Results tagged ‘ Steve Buechele ’
‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the week’s pre-game radio interviews, usually with RoughRiders players and coachs. You can find all the past entries here.
Week four of ‘Riders on the Record was nearly an all-home edition. In the midst of the RoughRiders eight-game homestand, we spoke with Tyler Tufts, Zach Zaneski and Phil Klein for the first time this year. The ‘Riders hit the road on Friday night and Alex chatted with Teodoro Martinez for the first time this year before game one of the four-game series in Midland against the RockHounds. Highlights include the Rangers outfield philosophy from Joe Mikulik, Phil Klein’s emotions when throwing a perfect game in summer collegiate baseball, and Teodoro Martinez discussing the origin of his nickname “Cafe.”
April 28, 2013 - Manager Steve Buechele
The Sunday conversation with Steve Buechele followed the worst defeat of the season for the RoughRiders, an 11-0 loss to the Corpus Christi Hooks. He talks as a former player about how mentally tough it can be to come from behind when down by a big margin. He empathizes with the difficulties Cody Buckel is having this season and, conversely, examines the tremendous start of Randy Henry.
April 29, 2013 – RHP Tyler Tufts
RoughRiders pitcher Tyler Tufts has had quite the year. From a promotion to Triple-A to a life-threatening medical emergency, 2012 was a wild ride for the right-hander. He talks about the fallout from the medical emergency including a silver-lining experience he took in with his family at the ballpark he grew up going to.
April 30, 2013 – Rangers Outfield Instructor Joe Mikulik
The Texas Rangers Outfield Instructor Joe Mikulik made his first trip to Frisco during the home stand. He explained what he does and what his job entails. He talked about the progression of the outfielders from level to level and the significance of situational defense in the Texas Rangers system.
May 1, 2013 – C Zach Zaneski
RoughRiders catcher Zach Zaneski talks about what it is like to be behind the plate to catch Frisco pitching. He explains the success this season for Carlos Pimentel and the decision to call a slider on a 3-2 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth the night before.
May 2, 2013 – RHP Phil Klein
Following his Double-A debut, a three inning outing with the Frisco RoughRiders, Phil Klein talks about his journey since his 30th round selection by the Rangers. He explains his increase in velocity and his early experiences in Texas.
May 3, 2013 – RHP Ryan Rodebaugh
After a blisteringly cold and windy day at Dr Pepper Ballpark, Ryan Rodebaugh discusses his first ever professional start in the difficult conditions. He’s asked about his college career as a starter and how he managed to block out the cold to pitch three scoreless innings in the spot-start.
May 4, 2013 – OF Teodoro Martinez
The son of a former big leaguer, Teodoro joined us on the pre-game show for the first time this season in the RoughRiders first trip to Midland. He talked about his improvement at the plate and his work with hitting coach Jason Hart. He also talks about the influence of his family on his baseball career and the notoriety of his father among baseball circles.
Baseball term of the day: Chin music – a pitch thrown up and inside on a hitter, usually designed to get the hitter to back off the plate
Ted Price of DallasSportsNetwork.tv informed us this morning that he has posted the first RoughRiders Roundtable of the season (#10 overall).
You can find the podcast entry by clicking here.
In this episode Alex, Nathan, and Jason Cole (of LoneStarDugout.com) discuss middle infield prospects Hanser Alberto and Odubel Herrera as well as catcher Tomas Telis before diving into the divergent starts of right-handed starters Neil Ramirez and Cody Buckel . ‘Riders Manager Steve Buechele breaks down the opening day roster. Jason also weighs in on the slow start in Triple-A Round Rock of Rangers third base prospect Mike Olt. We toss around a little Nick Tepesch talk as well.
Baseball term of the day – knocker – an early term for a batter
You can’t always catch the RoughRiders live. We get it. You’ve got laundry, homework, cooking, meetings, and catching up on your DVR to do. Maybe you are even at Dr Pepper Ballpark (although, if so, you can listen to the game on RidersBaseball.com)! If so, you are missing out on the pregame interviews with a ‘Riders player or coach before the games.
Maybe you do listen to the game but tune in around first pitch and miss the pregame show. Or even better yet, you did the hear the show, but want listen to the sitdown with one of your favorite players again or even share it with a friend.
So, we bring you “‘Riders on the Record,” a (hopefully) weekly entry each Sunday of the week’s pregame insights with the Frisco ballplayers and field staff. With a little more than a week since the season began, this week’s will be a slightly longer entry.
