Q&A: Dallas Latos

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When the Reds traded for Mat Latos before the 2012 season, it was a package deal. Along with the top-of-the-rotation starter came his wife, Dallas Latos. The northern-California native has morphed from a do-everything business woman to a busy housewife, a transformation that she says is not nearly as glamorous as it may seem. She is also a tweeting machine, responding regularly to her more than 18,000 followers with humor and a smattering of sarcasm. Dallas chatted by phone from Chicago to discuss the person behind her Twitter account in a bit more than 140 characters.


Dallas Latos on where her humor and honesty come from…

Some people think that I’m complaining when I’m sarcastic about things, but to me, it kind of developed like—I don’t want to say a coping mechanism, but kind of. It’s like if something stressful happens, I try to make light of it or a joke of it. It’s kind of like a habit that’s formed. As far as being honest, my mom has always encouraged me to be me myself and express myself, whether it’s performing arts, dance lessons, acting. I’ve always been a creative person, so I guess a lot of it comes into play. I’ve always been a pretty open and honest person.                                                                       

On insisting to remain independent when she started dating Mat…

I was very independent. He wasn’t paying for anything. I wouldn’t even let him pay for a milkshake. I was really adamant that I didn’t need him in that sense. At first it was because, in my family, all the women are very strong, very smart, very driven. Everyone always had these very high expectations of me, where I was going to school, that I was going to law school, that I was going to grad school. And to me, it was so important that I could be an independent woman, take care of myself, and be successful in the career aspects of my life. I didn’t want to lose that. I was always looking at someone who was ‘just a housewife’ like, Okay, so you pretty much gave up everything to do nothing. I just had this perception.

I guess I’ve always just felt like I never wanted to be dependent on a guy. I guess not all females feel that way, but I just wanted Mat to know: A) I’m not with you because you’re some baseball player and you make money; granted, I didn’t know how much money he was making but still, I didn’t want him to think that. And B) I still kind of had this opinion of what a baseball player was. Maybe they weren’t good people, maybe they thought they could get away with things because of who they’re employed by. So I just had my guard up and I would literally tell him, I hope you know I don’t need you. There’s nothing I need from you. I enjoy you, I appreciate you. I like you as a friend and as a good person, not someone that takes care of me.

On her struggles to find comfort without a day job…

I was like, I need to start working and he was like, ‘Well I’m never going to see you’ and I was like, Well I have to have money. And he said, ‘Why are you so crazy? You take care of everything for me, you take care of the house and everything. Can you just stop being so psycho?’ So that was kind of a point where I was like, okay, I’ll be at peace with this for a little bit.

Then I started feeling really resentful for a while because obviously ego shouldn’t be something that determines how your day goes, right? At the end of the day, we all get our ego fed in some way or another.  For me it was always doing something myself or what I accomplished at work. I’m a bit of an overachiever, so getting good grades, or whatever I could quantify as a successful thing that I had done in my life sort of fed my ego, for lack of a better word. And all of a sudden, here I am feeling like I had nothing to be proud of. Wow, I just stay at home, I don’t even have a job, I’m essentially just following Mat around. It was just all these feelings of What am I doing with my life? Am I making the wrong choice, am I going to regret this?

On searching for a sense of accomplishment…

I didn’t realize why I was feeling this way for a while but I was finally able to talk to Mat about it. You go on the field, you have coaches who are proud of your accomplishments, you have trainers who are proud of your accomplishments, you have goals, you have a performance measure for what you’re doing in your life. On top of that, you have fans, fans that want your autograph, fans that are cheering for you, that sort of fulfillment. Maybe you win player of the month. Here I am, and the greatest accomplishment is saving $100 at the grocery store. What the hell am I supposed to do? Put that on a frame on the wall?

So that was hard for me to adjust to. I never had the mindset that I should be proud of myself for taking care of someone or whatever the case may be. Even now, I still struggle with the same thing. I’ll ask Mat, Am I like the most boring person ever? I feel like it’s hard to kind of maintain your own identity while being a baseball wife.

On where she is beginning to find that sense of accomplishment…

One thing that I am considering, and I know this is a silly thing, but for me personally, I really enjoy writing. [Note: Dallas writes a blog affiliated with the Reds.] So maybe taking some writing classes online. It’s sort of not even something that you’re proud of, but it’s being stimulated. There’s that sense of having some kind of purpose to your day besides house stuff and baseball stuff. It’s not to say that baseball isn’t awesome and fun, but at the same time when you’re going to games every day, and that’s literally what your day revolves around, it’s really easy to lose that sense of self. I’m definitely getting better at balancing the two.

