(Really) Getting To Know: Phil Coke

Never at a loss for words or quality pitches, Thunder starter Phil Coke is the next subject of our “Getting To Know” series.

The fellow 25-year-old talks about cars, his dad, roller coasters, his off-season job and more…

Mike Ashmore: Tell me something about Phil Coke that’s going to surprise some people…

Phil Coke: “I’m probably one of the most laid back people you’re ever going to meet during the off-season, especially hanging out with my dad back home.  We’re like best friends.  When I was a kid, I was scared to death of him.  I was like, ‘I don’t want my dad to kick my (butt) for something.'”

Ashmore: So what kind of stuff do you like do off the field?

Coke: “Oh man.  I’m a big roller coaster junkie.  I went to Six Flags on Monday.  And they’ve got two rides there that, if they were the only two rides that were there, I would not have been off of either of them all day.  I would have ridden on them both all day.  The one called Kingda Ka is a new one…128 miles an hour down range, and then it goes up 458 feet to the top crest and tumbles back down.  Oh, dude…oh my gosh, it was amazing.  Oh wow.  If you ever wanna see what it was like to be on the deck of a fighter carrier and get thrown off the end of the boat, that’s what you wanna do.  It was amazing.  Even when you go down range, then start the incline up, the feeling in the pit of the stomach sets it back against your spine, and it just stays there the whole time until they hit the brakes when you come over and you’re just ooooookay.  It was amazing.”

Ashmore: I haven’t been there in a while…they have some wooden coasters there too, right?

Coke: “They have two wooden ones there.  The new wooden one there is called El Toro, and that one is awesome.  It makes the white one look like it’s a kiddie ride because it is so fast.  The old wooden roller coasters ride on the metal wheels, but this one rides on the nylon wheels, the same thing they use on the big, suspended rides.  So it’s fast, so fast.  Oh man.  It’s a 200 foot drop, 200 foot incline, 200 foot drop, 200 foot incline, a couple corkscrew hairpin turns, another rise or seven.  And it’s just flying the whole time, it’s amazing.”

(Worth noting that just his description of these rides made me a little queasy…)

Ashmore: Have you always been into roller coasters?

Coke: “The first ride I ever went on was called The Grizzly at Great America.  It’s another style of park in California, in San Jose.  It’s kind of like a competitor to Six Flags and Disneyland.  That place is awesome too.  But the first time I ever went on a roller coaster, I was scared to death.  I told my dad no, and I was bawling my eyes out.  We get off the ride, and I’m still crying, but it’s because of the wind that was in my eyes, I couldn’t see and my eyes are just watering.  My dad asked why I was still crying, and I said ‘I’m not, that was so fun.’  I was like seven, eight years old, something like that.  Just a little guy.  And I was scared to death to go on those, and I finally went on one, and oh my God, I haven’t been the same since.”

Ashmore: Those parks aren’t always open all year round, though.  So what else do you like to do?

Coke: “I have a four wheeler back home, so when I don’t get to ride on roller coasters, I just jump on the bike and go for a ride.  Where I live, up in the mountains, there’s a bunch of fire trucks for when we’ve had  big forest fires.  They have power line trails, which…I live at 4,500 foot elevation, and that’s only halfway up the hill, and there’s all these exposed rocks.  Have you ever heard of the Rubicon in Tahoe?  It’s a big four wheeler track with crazy rock climbing vehicles they build to do the extreme stunts and stuff…it’s like that, but it’s a trail, and it’s all bleached granite from the sun because it’s been exposed for so long.  And it’s like the one place up by Lake Tahoe that you can go off-roading on.  And it’s like the most intense stuff that you can do.  I’ve never been, or seen it personally, but there’s a guy in town that goes up there all the time and every time he goes up, he always brings something…has to fix it, comes back.  And he’s got parts galore in his yard that he just mixes and matches that are all Chevy parts, so he just slaps it all together and he goes back out the next weekend.  It’s like a pastime for some of the people by where I live, but everybody’s got to do something for their kicks.  Not everybody likes going down the valley for shopping malls and stuff like that.”

