Exit Interview: John Kruk

Local ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk on playing the Phillies ’93 World Series, wearing leather pants and having a hot wife.

It ain’t easy being John Kruk. Thanks to his reputation as a gritty working-class hero with the Phillies’ 1993 World Series team, everyone thinks he’s a hard-drinkin’, rock-’n’-rollin’, Harley-ridin’ sonofabitch who lives to toss back some cold ones and start roadhouse throwdowns. The 46-year-old, now a baseball analyst with ESPN, hates to let people down with the truth — he’s cut back on beer, pitches for NutriSystem, and spends his free time with his family. Another surprise, at least to us, is that he lives in Mount Laurel, keeping such a low profile that Exit Interview didn’t even know he was still here. That undercuts the “exit” angle of this interview, sure, but when you get an audience with the Krukker, you take it.

Exit Interview: So when did you leave the Philly area?
John Kruk: I still live here. I live in Jersey.

EI: You really fly under the radar. Do you ever leave the house, or is it too tough with all the paparazzi?
JK: [laughs] I’ve got a five-year-old and a two-year-old, so my time at home is time with them. I just go to the store. I go to teeball. That’s about it.

EI: Your wife is a former Miss New Jersey. How did you pull that off? Is she being held against her will?
JK: Yeah, it’s safe to say she’s being held against her will. My wife and Mitch Williams’s wife went to school together. They asked me to come out for dinner, so we met. One year later, we were married.

EI: Was this love at first sight?
JK: I don’t know how she’d ever say that. She was clueless when it came to sports, so she had no idea what she was getting into.

EI: Did she think Mitch brought his homeless buddy along for a meal?
JK: [laughs] Yeah.

EI: Is there a moment from your Phillies career that stands out the most?
JK: As a team, it was the World Series. On a personal level, my first game coming back from cancer. The ovation was unbelievable. It was my first at-bat, hit a double. I didn’t really know [how the fans felt] until that moment.

EI: You know in this town, if they didn’t like you, you would have heard testicle jokes.
JK: Oh yeah. Once, some guy made a comment. I went back home to West Virginia and went to a high-school football game. He yelled it from far away, I’ll tell you that, because I woulda beat the shit out of him. If people I know joke, like Mitch Williams, it’s a joke. People I don’t know, they deserve their ass beat.

EI: Is there anything about Vet Stadium that you miss?
JK: [laughs] It was home. You hear kids talking about going to summer camps or the Jersey Shore. I was still a kid. Still am a kid. So I miss it. It was my summer vacation home.

EI: Have you talked to your old teammate Darren Daulton about his HBO interview when he discussed astral travel and December 21, 2012, the day he believes he will achieve a “higher level of consciousness”?
JK: [laughs] Before that came out, I called him and he said, “What’s all the talk about me?” I said, “Basically, you’re crazy.” He just started laughing. He said, “It’s funny that anything I say, people are going to believe.” He never said it was true or it wasn’t true. I took it like he’s just messing with people’s minds. But I have no idea what he believes.

EI: Ever have an out-of-body experience at the plate?
JK: [laughs] Plenty. I used to drink a lot. I’ve ended up some places I probably shouldn’t have, but I don’t think Mars was one of them.

EI: What is the biggest problem with the Phillies?
JK: Wow. Honestly, I think they baby their minor-league players too much. They keep them in the minors so long that when they fail, it’s in the big leagues. I don’t think they’re going to change until they get new ownership. They’re good people, but how do you convince people of their age that we need to spend $100 million on a guy? If I had the money these owners have, I’d have trouble with it myself.

EI: What’s tougher — baseball or broadcasting?
JK: Broadcasting. As much as you want to say everything you know, you have to really control yourself. I’ve had players tell me the game has passed them by. My thing is, running hard 90 feet shouldn’t take that much energy. I had to apologize to Eduardo Perez [then of Tampa Bay]. He fell running around second and I started laughing. I didn’t know he’d [ruptured his Achilles tendon]. I called Eduardo and apologized. He started laughing and said, “Man, it was funny. I hurt myself running around a damn base!”

EI: Did it take some convincing to get you into leather pants for the ESPN commercial/rock video?
JK: Shoot. I showed up and they said, “Here’s what you’re wearing,” and I said, “You gotta be shittin’ me.” Everyone assumes I’m a Harley-riding biker guy. I’ve never been on a Harley in my life. Again, the disappointment shows when people hear I don’t know anything about rock music. They said, “You’re going to be on with Geddy Lee [of Rush].” I said, “Who’s he play for?” I thought he was some rookie.

EI: What would the old Krukker think of the John Kruk of today, who does NutriSystem commercials and doesn’t booze it up?
JK: Wherever I’m going, people say, “Let’s meet up for a beer!” I haven’t had a drink in I don’t remember how long. It’s disappointing to people when they find out I’m not this crazed alcoholic who just wants to get drunk and go out and fight someone. I’ve had people say, “You’re actually normal.”

EI: That is surprising. Anything less than pounding 10 beers with a fan must be a letdown for them.
JK: Ten beers would have been light. I couldn’t lose weight. Chips were my downfall. By the bagful. In West Virginia, if it wasn’t fried, you didn’t eat it. That’s how I learned to eat. You start worrying now; there’s health issues. It’s like any addiction. Every once in a while you have a fallback.

EI: Still sneak a few sour-cream-and-onions in there?
JK: I prefer the Herr’s in the blue bag.

EI: The plain ones.
JK: Oh yeah. I don’t need to get fancy.

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