Hope you enjoy!
April 13, 2013 – RHP Neil Ramirez
Former Rangers supplemental first round pick Neil Ramirez pitched an excellent 5.2 innings in first home start. The right-hander talks about his focus for the season, the wild ride he has endured the last two seasons and how he needs to let his body rest from time to time. (w/ Nathan Barnett)
April 12, 2013 – RHP Randy Henry
Fresh off a stellar outing in the team’s home opener, reliever Randy Henry talks about his comfort level with the club in the early season. The Oklahoma native explains how he likes being close to home. He also talks about his routine, which includes a touching tribute to his late brother and a quirky obsession with the number three. (w/ Nathan)
April 11, 2013 – LHP Ryan Feierabend
On the home opening day for the RoughRiders we had a chance to catch up with Ryan Feierabend, one of just two ‘Riders with big league experience (on the roster at that time). Following his start on short rest, Ryan talked about how far away he is from being full stretched out. He also opened up about his role as a veteran on the team and what advice he has to the young pitchers on the staff looking to make their way to The Show. (w/ Nathan)
April 9, 2013 – 1B Brett Nicholas
Frisco first baseman Brett Nicholas discusses breaking out of his slump. He also touches on his experiences with Texas Rangers starting pitcher Nick Tepesch in their days together at the University of Missouri on the day Tepesch was set to make his MLB debut for the Rangers against the Tampa Bay Rays. (w/ Alex Vispoli)
April 8, 2013 – RHP Kevin Pucetas
Following his first start of the season, veteran starting pitcher Kevin Pucetas talks about his journey in professional baseball and how he landed with the Texas Rangers organization this offseason. He also asses the early start of the season for the team and how he can help set the tone for a young pitching staff. (w/ Alex)
April 7, 2013 - Manager Steve Buechele
Alex sits down again with Manager Steve Buechele. They talk about the early struggles offensively for the club, the heavily worked bullpen, and the up-and-down first start for pitcher Neil Ramirez. (w/ Alex)
April 6, 2013 – IF Guilder Rodriguez
RoughRiders middle infielder Guilder Rodriguez sits down with Alex after his second career home run, which came on Opening Night. A coach on the field, Rodriguez talks about his work last season with top prospects Leury Garcia and Jurickson Profar as well. (w/ Alex)
April 5, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele
‘Riders manager Steve Buechele discusses his team at the beginning of the season. With plenty of new faces and a long spring training, the skipper talks about his eagerness to start the season and analyzes his team’s apparent strengths and weakness as the team begins play. (w/ Alex)
April 4, 2013 – RHP Cody Buckel
Rangers #8th ranked prospect (according to Baseball America) Cody Buckel talks about his offseason appearance in a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial, the development of his shuuto pitch, and what he learned in Spring Training from the Texas Rangers pitchers. (w/ Nathan)
Baseball term of the day – dancer – a knuckleball
This time ten years ago, the Frisco RoughRiders Inaugural season was just getting under way. 2012 was the 10th season of ‘Riders baseball, but 2013 marks ten full years in Frisco. As we continue Opening Weekend at Dr Pepper Ballpark, we’d like to take a small look at the past ten years.
Recently, while cleaning a storage area in the press box, we came across an April 1, 2003 Special Edition issue of The Dallas Morning News featuring Opening Day of the Frisco RoughRiders at Dr Pepper/Seven Up Ballpark.
Much can change in ten years. This time ten years ago, the US had been at war in Iraq for a little more than a month, occupying the majority of news coverage. In sports, A-Rod was playing his last season with the Rangers, and Don Nelson was still in Dallas as coach of the Mavs.
In their ten-year history, the RoughRiders organization and Dr Pepper Ballpark have had a number of changes and improvements added. However, it is neat to take a look at the ballpark and at the team as they were ten years ago. In 2003, Tim Ireland was the manager of the ‘Riders. Since then, others have taken the role, including Darryl Kennedy (’05-’06) Dave Anderson (‘07), Scott Little (‘08), Mike Miccuci (’09) and our current manager, former Rangers’ third baseman Steve Buchele, who made his Frisco debut in 2010.
