An interview with 3rd Street/Weller/MOJO/Louisville Slugger infielder Rob Menke!
What positions do you play and what is your best position?
Who is the best softball player you have ever seen play?
That is a tough one because there are so many good players. I guess I will have to go with Wegman because he can hit to all fields and play just about any position.
Why do you like the game of softball?
Softball allows individuals the opportunity to play a game and enjoy themselves. The individual has the discretion to choose how serious he wants the game to become. If you want to play at a high level where the ball is hit very hard and you have to be on your toes so you don't get killed, you can do that; or if you want to play against great defensive players where hits are often taken away, you can do that; or if you just want to drink beer and hang out with your friends at a league night, you can do that too.
Who is the best up and coming player in softball and why?
I would say Dave Kessler because he works hard at his game, and wants to get better. However, he is already on a Major team, so it's hard to consider him an up and comer. So, I guess I will go with Bobby Noeth as a soon to be high draft pick for the Senior League. I have played on several teams with Bobby, and will do so again this year for 3rd Street, but it still amazes me the guy can pitch in the Conference and then put on Bifocals to read the menu at dinner. The Senior League better watch out for years to come because Bobby is ready to play every weekend.
What is your nickname in softball and how did you get it?
I don't really have one.
What is your height and weight?
5'9" and 190
Where do you call home?
What's your favorite way to spend an off weekend?
I enjoy going to Reds games in the summer, and Bengals games in the winter. I like to play golf, but I am terrible.
What do you do for a living?
I work for the Butler County Common Pleas Court. My position also allows me to play on the Police Softball Circuit. I think many people from the softball community would be impressed at not only how well run the Police Circuit is done, but also the talent level of the players. The Police Softball.com World Series at Big League Dreams in Vegas is a great event, and I think DW should make an attempt to cover it next year.
Did you play sports in High School / College / Pro?
I played baseball and football in high school, and cyo basketball. I then played 4 years of baseball at Marietta College.
How did you get your start in softball and how did you get to the upper level?
I started playing softball after college with some buddies. We only played leagues, and were sponsored by Texas Roadhouse. From there, I met a few guys at the park, and got asked to play with a local team. Eventually I ended up on Freeze Concrete where we had great local success, and even won the NSA B World. After two years with Freeze, I joined Columbus Pipe and got my first experience on a Conference Team. After Pipe, I played for Watanabe for three years where we finished 2nd, like 7th, and 1st in B Worlds. I have played for 3rd Street for the last 2 years, and will do so again in 2014.
What was the most surprising difference between Conference play and non-Conference play when you made the jump?
I think people love to throw out numbers when considering picking up a player. For instance, this guy hit .750 last year, or that guy hit .725 and so forth. However, in the Conference, the defense is so much better. The outfielders are fast, the infielders make great plays, and the pitchers can field the middle. So, a high average in the Conference is more impressive because you are doing it against better defensive players. However, the catchers are still terrible. Why is it that 90% of the plays at the plate the catcher either drops the ball, or he was 3 feet in front of the plate to catch the throw. Amazes me, and yes, I am talking specifically about Jon Jamison!!!
Is there a player that you would compare your game to?
I just try to be consistent. Make the plays I can, steal an out or two, and do whatever I can to get on base. So I imagine that is like just about every other player in the conference.
What would you say is your career highlight to this point? Maybe one play or game that sticks out to you in particular?
We finished 2nd in the USSSA B World with Watanabe, 2nd in the ASA A World with 3rd Street, won the NSA B World with Freeze, and I was part of the team when Watanabe won the USSSA B World, but I couldn't attend that one because of my sister's wedding. As far as a game that sticks out, I will never forget beating Resmondo with Columbus PIpe. In Jeff Wallace's first at bat, he hit a bullet line drive past our pitcher (Bobby Noeth) and directly over my head (I was playing directly behind Bobby so he wouldn't get killed). Anyway, I jumped as high as I could, and somehow caught the ball. My arm was almost pulled out of it's socket, and the momentum practically flipped me over. Wallace was so upset that he grounded out the next 2/3 at bats trying to hit it by Bobby or myself. I actually got to talk to Wallace about that last year. He said he remembered.
In your career was there a single person (player/manager/coach) who had the most significant impact on your approach to the game? Why?
Mike Smith from Freeze was a good influence because he used to play the game like I do.
What advice can you give a young player trying to break into the upper level?
My advice to a young player would be don't think you are too good/special to rotate or take your time on the bench. For the most part, teams that win have quality players that rotate around. It often takes a full team effort to win the World. A selfish player will get stuck with that label, and could be passed up for opportunities because he isn't considered a "good team player".
What type of batting grip do you use and what ounce bat?
Regular grip. 26 oz Louisville Slugger end load
What do you do in the offseason to prepare for the next softball season?
I try to do cardio, and enjoy playing racquetball. I usually don't start hitting until sometime in February/March.
What is your favorite sports team and your favorite sport other than softball?
Bengals/Reds.. I love watching football.
Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?
No I don't.
What would be your "at bat" music selection?
Skee Lo: I wish I was a baller… but it would have to be set to the part where he says "I wish I was a little bit taller.."
What is the best improvement upper level softball could make?
I think upper level softball would be great if the number of Major players could be restricted per team. I guess that would eliminate the Major program, but I think every tournament would be fantastic if you legitimately had 10-15 teams that could win on any given weekend. I also think this would help with the travel concerns of many teams because they would be more willing to travel knowing they have a better chance to win the tournament.
What is your favorite non-World tournament and why?
Police Softball.com World Series because it is not only run very well, but it's great getting together with friends from all over the country for 4 days in Vegas.
What is the best softball field/complex you have played at and why?
Big League Dreams in Vegas is awesome. The field turf is great, and the atmosphere is amazing with the mountains in the background. However, it does play too small. The ball absolutely flies there.
Where is the best place to eat on the road after a game?
Probably anywhere with cold beer.
What is the funniest thing you have ever seen on a softball field?
With Columbus Pipe in Maryland. We were getting ready to play Resmondo, and we had already beaten them earlier in the year. This might have been the winners bracket final 4. Anyway, we had 4-5 guys on the field taking grounders, but the rest of the team was not there yet. Resmondo had their entire team out there ready to go. Rick Roberson is asking where is our team. One guy says they went back to the hotel because someone broke into their room, but they are on their way back now. So Resmondo is getting impatient. Then we start hearing all kinds of yelling and guys being loud. Of course it was the rest of our team. They had been sitting at the pool for the last few hours. I mean, we are getting ready to play Resmondo and these guys just sat at the pool. So the funniest part is Mike Malesko (Squ) couldn't wear his uniform pants because one of the other guys put them in the cooler. They were soaked. Squ then played right field with shorts on, but no underwear. After flopping around for a few inings, Rick Roberson came over and said he has to either put on pants or move to catcher. It was hilarious. After all that, we somehow only lost by a few runs in the 7th inning.