Mussina an actor? Sort of
Mike Mussina is recognized as one of the most intelligent and analytical pitchers in the game his graduation from Stanford in 3 1/2 years is frequently mentioned during Yankees telecasts as a sign of that intelligence.
When he's not trying to out-think hitters with his vast repertoire of pitches (in a given game, he'll throw seven types of pitches, at various speeds and arm angles), you can usually find Mussina in the clubhouse, sitting at either his locker or by the lockers of bullpen catcher Mike Borzello and batting practice pitcher Charlie Wonsowicz, newspaper folded, looking for a four-letter word to complete a crossword clue.
That enthusiasm for crossword puzzles led to his involvement in the documentary film, "Wordplay," which was an entry at the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie premieres in New York Friday, June 16th, and opens nationwide on the 23rd.
YESNetwork.com's Jon Lane caught up with Mussina during the Yankees' homestand to discuss the project.
YESNetwork.com: How did you get involved with the "Wordplay" project?
Mike Mussina: They simply asked. They heard I liked doing crossword puzzles. They asked somebody in our PR department if I would talk to them, so I did.
YES: Did you see the film when it played at the Tribeca Film Festival?
Mussina: No. I haven't seen it yet.
YES: Has anyone else on the team seen it? What's the response been?
Mussina: I don't think so.
YES: Do you only do the New York Times crossword, or do you work from puzzle books or other newspapers as well?
Mussina: I haven't tried to do the Times very often. I do the USA Today and the local papers. It can take a while sometimes, so it's not something that I'm spending my half my day doing. I just pick one up and if I have some time to get it done before the game, I do, or on a plane or sitting in my hotel room or something like that. I'm not consumed by them. When I have time I enjoy trying to do one.
YES: Are you partial toward any one crossword?
Mussina: I'm not partial toward any one of them. Almost everywhere we go on the road you get a USA Today in the hotel. That just becomes convenient to pick it up and try to do it.
YES: What's the fastest you've completed one of the Times puzzles, or do you not time yourself?
Mussina: I've never timed myself. I've done a few when it just seems every clue you read, you know the answer to it. And then there are some days where every clue you read, it just doesn't pop out at you. It could go either way.
I try to do it at times with a group of people to see how fast you can plow through one, but if you're the one doing all the writing you never get to read the clues because people are throwing them at you so fast, you're just doing the writing.
YES: Do you do them to relax, or just get in a thinking mode?
Mussina: Probably both. It depends on the day. I try to do them the day I pitch just so that I'm not lazy or that I don't feel lethargic. At least my mind has had a little exercise before I go out there and pitch.
YES: Does it help your pitching at all, and if so, how?
Mussina: I don't know if it helps. It's something that takes up some time and takes my mind off the other stuff I have to worry about. When it's time to focus in on hitters and pitching, then I can do that.
YES: A big part of the movie is the National Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Would you enter into that?
Mussina: No, no, no. I know my limitations. I like doing them. I know I'm no dictionary. It's fun to do. It helps pass the time and improves my vocabulary. It makes me think in a little broader scale because it's trying to play on words or confuse you. It's something that uses up the time and keeps me thinking.