Dr Pepper /Seven Up Ballpark was renamed Dr Pepper Ballpark on March 31, 2006, and has held the name since. Since 2003, many changes have been made to the ballpark itself with the addition and renovation of the concessions, scoreboard and lighting systems and other aspects. Just prior to the 2013 season, the ballpark underwent a major improvement process on new concessions and playground areas. Since its opening, Dr Pepper Ballpark has earned numerous recognition for its unique design, feel and fan amenities.
There have been 324 players to have played in the ‘Riders uniform, with 97 former RoughRiders making it to the big leagues. Many big-name players have starred in Frisco in these ten years, and the RoughRiders have had many successful season and memorable highlights. We look forward to another ten years of Frisco RoughRiders baseball.
Baseball term of the day: Through the Slot- A pitch that passes directly over home plate.
Right-handed relief pitcher Ross Wolf spent most of 2012 with the RoughRiders after signing with the Rangers organization in late April. The recently-minted 30-year-old appeared in 36 games for Frisco and went 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA and nine saves. He was an 18th round draft pick of the Marlins in 2002 and made his Major League debut for Florida in 2007; Wolf also pitched for the Oakland Athletics in 2010. He recently re-signed with Texas and took the time to talk with me about the off-season, his disappointing playoff performance in September and his path back to the big leagues.
Alex Vispoli: It’s been a busy off-season for you with the birth of your daughter, Emery Shea Wolf, born on 10-11-12. She must be keeping you busy.
Ross Wolf: I know [laughs]. Her due date actually wasn’t until the 18th of October, which is my birthday, which is kind of weird because our son was born a week early too. She’s a blessing, just like our son is. She’s healthy, that’s number one. And my wife is doing good too, so that’s number two. And right now we’re both getting along good. I mean, [both of our kids], they’re going to keep me busy.
AV: Are you getting much sleep?
RW: She’s actually letting us sleep at night which is what our son did. As of right now she’s not any different that the way our son was.
AV: From a timing standpoint, it probably couldn’t work out any better for a baseball player than to have your baby born in October. You’ve got a few months where you can just completely devote yourself to family time before getting into the swing of the season.
RW: Alex, you said it. I’ve played with guys that were only home for about two or three days and then they had to leave to get back into the season. You know, that would hard for the wife and the family. I’m grateful and blessed enough to have a baby in the offseason so that I can be here for her and them for four or five months before we have to leave.
AV: I know it’s still early in the offseason but have you had a chance to start your preparations for the next season at all? Or is that in the planning phases; when do you get into that?
RW: I’m getting ready to start working out next week. I usually take about four or five weeks off after the season and just don’t do anything. I let my body just relax and mellow out before I start it up again. When I start it up it will take probably a good four weeks before I hit it hard. The first four weeks really ain’t tough; it’s just getting back into the groove of things and going from there.
AV: Is that just experience for you as to know what to do with your body or is it something you’ve learned?
RW: I would say yes. I think this is my 12th year playing and … I’ve finally found a program that lasts for me during the whole grind of the summer. It took maybe three or four workout plans to find the right one you like. I think it comes with experience, I think you’re right.
AV: Congratulations as well on re-signing with the Rangers. How did that process go for you?
RW: It went good, thank you. It went really good. I’m still trying to get a big league invite so hopefully they can give me one. I know how the Rangers are; they’ve got a ton of prospects. I mean, you know that too. They want to see what their young guys can do, but maybe I’ll go over there and pitch a lot and maybe they’ll give me one. If not, I’m just glad it’s done and they wanted me back pretty badly. So it’s done and out of the way. Last year I was stressed out, I mean I couldn’t find a team until a week before Christmas, when teams started calling.
AV: So do you know exactly what your role is? When would you figure out what your role would be come spring training? Do you feel like you can make a push at being a guy that they would consider for the big league roster? It’s looking like there’s going to be a decent amount of turnover with regard to players that were on the team this year.
RW: It’s just hard telling. Being in the free agency market for six, seven years now, you just never know who they’re going to sign, who they’re going to trade for. It all comes down to that and going to spring training and showing them that you can pitch for them during the season. And then going into the season and putting up numbers like we did this summer. Just go out there and throw strikes and the main thing is have fun. This team, when I was in Frisco, was probably the most fun that I’ve had in recent years that I can remember.
AV: Yeah, this year it was a great group to be around. But your role in particular, you had a great year in your time with the RoughRiders.
RW: Thank you.
AV: Did you feel any better this year than you may have in years past? Was your stuff any better or was it things just coming together for you?
