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Chris Stewart on umpires, shifts, and being traded to the Pirates

Tom Szczerbowski

Here's the second half of our interview with Chris Stewart from PirateFest. (Here's the first half.) The questions are from me, Tom Smith of Rumbunter, Andrew from From Forbes To Federal, Rich from SaberBucs and SteelReign from Pittsburgh Sports Forum. I did a bit of editing for length.

Do you think there's a National League / American League difference [in the way umpires call balls and strikes]?

No. I think the strike zone is pretty general. You have your individual strike zones, obviously. Each umpire is a little different. We actually have stat sheets for each umpire -- what they like to call. They change from game to game, too. Sometimes one umpire will maybe call a ball three inches outside, and next time he's not going to call it. So there's in-game adjustments you have to make for the strike zone, too. It's kind of like a scouting report for a player. There's only so much information you can go on. He might have been working on something new, so the next time you see him, it might be something else.

Aside from framing the pitches, when you go in, you know you're working with a particular ump -- do you have a way of setting that ump up to get him to work with you?

I'm not going to try to sweet-talk him, you know. I'm going to be cordial with him. I hope he's going to be the same with me. There's definitely umpires out there who have a little chip on their shoulder. You've got to know who you're talking to and how to go about it. ... I'm going to try to be cordial with him, but at the same time, if I feel my pitcher is not getting some certain pitches that should be called strikes, then I'm going to let the umpire know.

How do you let him know?

You can be cordial with him, say, 'I had that as a strike. Where'd you have that?' Some guys, they're really firm in their opinion. Those guys are kind of tough to deal with. ... But most guys are cordial. They want to try to be the best they can back there, so they're going to take my information, [and] try and think about it and see if maybe [they] could have been wrong. At the same time, I could have been wrong. If I think a ball was a strike, I'll talk to the umpire. If he disagrees with me, I'll look at the video, and if I'm wrong, I'll come back, 'Hey, you know what? You were right. That ball was outside, so good call.'

You're not going to come back and tell him that the video said he was wrong.

You can't ever say that. You can tell him that he's right as much as you want. They love hearing that. But as soon as you tell him the video [shows he's] wrong, [it's] a whole different ballgame.

Have you talked to anybody about the Pirates' use of defensive shifts? We've heard a little about how the pitchers played into that, trying to get the ball hit to a certain spot. What are your thoughts about that?

I like it. Obviously, it's going to make the game a lot easier if you know you can throw a certain pitch in a certain location and the batter's going to hit it in a certain spot 75 percent of the time, odds are in your favor -- might as well try to do it. If you're going to play the shift, we as catchers and them as pitchers, we've got to know. ... It's an entire team process. I haven't talked to Clint too much about it, but I know playing against Tampa Bay. Joe Maddon is -- in my opinion, he's the king of the shift.

When you found out you were traded, what's the general perception [of the Pirates]? What's the first thing that goes through your mind?

It was weird, because I didn't know what the Yankees were going to do. It wasn't the last second, but it was pretty close to the last second [before the non-tender deadline, and] we had no word from them whatsoever. ... At the same time, when I found out I was traded, it was mixed emotions. Obviously, I would have loved to have stayed there. You want to end your career with one team if you can. At the same time, when they told me I was traded here -- obviously with what this team did last year, and the young talent they have ... I was excited to get here. I'm obviously a big defensive guy, so the pitching staff they have here, I was really excited to come be a part of that. Russ is here. ... I would have loved to have stayed in New York, finished my career there, but at the same time, I'm glad they sent me to a place where I'm appreciated. It's a good team. It's not like I'm coming to some bottom-level team that I'm going to be miserable with. ... I think it's going to be a great fit for me. I'm excited.

What do you see yourself doing when your playing career is over?

I think I have the mind to coach, but at the same time, the professional lifestyle [is] tough when you have a family [and] you're traveling all the time. For me personally, I never know where I'm going to be from year to year, so it's tough to establish myself in one place. So I think perhaps after I retire, maybe [I'll] go to the college scene and coach in college. I feel like I have too much love for the game to just brush it off and play golf for the rest of my life. I think I definitely need to be involved somehow, whether it's coaching, or maybe [opening] my own clinic in Southern California. I've been blessed with the lifestyle I've been able to create. This is beyond a dream come true, doing what I loved to do when I grew up. [I was] playing with my buddies in the street. Now I'm playing in world-class cities and world-class stadiums. So I just think, because of all the blessings I get, I definitely need to give back, and try to affect other lives as well.