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Winter Meetings Under Armour roundtable

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HAROLD REYNOLDS: I'm Harold Reynolds from MLB Network, and I'm honored to be here today to announce this historic moment with Under Armour Fanatics. You know, they have done an amazing endeavor here, so let me just read from the notes real quick to make sure I've got this all properly done.

But Under Armour and Major League Baseball announced a game-changing partnership today that will kickoff in 2020, and the thing about Under Armour, I think the big thing is innovation, youth, passion, and really taking us to another level of excitement that's really going to happen think for the whole sport-wide. You'll see the Commissioner here later, Kevin Plank will be here, as well, and obviously there's a host of All-Star players here.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I'm Harold Reynolds from MLB Network, and I'm honored to be here today to announce this historic moment with Under Armour Fanatics. You know, they have done an amazing endeavor here, so let me just read from the notes real quick to make sure I've got this all properly done.

But Under Armour and Major League Baseball announced a game-changing partnership today that will kickoff in 2020, and the thing about Under Armour, I think the big thing is innovation, youth, passion, and really taking us to another level of excitement that's really going to happen think for the whole sport-wide. You'll see the Commissioner here later, Kevin Plank will be here, as well, and obviously there's a host of All-Star players here.

I'll introduce each one of these guys.

40-homer man from the Minnesota Twins, All-Star second baseman, Brian Dozier.

BRIAN DOZIER: Not many claps.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: This guy really doesn't need much introduction at all, best pitcher on the planet right now, Clayton Kershaw, healthy again.

I know you watched the World Series, he wanted to be a dentist, one of the best smiles you're going to see, Mr. Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians.

To my right here, he's going to win a batting title some day, especially now in the new ballpark, the gap is a little bigger than you want it to be, but Mr. Freddie Freeman from the Atlanta Braves.

And in the middle, Brad Phillips from the Cincinnati Reds, Mr. Social Media himself. And this year's American Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello from the Boston Red Sox.

Francisco, I'll start with you. You're freshly off the field, but you played in the World Series, and now you're going to an Under Armour uniform, so how cool will that be now, knowing that Under Armour is going to be the official uniform for Major League Baseball?

FRANCISCO LINDOR: It's pretty cool, especially for UA athletes, special for the brand, to be able for every one of us. I like to, you know, look fresh, and the cleats, all the stuff they give you throughout the year. And now with the uniform, I'm looking forward to see. I can't wait to see it and put it on.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: You wear cologne, too?

FRANCISCO LINDOR: Of course.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: You know what I'm talking about, Kersh, don't you?

CLAYTON KERSHAW: I don't.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Clayton, you've always been involved in community work, and all different kinds of things, and Under Armour does that, as well, and that's a big part of this is being involved with the youth of baseball and youth initiatives. So how important is Under Armour with something like that for you?

CLAYTON KERSHAW: It's awesome, just from doing some of the camps that I've done around Dallas and Los Angeles, all of these kids are wearing Under Armour all the time. Now so for them to have something associated with baseball now, Under Armour is the main brand for baseball, it's pretty cool to kind of get to say that to the kids. They are all wearing it now anyway, so it's just a cool partnership for sure.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Brandon, you heard Francisco talking about being hip and cool and swag and all that. You're really active in social media. And that's kind of not a joke, it's a serious thing, and it's the generation that we're in. And it's one of the things here, baseball trying to reach back to those kids. How important is social media and your relationship with Under Armour and how might you be able to utilize that?

BRANDON PHILLIPS: Everything now is all about social media, especially the new generation, which is good for the new generation, get to go see all the gear that we would wear and Under Armour, they want to wear what I'm wearing. Back in the day, you had to go to different places to really get all that type of equipment.

But now, I use social media as a form of showing everybody what to wear, what not to wear, especially when it comes to the brand. It's good just to go out there and just show everybody what Under Armour are trying to do and what they are trying to move towards. Social media, I think everybody should try it. It's a good thing.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Freddie, you've been head to toe with Under Armour for a while, six years. What has that relationship been like?