RW: That’s a tough question to answer. Physically, I felt great, probably the best I’ve felt in the last two or three years. Stuff-wise, I felt awesome. I never had a slider, or whatever you want to call it. Some people call it a hard slider or a big slider or a curveball. I’ve never had that; usually I have been a fastball-changeup guy, and I really didn’t start throwing my changeup until the middle of August. Mentally, the guys on the team were so much fun to be with. You felt relaxed because they went out there and had fun. They weren’t stressed out because they struck out four times in a row, they would still make a play behind you when you’re on the mound pitching. I know that they’re young and I hope that they continue to do that down the road, just go out there and have fun. I was telling my wife it just brought back the joy of the game, just what it’s all about. Just go out there and have fun and whatever happens, happens.
AV:So that really makes a difference? For those of us who have not played the game at a terribly high level, it’s easy to look at it all like a video game with guys having certain physical capabilities. But the fact that it was a good group to be around and that positive mental atmosphere actually – in your case at least – made things easier or helped your performance?
RW: Oh without a doubt. All the way down to the little things. We had fun on the bus trips; we had fun in the clubhouse, before and after games. It helped having Brad Hawpe there too for a little bit for a lot of the guys, and Val [Majewski] of course. The thing that made it good was that the guys wanted to work. They wanted to work, they wanted to have fun and they wanted to win. And, like I said, they hardly hanged their heads when they had a bad day. You couldn’t tell when they had a good day and when they had a bad day, which is awesome.
AV: When you signed with the Rangers organization I remember that you told me that you heard a lot of great things. Guys texted you that you were in a good spot. Was it everything that you heard it was going to be when you signed; was it pretty much that those expectations were fulfilled?
RW: Yes. I had a bunch of guys text me when I signed with [the Rangers]. Old Triple-A veterans like Ryan Rowland-Smith and the Andy Van Hekkens; the guys that have been around for a while, they texted me and told me congrats. I would reply with a “thanks” and then they’d always come back and say, “I’ve always heard that Texas treats their players right and they do it the right way.” After this year, you sit down and think, yeah, they do it the right way, even down to the small things. Frisco’s a great place to play. Guys in Double-A for the first time ever are lucky enough to play in a city like that and in a stadium like that. And then if you get called up to Triple-A [Round Rock], you still have the luxury of playing in a nice stadium in a nice city. They do it the right way.
AV: You spent parts of two seasons in the big leagues. Do you view your goal – to get back to the Major Leagues – the same way as you did when you were trying get there for the first time? Is there any difference, or do take your experiences and try and use them to get you back?
RW: I think both. Alex, you’ve been around the game too. Of course players know this as well. The older you get, the harder it is to get back there. But, just to have the experience, maybe a team will give you a call up and say, “Let’s see what he can do.” If [that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen]. I sat and had a long conversation about this with [’Riders manager Steve Buechele] one time after a game. I still haven’t had a chance to prove myself whether I can pitch or not pitch in the big leagues. I wish a manager would have enough faith in me – I have faith in myself that I can still pitch. It’s just not how managers in the past have treated me. When I was with Oakland, I sat for 24 straight days and didn’t pitch in one big league game. And when was with the Marlins, I pitched once, sat for seven-to-nine days, and then pitched. If a manager would treat me like they do in the Minor Leagues and pitch me once every day or two, I think I’d be pretty successful in the big leagues. You always try to get to the big leagues, but if you know you can’t – and that’s not what the case is with me – being back in Double-A with these guys this year, they look to you. They look to you for questions that need to be answered. They just look up to you, like, “What should we do in this situation?” or “How should we handle this?” and just little things like that.
AV:So for you, it was probably a no-brainer to return to Texas in the sense that you’ve got a year of capital built up with some people within the organization and people have seen you perform. So you’re in a better spot to potentially get yourself back up to the big leagues than if you were to start completely anew with an organization that really didn’t know you very well.
RW: You hit the nail on the head. That’s one thing about being a free agent, you go in blind, no one knows you. You’ve got to build this relationship up. I had a conversation with [Rangers Director of Minor League Operations] Jake Krug and we said that that was probably number one. Guys in the organization like me. I wouldn’t have to repeat it again by going to a new team. I’ll just go into spring training knowing the staff, players, etc.
AV: Going back to the end of this season in the postseason series against Springfield. How disappointed were you with the way things ended for you, specifically in Game 2?