“But if I’m not planning on doing something like that, I’m pretty much a homebody.  I hang out, and help my parents all the time.  Whether it’s splitting a stack of wood…my off-season job the past two years has been cleaning up the lake association where I live.  It’s a community lake, and it was so overgrown, that you couldn’t walk on the shore, or anywhere inbetween up until the fence line, which is a good sixty feet wide all the way around this lake.  The first year, cleaned up the far side of it and it looks like a park now.  It looks like…you know the junkyard down here right on the other side of the river?  It used to look like that, but it was trees.  So I went out there with a chainsaw and a chipper and went after it.”

Ashmore: The baseball season doesn’t really lend itself to a lot of outdoorsy kind of stuff, though.  Are you a stay in the hotel kind of guy during the season?

Coke: “It depends.  If we’re on the road, I’ll go out every now and then and hang out with some of the guys.  We’ll go over to, I don’t know, Hooters or something like that if they’ve got like a UFC fight on or something like that.  We’ll go watch a fight and hang out and BS amongst ourselves and head back to the hotel after that.  Other than that, I don’t do too much on the road.  But I’m always finding something to do, I can’t just sit there all day.  Especially with the heat wave that we’ve been experiencing, it’s been way too hot to just sit in my apartment.  After it gets to like 93, the fan on the oil recirculator doesn’t cool down.  So the apartment heats up.  Yeah, it’s not very fun.  Not a big fan.”

Ashmore: So do you follow the UFC at all, or is that something some of the other guys are into?

Coke: “I used to wrestle in high school.  I wasn’t like a super-standout, all-star athlete in everything I did or anything like that.  Wrestling, it was just a way to pass the time.  If I was having a bad day, it was a great way to get rid of my aggression in practice and stuff like that.  You could just beat it out of yourself.  And if you don’t, somebody else does.  Which is great, because it’s just one on one, here we go.  It’s controlled brawling.  It’s fine, and you’re less likely to get hurt in a wrestling room.  But in the UFC, that’s a totally different animal.  Those guys are throwing around tractor tires like it’s their job before they go and fight somebody.  And the other guy’s doing the same stuff.  After working out the same, the only thing that sets you apart is the style that you train in.  So you get to see who’s on top of their game with what martial arts style they use.  It’s really cool to watch.  There’s some things that I see…like, when they’re grappling and goinf for a throw, I find myself going, ‘Sweep the leg, sweep the leg,’ just like I’m back out there watching a wrestling match or something like that.  It’s like sweep the leg, duck under, suplex and stuff like that.”

Ashmore: You think you could ever be in the UFC one day?

Coke: “If I had to.  I don’t know if I’d like someone punching me or kicking me in the face or anything like that.  I’ve got a little cauliflower (ear) here on this side (points to his left ear) from high school, but this is nothing compared to what those guys get, because we had headgear.  The only time I never wore headgear was in practice.  But you’d always get headbutted in the side of the head.  Somebody would try to do a move, and you’d go to block them off by just moving your arm out or catching them, but their head kind of slaps around a little bit.  So stuff like that happens.  I actually had my ear ripped partially off up top here, you can see the scar right there (shows me the small scar at the top of his left ear).  That happened twice.  Oh, it was a good feeling.  It doesn’t hurt as bad as you’d think though.  The worst part was when I stuck my finger in it and realized that I’d done it, because I didn’t know until afterwards.  I was like oh my God, why does that sting.  Then blood ran down my head and stuff.  It was pretty great.”

Ashmore: I don’t know if I can handle thinking about that too much longer.  How about we change the subject to movies and music…

Coke: “I like certain kinds of music.  I’m kind of a rock and roll, some metal guy.  I guess as metal as you get is Metallica.  I’m right there.  Let’s see, my favorite song by Metallica is Fuel.”

Ashmore: That’s relatively newer for them…

Coke: “It’s probably mid to late 90’s.  It was on the Reload CD.”

Ashmore: Basically, the post James Hetfield hair-cut era…

Coke: “Yeah.  I think they cut their hair for the CD Load, and two years later, out came Reload.  So they were all chopped hair and everything like that.  Then there’s the S&M album, where they re-do everything with a symphony, and that sounds pretty sweet too.  I’ve got that on my iPod, I rock out with that every now and then.”

Ashmore: Do you listen to Metallica or anything else to get you going?

Coke: “Not before games.  I just kind of rock down the road when I’m driving, and hopefully you don’t get in my way (laughs).  I’m busy rocking out to my music.  If I end up tailgating, I don’t mean it.  I’m just excited.  Sorry.”

