Five facts about the Ax-Man
By Benjamin Orr
It’s always fun to know how a major league player functions or how they got to be where they are today. This applies for our very own John Axford. The Ax-Man had a tremendous 2011, getting 46 saves. This was the most in the NL, except for Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel who tied Axford. While many teams have never really had a consistent closer year in, year out, let’s hope the Ax-Man will stay for awhile. Any who, let’s get into the real topic, facts you and I probably never knew before this post, about John Axford:
1. Axford is actually Canadian
Much like Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin, Axford is also from Ontario. Axford went to Assumption College School in Brantford. The thing about Assumption is that it did not have a baseball program so the Ax-Man had to pitch in Port Dover (where he is from in Ontario) Minor League baseball. It was there he would get noticed by MLB teams and would accrue a 37-12 record with a 1.88 ERA and 432 strikeouts.
2. The Mariners, Reds, and Yankees all had interest in him
In 2001, the Mariners drafted Axford, but he later decided to decline and attend Notre Dame. During his junior year, Axford had to have Tommy John surgery, so he was unable to pitch his senior year. Regardless, Axford still graduated and was later drafted by the Reds in 2005. In his short minor league tenure with the Reds, Axford did not do very well, but did manage to get noticed by the Yankees after he struck out 19 batters in one game. He would then go on to pitch for the Class A teams of the Yankees, but also did not fare well there. In December 2007, he was released by the Yankees. The rest is obvious history.
3. He used to be a cell phone salesman
After his release from the Yankees, Axford sold cell phones for a telecommunication company through Wal-Mart and Best Buy in his hometown. He struggled and only made $8 and hour. Axford had this to say in an interview with Sports Illustrated:
"“There were a lot of times where I couldn’t get money out of the ATM because I didn’t have enough. Those moments, you’re asking yourself, ‘What’s going on here? What am I doing?'”"
He also used to serve drinks at a restaurant called ‘East Side Mario’s’ in Ontario. This came after his job as a cell phone salesman, where he would end up making a whopping 25 cents more per hour.
4. Before 2010, Axford had never been a closer
Going in 2010, the legendary arm of Trevor Hoffman was tiring. Axford, who had never closed out a major league game in his life, had big shoes to fill. While most Brewer fans scratched their heads at the name of ‘John Axford’, they also wanted to know how well he would take over the role from Hoffman. Trevor had this to say to Axford:
"‘Hey I don’t know if you read the paper, but people are trying to say things and stir up controversy, but don’t listen to them, don’t worry about what’s going on. You’re the closer. You’re going to be the guy. Don’t think anything different.’"
Axford took Hoffman’s words to heart and clearly it has worked ever since. Since that day, Axford has described that meeting with Hoffman as ‘surreal’. I mean come on, imagine yourself standing in front of baseball greats and having them give you that kind of confidence. I’m just glad it worked for John.
And certainly last but not least, number five.
5. Axford holds the fifth longest save streak in MLB history
Like I said, Axford had a tremendous 2011. Since blowing a few games, Axford would end up saving 43 games in a row, which is still an active streak going into this season. The only current closer that has a longer streak is Detroit’s Jose Valverde, who had a perfect season last year. On the list of longest save streaks, Axford has passed Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley and the late Rod Beck. That’s quite a list to tackle, but the Ax-Man did it. I’m hoping he can get to 50, because beyond Valverde’s 51, sits Tom Gordon’s 54 and Eric Gagne’s 84. Let’s just hope we get another solid year from John.
Also, happy Pi Day for you 3.14 lovers out there.
Until next time guys and gals!