On learning toswitch-hit
My dad [Larry]came up with it. He felt that if I could switch-hit, it would give me anadvantage. When I was a kid, he hung a tire from a tree [in his backyard inAustin] and had me hit it--50 swings lefthanded, 50 swings righthanded--prettymuch every day. It teaches you how to drive through the ball, how to coordinateyour hips with your hands. To make the thing go, you've got to really driveyour backside through it.
On his currenthitting drills
I still hit offthe tee a ton. It's a great way to groove your swing. You don't have to worryabout the ball moving, so you can concentrate on your mechanics. Baseball'ssuch a reaction sport that the more times you can repeat your swing, the betterchance you're going to have. You don't want to even be thinking about [yourswing] when you're up there.
On the Astros'clubhouse
I'd be surprisedif there's a clubhouse more cohesive than ours. Credit goes to [Jeff] Bagwelland [Craig] Biggio. They set the tone of professionalism, mentoring the youngguys and establishing a laid-back atmosphere. There are no cliques, nofactions.
On being swept inthe '05 World Series
Our society issuch that if you don't win the whole thing, you're a failure. I don't feel likethat at all. We accomplished a lot, especially for an organization that hadnever been to a World Series. The good thing is, we have a lot of young guysand a good nucleus. Maybe we have another couple of runs in us.
On being known asa chatty player
When you get meand [the Reds'] Sean Casey together at first, we're way more concerned aboutwhat we're saying [than the game]. We talk about the wife and kids. "Howare you swinging it?" That's one reason I like playing first; it's a lotless boring than the outfield.
On covering up agaffe
In Baltimore lastyear I forgot how many outs there were and ran off the field. I got to theline, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, nobody's running off. I immediately went tothe fake knee injury. The trainer came running out and was like, "Are youO.K.?" And I said, "Yeah, I just forgot how many outs there were."That was right after I came back from my knee [surgery]. So I had a built-inexcuse.
On his springtraining home
We've got a housein Celebration, Fla. It's the Disney town. You know The Truman Show? That'swhat it's like. The houses are kind of the same. They tried to create a littleutopia. My wife, Cara, and young kids, Hannah and Carly, are there most of theday. There are parks and pools and it's safe, so that's kind of why we pickedit. It's strange. I couldn't live there year round. When people come over,they're like, Golly, this is kind of weird.
On whether RogerClemens will return to the Astros this year
I think there's abetter than 50-percent chance he will. He loves to compete, and he strikes meas the kind of guy who finds it hard to give up the limelight. He likes beingthe Man, and he is the Man. If we're 15--30 [like last year], I don't thinkhe'll come back. He's not going to come back unless he feels he can still do itand we have a chance to get back to the Series.
A THREE-TIMEALL-STAR, BERKMAN, 30, WAS HITTING .360 WITH FOUR HOMERS FOR HOUSTON (5-2)
Photograph by Michael Heape
BRAD SCHLOSS/ICON SMI (BERKMAN ACTION)