Former baseball star Johnny Damon and his wife Michelle stepped into the reality TV world.
Johnny Damon is a two-time MLB All-Star, two-time World Series champion and, likely somewhat less known, a prolific reality TV guest. He has appeared on Celebrity Apprentice, Tanked, MTV Cribs and Dancing with the Stars. Now he’s appearing on Bravo’s Below Deck Mediterranean.
For those who are unfamiliar with Below Deck Mediterranean, it is a show where crew members labeled as “stewardesses and deckhands” on a superyacht split their time between waiting on, planning activities for and attending to the super-rich and sometimes famous—and getting into shenanigans, arguments and relationships with one another.
On his preference sheet, which the crew read aloud, Damon said he and his wife, Michelle Damon, were “Excited to get some time away from their kids and visit with their closest friends.”
The Damons caught up with Sports Illustrated to discuss their experience on the show, if they see more reality TV in their future and even talked a little baseball.
Bailey Carlin: So how exactly did this opportunity to be on Below Deck Mediterranean come about?
Johnny Damon: My wife’s business partner owns a really cool company here, so she got an email that she forwarded to Michelle. Then we started looking into it.
Michelle Damon: It was an email that shows the boat, all the places it goes and kind of gives you a description of what the trip is all about. Of course it looked amazing so we were like ‘heck yeah!’
JD: The South of France, we hadn’t done that before, so we thought it would be great.
MD: Most of our boating and charters have been done in the Caribbean, so this was the first time we went to France.
BC: Were you familiar with the show Below Deck or Below Deck Mediterranean at all before, is this something that was on your radar at all, or new and out of the blue?
JD: Yeah this was kind of new to us. We heard of the show bud hadn’t seen it, so we went and watched one show and said ‘oh perfect, it’s all about the crew we don’t have to worry too much’ [laughs].
MD: We had a lot of friends that watched it and talked about it and they kept saying the same thing, ‘oh, it’s about the crew’ because if you’re going to go on a boat on vacation and drinking...you know. But it was definitely a fun, easy experience because you just don’t even realize they’re filming you.
BC: Johnny, as a professional athlete you’re obviously used to cameras being on you, so how was this experience different than being on camera as a baseball player?
JD: Well it was very different. I guess we were expecting a camera to be in our faces, so when it wasn’t we were saying ‘huh, this is very simple.’ But, you know having the camera on you on the baseball field was like an old hat to me. I got so used to it and played so many games (2,490, to be exact). This was definitely a different experience.
MD: You’re more focused on having fun and not really paying attention, I guess.
JD: Yeah and you are not the superstar on the boat, the crew is [laughs], which is awesome. It’s nice to not be getting all the attention.
BC: So you wouldn’t say you had to sacrifice a real vacation at all to be on the show? You were definitely able to still have a normal vacation?
JD and MD together: Ohhhh yeah.
JD: It was a great trip.
MD: I’m already telling Johnny to look at going back, but we don’t know, but we don’t know if the crew can handle Johnny again. It would definitely have to be different friends [both laugh]. I told him we should do one with all baseball players and do like a baseball trip.
BC: Well, there’s my next question. If you had to pick three or five or however many teammates from the past that had this experience, who do you think you would have the best experience with?
JD: I think A.J. Burnett and his wife would be great. We got along great when he played in Toronto and then I recruited him to come over to New York. They’re fun. A.J. Pierzynski, I actually went to high school with. Him and his wife are interested.
MD: We just talked to Nick Swisher and his wife Joanna, she’s a huge fan of the show also.
JD: I think they would all be fun trips.
MD: There are definitely a lot of people we like that would be fun. The Sabathia's would be fun. The Ortiz’s would be fun, but I’m sure we’d obviously have to wait a while for that.
JD: We took the Ortizes out on our boat in 2004 in Fort Myers and he put on the tiniest…
MD: No, it was the BIGGEST life jacket.
JD: Well, it looked tiny on him. He was so scared of the water, or falling in the water. That was definitely a cool experience.
BC: You said you have your own boat. When you’re generally on your boat do you end up doing a lot of the work? Was it nice to be able to sit back and just enjoy the boat vacation on your own?
JD: Yeah, that’s a lot nicer [laughs].
MD: Well, that still happened for Johnny. He’s so hands-on we had to tell him to step back a bit because he was doing a lot of the work.
(In the Below Deck Mediterannean episode that aired July 28, Damon was seen assisting crew members by dragging jet skis out of the water, unprompted, almost immediately upon stepping on the boat.)
BC: Now that you’ve had more of a taste of reality TV, even though it was pretty hands off, is that something you see yourself getting more involved in in the future?
JD: I think it would be great. I think I had a good reputation in the league for being a nice and humble guy who signed autographs for people. When I left the game, it was so quick and I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the fans. I think it could be a good possibility. My wife is so dang funny and our kids, man, they’re all different kinds. We have an animal lover, we have a rockstar. I think our family would be very fun to follow around.
BC: OK, so have to ask you one baseball question because, you know, *Sports* Illustrated. There’s been a lot of talk about the “juiced” baseballs. Do you have a take on that and think you’d be yanking out more homers today?
JD: I don’t know. I haven’t really felt a new baseball, but I know that they’re wound tighter and that they’ve changed locations on where the baseballs are made that can definitely make a difference. But you have to look at these guys who are bigger and stronger, a lot of guys who used to play football who saw the brain injuries and said ‘let’s try a different sport like baseball and they’re dominating. You have a bunch of big-looking tight ends playing in the game now. It is a new level, better athletes now. We had great athletes before, but now it just seems like everyone is in shape. You’re not seeing too many big brawny guys, or slow guys, play in this game. It’s gotten to be a younger sport, but also these guys are stronger.
MD: He can leave it up to Dash, our youngest who is almost three. He can try to take over one day.
Below Deck Mediterranean airs Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.