FREDDIE FREEMAN: It's been absolutely amazing. I started off in Triple-A, becoming part of the Under Armour family, and the way it's grown over the last six years is incredible. The cleats are a lot lighter, so I can run a lot faster now.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: You can fly.

FREDDIE FREEMAN: It's been a great relationship and it's been a great partnership.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I didn't forget about you down there, Brian. I know I'm jealous, you hit 40-some homers at second base, but I didn't forget about you.

It's interesting, what I like about Under Armour is you are a guy that wasn't really well known, yet they gravitated to you and now obviously you're an All-Star and you're taking off. What did that mean when you weren't a well-known commodity and yet they were still coming after you.

BRIAN DOZIER: It's a lot of different things. No. 1, you can always get better in the game, and I tell people all the time, especially kids, the fact that -- never stop learning about the game.

Is this an Under Armour question?

HAROLD REYNOLDS: It's Under Armour still.

BRIAN DOZIER: But, no, never stop learning. Continue to get better each and every year. You never have it figured out. That's what us professionals do each and every off-season, find ways to critique your success and find ways to get better.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Clayton, you've been at the pinnacle peak, at the top of the mountain for a long time, and being that face of Under Armour when a lot of people weren't doing it, what's it like for you to be the face of the brand in a sense?

CLAYTON KERSHAW: I'm a little like Freddie, my first cleats I had in baseball were Under Armour, it was cool, the first cleats I ever had, didn't have to pay for it, it was pretty awesome. Like Freddie said, seeing where it's come from and to where it is now, kind of taken over the game, it's a surreal feeling I know for Under Armour and looking alongside, everything I've gotten to do, it's pretty cool.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Tell us about -- you and Freddie, both, you've been long-standing guys -- the relationship with the office, with the people with Under Armour.

FREDDIE FREEMAN: They are here when you need them. We go to different cities, whenever I go to D.C., their in the clubhouse and making sure you've got everything you need. They are a phone call away. And if you see something someone else has, you're like, I like that, you know, they're playing well, so obviously if I have that, I'll play well, too. Their service is incredible. They are first class, and it's been absolutely amazing.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Cal, being a Maryland guy -- Kevin Plank started this Under Armour company as a student of Maryland, he founded this, and football was what it was about, and you've watched it grow from the beginning. What are your impressions?

CAL RIPKEN JR.: I'm just wondering, where was Under Armour when I was playing? Wonderful company. Kevin is a visionary, and being in the youth baseball business, all the kids, they want what you guys wear. So it's an exciting brand for us. We celebrate it. It's cool stuff. It's a cool brand. And it's amazing, the success that UA has had.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Francisco, you were talking about you love the swag and the colors and everything. I think the biggest thing for me, when I look back at Under Armour, the first thing that caught my mind was click, clack, those commercials they were doing back then. And you were probably a youngster -- you're still young, what, 22, maybe?

FRANCISCO LINDOR: 23.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Oh, just turned 23. For you, being a young guy, what was the attraction? Was it the colors? Was it the material? What was it?

FRANCISCO LINDOR: I remember being back home in Puerto Rico when they first -- I was like eight, and I put it on, back when I was growing up, they had like the ones where the white and blue and like different colors on the arm, I remember that one came out. And I saw one of the football players wearing it, and I put it on and I loved it. That was the first time I put on Under Armour.

Later on, seeing them, seeing them wearing it, I was like, that looks pretty cool, I want that one. They look good, they are playing good; I want it.

It's all about comfort and they are always asking how comfortable we are and what should they do to stuff to get better.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: So they kind of ask you guys what you like.

FRANCISCO LINDOR: Yes, they care about what we think.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Go ahead, Rick. So talk to me about how you came to Under Armour. What's your story?