RW: Oh man, I was very disappointed. I told Bue after that last game in Frisco, “It’s my bad for Game 2, that was all me.” And he just smiled and said, “Whatever happens, happens. You’re the one who helped get us here. You’ve done as much as you could, you had one bad game.” I said the same thing to [’Riders pitching coach] Jeff [Andrews] and he said, “Hey man, that’s pitching. You gave up two, maybe three bush-league hits. That’s the way baseball goes. You gave up a bloop flare to center and a ground ball to second base that barely got through. All those had to do was go to somebody and we’re out of the inning and we win Game 2.” You know, it’s disappointing, heck yeah. You go all that way and then lose Game 2 when we needed a “W” for sure. It’s one of those things where you try not to think about it, but it’s baseball. You get over it. I was ready to pitch Game 4, I was ready to go. I don’t know, that’s just the way it goes.
AV: I think the encouraging thing is, when I recently talked to Bue, I asked him about that series and just the momentum in Game 2. He said if he could go back and do it again, he’d still probably be ecstatic knowing that he had Justin Grimm and Ross Wolf ready to go with a four-run lead in that situation. So I definitely don’t think you hurt yourself in the eyes of your manager if he had to make the same choice again.
RW: Oh yeah, for sure. He told me that too. It’s just baseball. You can look at the World Series this year, look at Verlander. Who would have ever thought that he would get rocked in Game 1? It’s just how it goes.
AV: So the Colts are your team, right?
AV: So tell me, Andrew Luck seems to be pretty legit.
RW: I love watching him play. I’ve said it for the last two years when he was at Stanford. And if he didn’t even go to the Colts I’d still be an Andrew Luck fan. He’s fun to watch. To me, he’s very competitive, he’s very smart and every Sunday I love watching him play. And now I’ve got my son, every time a Colts logo comes on TV he’ll say, “Colts! Andrew Luck!” It’s very fun and it’s going to be fun watching him play as he develops into a mature player in the NFL, for sure.
AV: That’s awesome. I’m glad you’re enjoying your time in the offseason. Congratulations again on Emery Shea Wolf and hopefully she gets the chance to see you pitch for the Rangers in not too long.
RW: Thank you, I appreciate that.
- Alex V.
In part two of my discussion with RoughRiders manager Steve Buechele, we talk about Jurickson Profar, Chris McGuiness and his own future in the game.
Alex Vispoli: This past season you had the distinct pleasure of sending four guys directly to the big leagues, by passing Triple-A. In your opinion, taking a look at those four guys (Justin Grimm, Wilmer Font, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar), what do you think their ceilings are, how good can they get?
Steve Buechele: I don’t know, but I think they can all become great players. To tab every one of them as a great player, well what happens down the road you just never know. [Profar], he’s had so much talk about him and hype put on his shoulders, and the same with Mike Olt; I think they’re both going to be absolutely great Major Leaguers for a long time. I think Wilmer Font has a chance to very very good. And I think Justin Grimm, getting a taste and seeing what it’s like, I think he’ll be very good. And I could say that about a lot of other guys who were on our team this year. I think the fans and people around the Metroplex are going to find out that a pretty good number of kids who were on that team this year are going to be wearing a Rangers uniform. If not a Rangers uniform, they’ll be wearing a big league uniform pretty soon.
AV: Chris McGuiness was named the co-Player of the Week – along with Houston’s Jon Singleton – for the first week of action in the Arizona Fall League. I was pretty surprised by McGuiness’ season in that he was so productive. He started off slowly but hit for a .268 average with 23 home runs and it seemed like he raised his game to another level when Olt – who had been hitting in front of him for most of the season – went up to the big leagues. Here he is carrying the label of an “elite prospect” by going out to Arizona and by having the season that he had. He is known for being a pretty good defensive player as well. Is he someone who surprised you a little bit considering that he missed most of 2011 with injury and when he did play the results were not great?
SB: I don’t think he surprised me. I think what was key for him was that it was one of the first seasons where he went the full season injury-free. He’s always had little nicks and knacks and injuries that have knocked him out here and there. This year, for the most part, he was injury-free and played every day. And he was a kid who you saw him just develop and grow into a much more confident run producer and a much more confident hitter. I think maybe when Mike [Olt] got brought up, and I think even before that, you saw him develop and become a much more confident hitter as the season went on, certainly after the first half. Early in the year he had so many opportunities to knock in runs and I think became frustrated with it. It was just nice to see a kid at the Double-A level understand what it takes and what kind of hitter he needs to become to be a run producer. It was just great to see him do that. And he’s a great kid; to see that he was named “Player of the Week,” that’s not a surprise to me at all.
