Lofton reflects on his many postseason experiences
Six-time All-Star appeared in 95 playoff games during his 17-year big league career
NEW YORK -- Kenny Lofton is still a man who is constantly on the move.
The six-time All-Star was at the MLB Fan Cave on Wednesday morning to talk postseason baseball hours before his former Cleveland club took the field against Tampa Bay. The Nike Fuelband on his left wrist already showed 2,200 points, a measure of his daily activity.
"One day I had 9,002, and I had something like 18,000 steps," said Lofton, 46. "I went to the gym, got on the treadmill and ran six miles. Then I played 36 holes of golf."
To those who remember him as something of a human blur, that would seem about right. So would the sight of him during a Major League Baseball postseason. From 1995-2007, it was his stage for all but two years. He played in 95 postseason games, never winning it all, but a constant factor, and he has more autumn stories than you would have time to hear.
"During that time, whenever you'd go to a team and you're trying to bind together to get to the playoffs, it just felt good to be a part of those great teams," Lofton said, remembering Octobers past. "A lot of people don't get that opportunity. I had a lot of opportunities to do that, and I just felt like that was something I enjoy doing."
Lofton played with 11 teams, but make no mistake:
"Right now, my heart is in Cleveland."
In 1995, he helped the Indians to their first postseason since the 1954 World Series. Cleveland is still waiting for its first World Series championship since '48.
"I hope Indians fans get a championship. … That city is itching for a World Series, a championship, something," Lofton said. "But you have other teams out there doing well. Detroit, you have Pittsburgh, you have L.A. But you never know. Whoever's pitching is right, timely hitting and all that is going to factor into who's going to get the championship this year.
"We had opportunities from 1995 on, the latest was 2007, when the team had a chance to get to the World Series and it didn't work out."
What does Lofton think of this year's Tribe?
"They have great talent, you just have to put it together at the right time," he said. "That's the thing about winning the World Series -- having that momentum going on the right time, feeling like once you start the playoffs, you're on a roll and you've got to keep that momentum going. It's all about the players going out there and doing their job, and making sure that they do all that they can do to try to get that win. Hopefully Cleveland can do that."
Lofton said the 1995 World Series still sticks in his craw. The Braves won in six games, with Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers combining for a one-hit shutout clincher. Lofton was 5-for-25 in that series, and he still points to that umpiring crew as overly respectful of the great Atlanta aces.
"I look back at that and say if they had that K Zone thing back then, the Cleveland Indians would have won the World Series that year," Lofton said. "Because the strike zone was unbelievable. It was basically not right. When I played in Atlanta in '97, I understood what other teams were going through, seeing that up-front every day, how those three pitchers -- Glavine, [Greg] Maddux and [John] Smoltz -- were getting pitches way off the plate. But that's just the way the game goes."
At the Fan Cave, Lofton was asked to answer 1995 trivia for an upcoming video. Along the way, they asked him to name the entire starting lineup of the '95 Opening Day roster. Lofton went around the horn, and then said Sandy Alomar Jr. was catcher. He was told that Tony Pena was the correct answer at that position, and Lofton's eyes lit up.
"Oh, yeah. I know why it was Pena and not Alomar," he said. "Because Dennis Martinez was the pitcher, and when he pitched, Pena caught. That's why it wasn't Alomar that day."
Oh, the memories. Giants vs. Angels, 2002 World Series, and a Game 6 meltdown for the Giants as he watched the other team celebrate.
"We were up five runs up in the seventh inning and we ended up losing. That was when the dagger was in the heart, where it didn't work out," he said. "They changed pitchers in the seventh inning, and Barry [Bonds], Reggie Sanders and I were in the outfield, and we were like, 'Man, this is actually happening.' And then all of a sudden, things just went south."
Oh, the memories. Cubs vs. Marlins, 2003 National League Championship Series, and a Game 6 meltdown for the Cubs, as he eventually watched the other team celebrate.
"The funny thing about that whole thing is, I grew up in the Chicago area, so I was always a Cubs fan," Lofton said. "For me to put on a Cubs uniform, that was very inspirational to me and my family, being Cubs fans. Then coming down to those last two games, I thought we had it in the bag. We had [our] two best [starting] pitchers [Mark Prior and Kerry Wood] on the mound, and the Marlins just did what they needed to do to get on base and score runs, and we just couldn't score."
Lofton earned his degree in TV and film production at the University of Arizona, and these days he has a film production company in L.A. called Filmpool. He said there are "promising scripts," but the challenge is independently raising required financing.
"We have an editing house as well," he said. "I'm just trying to find some investors to get some low-budget films going, and hopefully I can be a Steven Spielberg in a little bit. I'm trying."
Thinking back on his career, working with cameras was a joy of life, and something he said set him apart from other players.
"I was one of the first to bring film to Cleveland," he said. "I used to do the eight-millimeter stuff. I would take them on the road, and then everybody started doing that. Cleveland was the first place that started doing stuff on the computers. I used to have the guy film it and get all my tapes on eight-millimeter for me, to watch all the pitchers, watching all the angles of the pitchers' moves for me."