RICK PORCELLO: Yeah, I started out, once my career started, I first started wearing Under Armour. My relationship with them has been like family. Whatever I need, if it's spikes, the next day; shirts, shoes, clothes. They have been instrumental. It's awesome. I couldn't say enough about them.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Brandon, who is the best-looking guy in uniforms? Who dresses the best?

BRANDON PHILLIPS: Well, other than myself, man --

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Figured that was coming. That's why I brought it that way.

BRANDON PHILLIPS: The phrase, he don't have -- his swag is kind of lacking a little bit but -- I know Freddie -- (laughter) they are a little high.

FREDDIE FREEMAN: I've got a high waist.

BRANDON PHILLIPS: He asked me a question, I just told him.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Now Under Armour gets to be the uniform, they can work with that.

BRANDON PHILLIPS: They can work with Freddie.

RICK PORCELLO: They can make him look good.

BRANDON PHILLIPS: He can hit, though. I don't know about the run faster thing the way he was talking about, but high pants, I might got to try it. I might start hitting better.

RICK PORCELLO: I can't test that. He might hit off me. He's definitely running faster, definitely (laughter).

FREDDIE FREEMAN: I was hitting a hundred earlier on (laughter).

HAROLD REYNOLDS: So when you look back on your Cy Young year, that was so cool. Was there a moment that turned where you're like, I'm feeling pretty good; I'm in a pretty good groove right now?

RICK PORCELLO: I think after the All-Star Break, I was pretty confident, whatever lineup I faced, I was able to get them out. And I had some different looks I could give hitters. I was very blessed to have the ability to have (indiscernible) not only on the offensive side of things, but defensively, we had some of the best defenders in the game. You know, it makes it easy to pitch in front of those guys. You know, it was great all the way around for us, up until we faced that guy in the playoffs.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Yeah, Francisco, he took it to you. Clayton, your work ethic is like impeccable, watching you work out and stuff. How are you feeling? I guess I've got to ask you that. How do you feel?

CLAYTON KERSHAW: I'm feeling great, man. How you feeling?

No, I'm doing good. You know, it's no fun to be hurt, so, you know, thankful I got to come back to the playoffs. And came a little bit short, obviously, but hopefully I can have a healthy off-season for sure.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Can you believe this little dude hit 43 homers?

CAL RIPKEN JR.: I can't imagine.

BRIAN DOZIER: 42, but I like 43.

CAL RIPKEN JR.: It's interesting, you look at some of the old ballplayers, and they go the game was better when I played, but I don't aspire to that. The game gets better, the players get better, they evolve, they're stronger, faster, maybe they pick up on something they have seen before and add to it. I think the same is celebrated with this talent around the table.

But, I mean, I'm in awe of all these guys. I think the game has gotten better. And I sit there and watch, and I'm really proud of the evolution of the game and the performances that we've seen. I get a chance to sit and watch the playoffs, I got a chance to watch you a little bit during the Series, and it was wonderful to watch.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I'll bring this back to Cal in a minute because he's very actively involved in youth baseball, but you guys were almost like the travel ball generation, how many of you played travel ball and all that? Most of you guys did. We didn't do that.

CAL RIPKEN JR.: Like a 12-year-old, did you guys play 140 games at 12? All of you?

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Seriously?

CAL RIPKEN JR.: Seems like a lot of 12-year-olds are playing a professional schedule.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Did you play that many?

BRANDON PHILLIPS: No. Basketball or football where I come from.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: So how did you turn the page to baseball?

BRANDON PHILLIPS: It was an accident. When I got to middle school, football guys got too big, and I was like, I can't go out there with my body, man, so I had to turn to something else, and playing baseball, my mom is like, let's see which one you get the most letters in. So we stacked them all up and football was like this high, and then basketball was this high and baseball was all the way here.

FREDDIE FREEMAN: Must be nice.

CLAYTON KERSHAW: Freddie had the same problem.

FREDDIE FREEMAN: I had so many sports.