AV: With Profar, there’s so much hype around him and he had such a good season at 19 years old in Double-A, the youngest player in Double-A this year. You probably don’t know the answer to this and Jon Daniels might not know the answer either, but how do the Rangers work him in to get a more regular role than what he had in the last month of the regular season, considering the two positions that he can play are pretty well spoken for at the moment?
SB: I don’t know, that’s not my call. Do I think he’s a great utility player at the big league level if in fact they go with [Elvis] Andrus and [Ian] Kinsler [at shortstop and second base]? Yeah, no doubt he is. He would serve that role perfectly. Could he play every day in the big leagues? And my answer to that is yes too. He’s only 19 years old and you can’t overlook that. With Pro, what makes him so good is that he adjusts so quickly for a 19-year-old kid. The adjustments he makes and as smart as he is, it’s well beyond his years. I’ve said this a hundred times and you’ve heard it: very often you find kids that are afraid to fail. And he’s one of the rare players that you see who is not afraid to be great. I would be shocked if the Rangers don’t find some kind of role for him starting next season.
AV: I know you follow the Rangers very closely, I’m sure you were watching after our season ended. But from your vantage point, what happened to that team over the last two weeks of the season and that one playoff game?
SB: You know what, I don’t know. I’m not there, I watch it obviously just like everybody else. I don’t know. You hear their excuses and if you want to make excuses, to me it is kind of the result of what’s gone on the last two years. The grind, the long years, players becoming tired, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer as to what happened. I think at the end of the season it looked like a very sluggish team to me, the energy level wasn’t there. What are the reasons for it? I’m not going to sit here and try to make any kind of excuse for them, but if I had to give you an opinion I think it’s just a result of what’s gone on the last couple of years and I think they just ran out of gas.
AV: Yeah, an extra month of baseball for two straight years and I think almost everyone played in a career-high number of games which probably helped cause that.
AV:You have been mentioned as a guy that folks think has what it takes to be a Major League manager. Is that what you want eventually?
SB: Sure, I mean going back four years ago when I was asked to come back in the organization and be a part of it, managing was never on my radar screen. Coaching or getting back in some form was in my mind. But being a manager never was. I’ve enjoyed it and I love it. What other people say is what they say, I don’t care. I’m happy with what I’m doing and hopefully someday I’ll get a chance to be on a big league staff again.
AV: Is that something that you take an active role in trying to make it happen or is your philosophy “if it’s going to happen, just wait for it to happen”?
SB: I don’t know how active a role I can take in it. I think I’m pretty loyal to the Rangers. I’ve been a part of this organization for a long long long time going back to 1985 and always being a part of the organization, doing something for them in some extent and now I’m back in uniform. There are certain loyalties that I have to the Rangers and the hope on my end is that at some point, some time I’ll be able to wear that Rangers uniform again.
My thanks to Steve Buechele for taking the time to talk with us. Look out for more interviews with members of the 2012 RoughRiders throughout the off-season.
Recently, I had the chance to speak with RoughRiders manager and former Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele. We talked about the off-season, the playoffs and some of his players on the 2012 RoughRiders. This is part one of our conversation with part two coming tomorrow.
Alex Vispoli: First of all, how has the off-season been treating you?
Steve Buechele: It’s always nice when you get away from the field and spend some time with the family and just do family stuff. That’s what makes the off-season so special.
AV: It’s been about a month and a half since the season ended. Are you still enjoying your time off or have you gotten to the point where you’re itching to get back to the game?
SB: Oh no, I’m happy to be away. I think everybody looks forward to getting back to the game but you know, that there are still months to go and the time that you have to spend with your family and be away, it’s very precious. Once you get back into baseball, that’s what takes up all your time. I’m sure after the holidays and after Christmas when spring training comes close that’s when [we’ll all be looking forward to getting back to it]. It’s kind of like the swallows going back to Capistrano; you know you’re supposed to be somewhere, you get that itch and you want to get going.
AV: When does it all start up again for you? The season begins in April, the Minor Leagues’ spring training begins in March; are you out there in Arizona come February?