On her nerves watching Mat start…

Well (laughs), when Mat pitches, I’m essentially ridiculously nervous. I used to be nervous because I was afraid he wouldn’t have a good start and he’d be really hard on himself or I was nervous in general. As time has gone on, I get nervous that he’s going to get hit with a ball or what happened with Brandon McCarthy last year. That scares me and the fact that I’m friends with Amanda McCarthy—and then just recently, Brandon had a seizure. That’s just crazy. He had to take anti-seizure medications. Something like that being at risk when Mat’s working, to me, it’s scary. Mat got hit in spring training with a line drive and it was just his ankle, but I still freaked out because what if he shattered his fibula, that’s a really long recovery time, that’s difficult when you’re body is your instrument for your career. There are a lot of different worries, but no matter what, I’m always so nervous.

On how she takes in one of Mat’s starts at the ballpark…

In terms of during the game, I don’t like sitting in the family section for whatever reason. Sometimes I’ll move around the ballpark. It really all depends on the day. If the ballpark’s really crowded, if there’s a lot of people, I’ll sit in the very back of the family section. Part of that is because I get into the game. For example, if someone in the outfield misses a ball, I don’t want to be like Aw dang it and offend someone else’s wife, you know? Obviously it’s never a situation where I’m upset with someone. Everyone’s not perfect, it’s not like I’m actually mad because this guy missed the ball. I just don’t want to react and vocalize it and come off as being rude.

On Mat’s fight to overcome negative public perceptions early in his career and last season…

I don’t think it’s accurate; however I understand where it comes from. You consider the fact that we’re in the Midwest now, and Mat and I both have a ton of tattoos. And when the trade happened, San Diego pretty much buried him and said he had maturity issues, but when we were there nobody said anything like that, they just had to justify it to their fans or the media was trying to justify it to their fans because they were really upset that they traded Mat. That was really unfair. On one hand, I can see how it’s easy to paint him like that. On the other hand, understand that Mat doesn’t have much of a filter and he’s not afraid to be himself. That’s not something that’s really common among athletes because a lot of times they’re saying what the people want to hear and they want to please the fans and they want to please the ownership, and I’m not saying that Mat doesn’t do that, but he’s more genuine with who he is and who he is can rub people the wrong way, especially if you’re easily offended. At the end of the day, Mat has a huge heart, he’s great with fans, he’s a great guy. You just have to give him a chance.

On battling negative stereotypes associated with being the wife of an athlete…

I think for me, it’s kind of the same thing. When I first started seeing Mat, people started saying to me, ‘Yeah pretty much now that you’re a baseball girl, your job is to look pretty and be quiet.’ Excuse me? No no no no no. That’s not going to happen. I’m not going to be that little Stepford Wife girl. There are a lot of wives that don’t want to have a voice and don’t want to use social media, won’t tweet anything except for inspirational quotes or bible verses because they’re so afraid of the scrutiny that they’re put under.

And I will say that there is a certain negative side to it, but I do a lot of tweet ups, I try to help out our media department as much as possible. I meet fans all the time and I don’t do that really for any reason. It kind of evolved unintentionally. Part of me choosing to have a Twitter was because I’m not going to be that girl that just keeps her mouth shut 24/7. Does that mean I’m going to say things that are inappropriate or offensive to the organization or putt Mat in jeopardy? No. I think it makes some people feel strange because I walk the line a little bit. There are certain things that I say where you might be like, oh maybe she shouldn’t have said that, but I’ve never actually crossed the line where it’s been negative for Mat or for myself other than a few people feeling weird or feeling offended.

On whether or not Twitter is really worth it…

I get three times a day, on average, people go online and make an entire account that’s not following anyone just to send me rude messages. It’ll be like nine tweets in a row and I’ll start reading one of them and just block them. First of all, it’s cowardly and pathetic. Second of all, I don’t know if they’re just looking for a response to make an ass out of myself by calling them out. I don’t understand what drives someone to do that. I don’t want to say you can’t hurt my feelings, I mean people have said some horrible things over the last few weeks. I’m just sort of like, what is wrong with your life that you’re saying things to someone that you don’t know that are so mean. Like someone being like, ‘You’re fat, you’re ugly, go eat a cheeseburger, Mat deserves better than you or he probably cheats on you all the time,’ these kinds of things. I don’t care who you are, you don’t want to hear them. Celebrities deal with this all the time, I’m not a freakin’ celebrity. What do I do in life that I should learn how to deal with that? That was sort of my outlook on it.

Then I thought you know what, this is a reality, just accept it and deal with it like a rational human. Who even is saying this stuff? Why are they saying it? I don’t know and I’m not going to know the answers to that

If this is going to continue to happen, should I just delete my Twitter and forget it? Then it’s like, Why am I going to let these people that are hateful dictate what I’m going to do. I enjoy Twitter, I enjoy tweeting, I enjoy interacting with people, with fans watching the game. Why should I let someone take that away from me if I enjoy it?