Ashmore: I’m sure the drivers of Trenton will appreciate the heads up…

Coke: “I know, right.  But that’s anywhere I go, but I’m nowhere near as bad as some of the people I’ve seen.  Southern California’s ridiculous.  You can be driving 90 down the road, and the speed limit’s 75, so you’re already busted if you get popped.  But you’re getting passed by people doing 110.  It’s open road, but still.  I mean, I’m moving, and this dude just blew my doors off.  There’s no chance I’m going to try and go that fast, because I can do that on roller coasters instead, you know.”

Ashmore: If you’re driving faster than you can pitch, that’s probably not a good idea…

Coke: “I only do that occasionally (laughs).  That’s only if I’m really running behind that I get after it, and it’s if I have to.  The rest of the time, my truck’s good off the line, but that’s about it.  It’s basically a brick on wheels.”

Ashmore: What do you drive?

Coke: “I’ve got a ’90 Silverado.  I’m not going to tell people the color or the plates I have on my car (laughs).”

Ashmore: I would assume you made some adjustments to said truck…

Coke: “I didn’t, but the old man who had it before my dad bought it from him, he bored the motor over to a 383 from a 350.  Basically, what that means is it’s the same size, cubic-inch wise, as what they use in NASCAR.  So if I really wanted to do a little bit of tweaking, I could really make some people mad at me,  just based on starting my truck, because it would be really loud.  Luckily, they don’t let us run straight pipes.  I’m kind of a gearhead too, though.  I like breaking my knuckles every now and then, working on my truck.  It’ll be like ‘Oh, yeah, that hurt.  Gotta find a new way to get this out.'” 

“And it’s just nice with the background I have growing up.  My dad made sure that me and my two brothers were kind of jack of all trades when it came to stuff.  He’s a contractor, he’s a prison guard, he’s in the military…sports were huge, especially when we were growing up.  Big time into baseball.  He was the Little League president, so he made sure things happened, like he made sure everybody got trophies for going to the All-Star Game and things like that.  It was really cool for my dad to get that involved with us when we were little.  That’s pretty much a typical conversation with me.  I usually bring him up in every conversation when I’m doing an interview, because people will be like, ‘Oh, where did you get this,” and I’ll say it’s my dad.  Where did he get it?  I don’t know.  I was little when he started teaching me, I was three.  So I’m kind of not sure.  But he has a pretty good idea as far as how body mechanics are supposed to work as far as how to get the most out of it.  I was basically kinda sorta being molded from a little kid.  But I asked for it.  I told him when I was three that I want to be a professional baseball player.  So here I am knocking on the door of my overall dream, which is being in the big leagues.  So, you know, I think he did a pretty good job of getting me where I’m at.”

Ashmore: I guess to get back to the cars a little bit.  When you do achieve that ultimate goal of getting to the big leagues, what kind of car do you want to be driving?

Coke: “Oh man.  They keep bringing out all these different ones, I’ll probably have a couple different cars.  Sports car would probably be the Saleen S7.  The one from Bruce Almighty, the silver car.  That thing is bad.  Truck wise, I’m going to keep my truck.  I’m going to make it 100 percent right.  Do a body-off restoration from the ground up, so I still have my toy.  I’m not too impressed with prices of diesel right now, but I would probably go along the lines of an F-650, which is built by Ford.  Just because people would not want to hit me.  Go ahead and get mad at me, get crazy if you want to.  But keep in mind that I’m driving a big rig and you’re not (laughs).

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

4 Responses to “(Really) Getting To Know: Phil Coke”

  1. thunderfangabe Says:

    Thanks, Mike. This was a lot of fun to read. Phil is a cool guy.

    Oh, and don’t forget, you owe me haha.

  2. thunderbaseball Says:

    I have six games left to forget. I actually did think about it today, I just didn’t really have any time to do it with a few new guys being there and me needing to upload all my Staten Island stuff, etc.

    Glad you liked the Coke piece. Not fun to transcribe, but definitely fun to do.

  3. thunderfangabe Says:

    Just giving you a hard time as always 🙂

  4. thunderbaseball Says:

    Not a problem. I appreciate all my readers, even the ones who bust my chops haha.

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