SB: Yeah, the Rangers bring the Double-A and Triple-A staffs to big league camp. [At the moment, the Rangers have not announced their spring training schedule, but pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona on February 22 this past year.]
AV: The way the 2012 season ended, going back to the Cardinals series, was there something missing from the performance or did Springfield just out-execute you guys? How do you look back on that series?
SB: You know, when I look back at it we had a chance in Game 2 [in Springfield] with a four-run lead] and I think if you had to go back and do it all over again it’s one of those things where I wouldn’t do any thing differently. I would have felt absolutely awesome knowing that I’ve got Grimm and Wolf coming in to get the last four outs. But it’s the playoffs and it’s baseball and those kind of things happen. I think [the Cardinals] played good and I think we played good. They pitched well, we pitched well and they beat us. I don’t think we did anything to lose the series. I look back and I’m super-proud of my guys and the way we played. Obviously we all wished we could have won the championship but to get there with the group that we had was awesome.
AV: You can even see in this ridiculous Major League Baseball postseason the fact that momentum seems to carry such weight and it seems like it’s even more difficult to stop when you have it on your side. Especially when you’re at home like Springfield was in that Game 2.
SB: Well I think the momentum thing that you talk about, it probably applies more to that Corpus Christi series than anything else. To me, looking back, winning one game in Corpus Christi may have been one of our best accomplishments of the year. That’s a really tough place to play. The fans came out for the playoffs. Usually in the Minor Leagues stadiums are not full, they’re more toward the empty side. But Corpus Christi’s ballpark was full, they had the rally towels and just the atmosphere that was there in that game… You’re thinking you’ve got to play three of them there and we’re going to have a tough time getting through this. But to win that series [in three games] I think was a huge accomplishment for us.
AV: When you look back at the last game of the year, do you think about what could have been based on that controversial call that happened, down 2-0 in the eighth inning with Leury Garcia getting called out on the close play at first base and then Chris McGuiness then hitting the home run on the very next pitch?
SB: Yeah you can think about it. But you know what? Had Leury Garcia been called safe, they probably would have pitched McGuiness a little bit differently too. Those are the things in baseball that, the way they happen and what ends up happening, you look at it in a very general way and think, “Oh gosh, that would have been a two-run homer.” I guarantee you had Leury been called safe and been on first base they would have been careful to Chris McGuiness. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have hit a home run, but I don’t look at as if that home run would have definitely happened to tie the game up.
AV: Looking at the season as a whole, you really seemed to enjoy this season and this group. You spoke about it with me on plenty of occasions. In your mind, what made the group of players as special as it was?
SB:I think it was such a new group and such a fresh group, a bunch of guys coming up from A-ball and making that jump. It was a group of kids that was just raw for our level and learning and talented obviously, a very talented group. But you just don’t know how the kids are going to adapt to moving up a level and facing that challenge. Once you get to Double-A it’s a whole different ballgame as a lot of our kids found out. I think what made it special for me was that it was just a great group of kids that came to the park everyday ready to play, wanting to learn. And for the most part, they played their tails off and they played the game the right way. They took their lumps, a lot of those kids, but I think they all got better and they understand what it’s going to take to move on.
AV: Talking to people inside and outside the organization and there seems to be an intentional strategy of getting good clubhouse guys who are obviously talented as well. You saw how important that chemistry is at the big league level, the way the players interacted during the Rangers’ two World Series runs. Do you think that element on this year’s ’Riders team is more of a coincidence or was this part of the plan with this particular group just now reaching this point on the Minor League ladder?
SB: I’m not sure, Alex. I think when you draft and sign kids, to me, number one above ability is the makeup of the kid. I think a lot of times that gets thrown in the background a little bit because of a kid’s ability and his talents and his skill level. They wow you so much that, you know what, maybe you take a chance on the makeup of what kind of kid he is. To me, that becomes first and foremost is what kind of kid he is. How does he approach the game? What does he do when he’s on the field? How does he come to the ballpark everyday? Is he ready to go? How does he prepare? Those are more important to me sometimes than a kid’s physical abilities. And this was just a group of young kids that was raw, as I said, they had great talent. But for the most part those guys came to the ballpark every day and they were ready to play. What they did in the first half was, to me, very exceptional.
Coming tomorrow: We discuss Jurickson Profar’s future, what happened to the Rangers at the end of the season and his future in the game.