On how she affected Mat’s maturation…

When I met Mat, he was a very different person. He was a lot more, how do I say it, I don’t know what the right word would be, but I would sometimes be taken aback by what came out of his mouth. Before I would say that he was kind of cocky. He was really talented and nobody would ever keep him in check. His friends would all just do whatever he wanted. Nobody was there being like ‘No Mat, you can’t do that, don’t act like that or don’t say that.’

You know, it’s funny you asked that, because it was either the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011, but [San Diego Padres manager] Bud Black came up to me and said, ‘I just hope you know, you were the best thing that ever happened to Mat. He’s such a different person, he’s so much easier to work with and so much more easy-going. I don’t know what you did.’

I was like, I don’t know. I’ve never been the type of person to be like, okay Mat, you can’t do this or you can’t act like that. But I’m a very kind person and I feel like my way of dealing with any sort of situation is lead by example. Which is ironic, because I do things that I shouldn’t do. But in terms of just being kind to people, you can’t just tell someone you need to be more thoughtful or more considerate. I think that Mat having someone in his life that was really nurturing helped, because he didn’t have many friends that really treated him nicely. They took advantage of him, he had bad relationship with girls in the past, and I think that having the comfort of having someone that actually cares about you and makes sure that you’re happy and isn’t treating you like crap, that sort of softens you a little bit.

On how criticism from fans affects Mat…

In terms of when we were first traded and Mat was struggling, he’ll have a bad start and I’ll have literally 500 tweets with, ‘Mat’s a piece of shit, he should go back to San Diego, he’s terrible.’ Never once did I tell Mat that was going on. Maybe I was like, ‘Holy shit, these fans are crazy.’ But he had that same experience on the field. He would go to work and be sitting at the dugout and there’d by fans yelling at him, saying, ‘Latos, you suck!’ As much as you can sit there and say it doesn’t affect you, it still makes you feel like, What assholes our fans are. Well, not what assholes our fans are, but why are these people—if you have a good day, they’re nice to you and want your attention, but if you have a bad day, the same people are like ‘Go home, you suck.’ Getting heckled is not enjoyable for anyone. He didn’t take it too personally, but he had never dealt with that before. As much as you’re used to it, playing a sport and being under scrutiny, it’s kind of a crappy feeling. I feel like him struggling last year, I’m not saying it was because of the heckling or anything like that, but he had to deal with a lot of stress. There was the trade and knowing he got traded for four guys, just the whole thing was a mental adjustment.

On the false perception of the couple as rebellious…

I don’t really think you can say that there was any rebellious stuff. I think that there was stuff that was in the media that wasn’t entirely true. One thing that led a lot of people to say stuff about Mat is that he wears his heart on his sleeve. When he’s out there pitching, if he gives up a home run, maybe he says the F-word. You can tell that he’s upset, right? And to some people, that’s bad. They think you should go out there and not show any emotion. But if you’re truly competitive, and he is really, really competitive. He gets fired up, you know? I don’t think that it’s fair that people take it as a bad thing.

In one sense, yeah, we have this amazing level of comfort now. Until right now, we’ve literally had six-month leases everywhere. I was living in California and he was living in Florida. We didn’t know how long he was playing for the Padres, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if you’re going to get traded, it’s a lot of uncertainty. So even though he only has a two-year contract, we’ve gotten to a point where we’re like okay, we’re buying a house and we love the Cincinnati area. It’s kind of a weird thing. We didn’t really ever think that when we got traded that we’d be buying a house, but we definitely like it in Cincinnati and I think it’s a great place to live.

On her order at Skyline…

I’ve never had Skyline. [laughs]

On her favorite restaurant in Cincinnati…

Cloud Nine Sushi.

On how many Cuban guava pastries she could eat in one sitting…

I don’t really eat pastries, I don’t know. [laughs]

On whether Aroldis Chapman really ate 18 Cuban guava pastries before a game…

I asked [Mat] about it and he said, ‘Oh yeah, he ate a lot of them.’

On the best city to visit food-wise…

San Francisco.

On the worst city to visit food-wise…

Milwaukee.

On me asking her a lot of food questions…

You know, you’re asking me all these food questions. I cook a lot, but when it comes to eating, I don’t eat a lot of interesting food.

 

Adam Flango is a producer for CBS Sports and regular contributor to the Cincinnati Magazine Reds Blog. He also has a standing invitation extended to Aroldis Chapman for a pastry-eating competition.

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