made my first All-Star game when I was with the Chicago White Sox and he was the captain of the American League. I was in awe of him and he’s the one I really followed. I had a chance to live my vision of growing up to play for the NY Yankees, win a World Series, and be an MVP. This is what I tell the kids that they have to pursue their dreams and work hard and they can make their visions a reality like I did.
CF–How hard is it today to bring the spiritual aspect into professional sports or to honor God in the workplace as a man of faith?
BD–Baseball Chapel has done a good job in Major League Baseball as they offer services on Sunday. Over the last few years it’s starting to grow more with guys starting to understand the spiritual side of sports as they try to change their own lives. My last stint in Cincinnati, we had a good group of athletes getting together every Sunday. They are starting to get the fact that you can do both, be a Christian and also be a successful baseball player or athlete. It’s very valuable.
CF-Sometimes life gets pretty tough and God punches us in the stomach. How did you cope with some rough times growing up and playing at such a high level of professional sports every day?
BD-First of all, you have to have that belief and trust in God. What’s He telling or directing me to do now? Every athlete goes through that in your career where you might have an injury or setback. And you ask yourself “How difficult is this going to be to get through.” You can only trust your faith and look at it as a teaching lesson. Whether it’s an injury or death in the family, we all have to go through that. I was raised by my uncle and never found my father until I was 27 years old but I still had that vision and trust that God was directing me in that right path. Those are the things that you have to be strong in with dedication, vision, belief in God.
CF–Finally, I applaud your dedication in coaching so many young kids over the years and I have seen first hand the rewards with my own son, Chase, with the smile on his face when I pick him up after attending your Baseball School and how he’s improved.
BD–These are things we love to hear, as my partner Larry and I have been doing this for 35 years and the pleasure we get from the school is when we see a 5-year old come to the school and work his way through to become successful not only as a baseball player but become successful in life. We want to feel like we’ve had some influence directing them in their careers and in their lives.
For more information visit, www.buckydentbaseballschool.com.