BRANDON PHILLIPS: It was the pants. Maybe you could do something. (Laughter).

HAROLD REYNOLDS: So, Cal, you're involved obviously with youth sports and all the things you're doing but also with Under Armour. It seems like they have taken over the youth market, and it's really helped baseball in that sense. So what's that relationship been for you and how have you seen that change, baseball in America?

CAL RIPKEN JR.: We set out to try to do the right thing by the kids and give them experience, give them all the tools that they need to fulfill their dreams. Under Armour has been a big part of that. And I can't tell you, getting the stuff with Under Armour and getting it into the stores, it doesn't stay in the stores very long. It always comes out and they are always looking for the newer and better things.

It is the cool brand. It is what all of them want. It's the perfect partnership for us.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I mean, the cool factor is legit. That's a big difference. I know Clayton didn't really -- we'll go this way, talking about the cool factor.

CLAYTON KERSHAW: Sorry (laughter).

HAROLD REYNOLDS: So let me ask you another question, Freddie. In the six years you've been with the company, what changes have you seen with Under Armour?

FREDDIE FREEMAN: For me, it's come a long way. It's been an absolutely incredible, from the first time I wore them in 2010 to where they are now, so much lighter and more comfortable. And it's absolutely amazing, batting gloves, they have come a long way on everything. Obviously when we're on the field, the glasses are cool and they are good-looking and kids want to wear them. Obviously I wear glasses, so every time I go out on the field, all these kids are wearing Under Armour glasses now. It's been absolutely incredible how far they have come in every aspect.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: So they actually make Under Armour glasses?

FREDDIE FREEMAN: Yeah.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I know innovation was big, but wow, that's pretty cool. Not bad. How many of you knew that?

CAL RIPKEN JR.: Can you tell all these guys that you were one of the style master's when you played? Highlights of you? Spent all kind of time in front of the mirror?

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I try. Too much. So last question. I want to ask you, Rick, because you've been one of the longer members, as well. What's been the big evolution for you?

RICK PORCELLO: The spikes are big for us. These guys are on their feet, 150, 160 games a year, and making those 33 starts, I have to make the most of it and I have to be comfortable. I was actually wearing the ones that Clayton wears for the longest time because I've seen him win so many Cy Youngs and so many ballgames, so I'm going to wear what he's wearing. I ended up switching over after I got off the DL last year, and the new spikes I'm wearing --

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Better not change, Cy Young.

RICK PORCELLO: Got to make them mine now.

Q. The Apps nowadays that analyze your swing and analyze your bat path, do you utilize those?

FREDDIE FREEMAN: Well, I am as simple and basic as it comes. I don't try to analyze and do anything. I just put my foot down and swing. That's kind of what works for me. I think if I analyze something too much, then I get in my own head, and if something doesn't work for three or four games, I don't want to be trying to critique something and trying to fix it and everything else goes out of whack. I'm just a very basic guy. I can't speak for everybody else, but I'm not really into the analytical side.

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I think as kids come along now, they probably do that a lot more than even this group of guys, and we did for sure.

CAL RIPKEN JR.: They learn a lot by video and they are trying to figure it out for themselves. So any sort of thing that they can measure, getting them to understand the swing or how they play, they are into it. So they are trying everything and working with everything but once you reach this level, you've already figured it out, and then your routines that you take, you tend to simplify them.

I really enjoy the idea of you can analyze something too much. One of these guys's greatest skills is they can analyze their environment really well and play really well -- but they can also take the analysis so far and get in their own heads and mess themselves up. Many of the kids we work with, they are searching and searching for all kinds of different things, and being able to measure things is very important. We see that and try to give them as much of that as we can. Once they start playing really well, then they decide, this is how I do it. But it takes a while for kids to get there.

Did Harold ask all the questions, didn't leave any for anybody else?

HAROLD REYNOLDS: I guess that's it for now. Thank you.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.