Saturday, February 21, 2009

Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke (right) giving Guerrero (left) some love after a home run

Interview conducted by columnist - Victor Varadi

We had a chance to get in touch with Ron Roenicke after his Tempe workouts with the players on Friday (February 20, 2009) to ask him some questions that pertain to Ron's career as a ball player, third base coach and now bench coach of the Angels after taking over for now Rays manager Joe Maddon. Get to know Ron the person as well and what he likes to do for fun when he's not in an Angels uniform.

So, kick up you feet and enjoy reading this informative interview that Victor Varadi conducted with bench coach of the Angels, Ron Roenicke.

Q: (Angelswin) - What is the role of the bench coach, but also, does your role differ from roles of other bench coaches around the league?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - I think the bench coach job depends a lot on what the manager wants. Some guys don’t do any scheduling, they have a guy that does that. Some guys, the manager wants him during the game to be talking all the time during the game; some guys don’t want that guy next to him during the game to talk to him. My basic role is I do the scheduling, I do the lineups, I do the umpire cards.

Then during the game I make sure everyone is loose. I’m also there to talk to Mike when something is going on, to throw things at him. So our relationship there is kind of “as needed.” I don’t stand next to him all game if there’s nothing going on at the time. I’m also needed to pay attention to the outfield because I’m still the outfield coach. But I look at other teams, I see, for instance, Jim Leyland from Detroit, I see there’s no one next to him going to talk to him during the game. So it does differ from team to team.

Q: (Angelswin) - It sounds like you and Mike talk about in-game strategy. Do you guys ever disagree on in game strategy and do you ever talk about it after the game if you do disagree?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - Oh Absolutely. Part of the question I had when he asked me if I’d go from 3rd base coach to the dugout was ”Mike we’re gonna disagree on some stuff,” because we did when I was a 3rd base coach. And so “are we gonna butt heads too much to the point where it’s not gonna be good?” One of the things that he said was he wants to hear somebody’s opinion, he doesn’t want a bench coach that just sits there agreeing with everything he says. He wants to hear different opinions. And the nice thing is because we are friends, and I think because of the personalities also, even if we did get a little fired up every once in a while, in 10 minutes it’s done. So, maybe he gets mad at me for something I say to him during the game; maybe I disagree with him on something. The next day or maybe that night we’ll talk about it, but the next day I know it’s gone; I know there’s no problems. And it’s a great working environment when you can do that, when you’re not worried, well if I say this to him he’s gonna be mad at me for a week or whatever. That doesn’t happen here.

Q: (Angelswin) - You talked about the fact that you used to be a 3rd base coach, and you did so for 6 seasons with the Angels. Do you miss being on the field? And when you were promoted to become bench coach, was there anything you took from [Joe] Maddon that he used to do when he was bench coach?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - Yes, there [are] some things I miss about being on the field. You’re kind of one of the players when you’re out there. You are in the action and you are part of the action; you win and lose games out there.

Some things I love about being bench coach; it’s a bigger challenge. It’s more of the thinking things, helping out. It’s more of being like a manager. And I really enjoy that part. I really liked my time at 3rd base, but I’m also really liking my time as a bench coach.

And taking some things from Joe Maddon? Absolutely! Joe is without a doubt one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around.

Q: (Angelswin) - And he’s certainly proving that now.

A: (Ron Roenicke) - Yea, well, you know, things can be different as a coach and a manager. I’ve been around some really good coaches and they become a manager and they really weren’t all that great as a manager. Some guys are great coaches and great managers, and Joe is one of those guys. He’s got a different feel, he’s kind of like Mike. They’re very intelligent people, they really know the game of baseball, but they have these great personalities: they have a great sense of humor and they’ve got great common sense. And for me that is very rare to have all of those qualities in a manager. Joe has it and Mike has it.

Q: (Angelswin) - It doesn’t happen very often that Scioiscia gets ejected from a game. I know it happened a couple of years ago and you went 4-0 as the manager while he was gone. When it looks like he might be getting ejected from a game, do you start to get a little bit excited that you get to take over?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - (laughs) I don’t know if I’d call it excited. The nice thing, when he is suspended, I know from the get-go that I am the manager. You’re prepared for it, you know what you’re gonna have to do. When he gets ejected you’re not prepared for trying to do this stuff. You’re doing your job, all of a sudden he’s ejected and it kind of catches you a little bit off guard because you’re not prepared to that job that night, versus when he’s suspended, he was suspended for 3 straight games, that was an absolute blast! I knew what I was gonna have to do, I was prepared for it. But sometimes when he’s ejected in the 8th or 9th, maybe you’ve got a tie game and I’m not exactly sure what he’s talked about with the pitching staff or [pitching coach] Mike Butcher and all of a sudden all of these things are thrown at you and you’re scrambling to figure out, ok what are the signs he’s using today with his catchers. And so everything changes in a hurry.

Q: (Angelswin) - When a manager gets ejected, guys are always talking on TV saying, well he’s sitting in his office and he’s managing from his office; is that a reality or are you really handed the keys to the car and you’re on your own?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - I don’t know how it is on other teams. I’ve heard with other teams the guy is maybe managing from back there. Mike doesn’t. I told Mike, “if I’m gonna take this over, I’m taking it over.” He said “yea, I’m out of the game I want you to, you’re running everything.” So that’s the way we do it here. I don’t know exactly the way its run everywhere else.

Q: (Angelswin) - Yea I was curious as to how Mike did it. Talking about being an MLB manager, have you ever been offered any managerial positions in the past? Is it truly the stepping stone, you start as a bench coach, work your way up and hopefully one day become a manager?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - I think that is a stepping stone and it is something that I would like to do and hopefully that is the right situation to do. I am very happy where I am; I’m at home, I’m working in a great environment, I’m working for a great owner, a great manager. The coaching staff is one I enjoy every day. So, I’m in a great spot. If I don’t get that opportunity to manage, I still am really enjoying what I do.

But yes, I would like the opportunity sometime. It’s a challenge for me, I would like to be challenged a little bit more. If I do, great. And if not, it’s something that I’m happy with what I’m doing. You know, those jobs sometimes they come up and they’re right there for you, and sometimes they’re just, guys just never seem to get any offers. I interviewed a while ago with the Seattle Mariners. I needed to start kinda interviewing a couple times. Couple off-seasons there’s a lot of opportunities and some there’s none.

Q: (Angelswin) - In a perfect world, there’s a fantasy type draft, and you have one player to build your team around that’s currently playing, who’s that guy, who’s your first pick?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - (laughs) That’s a good one, that’s always a debate with us. Do you pick a number one pitcher or do you pick a number one player?

Q: (Angelswin) - Well, pick one of each.

A: (Ron Roenicke) - You have your Albert Pujols, you have… pitchers…there’s a lot of different choices there. There’s the Halladay's, the CC Sabbathia's. And in the other league, you got your Peavy’s. So, there’s a lot…that’s always a debate. Do you go for a guy that’s gonna be there every game? And I think you gotta look at personalities too. Are a lot of these guys leaders that you want to build a team around? That’s a good question and one that gets discussed a lot.

Q: (Angelswin) - I’m sure. And it’s one that gets discussed on message boards ad nauseum

A: (Ron Roenicke) - You’re right!

Q: (Angelswin) - You mentioned being at home. You’re from Covina, right?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - Correct, I grew up in West Covina.

Q: (Angelswin) - I read up a little bit on you and I actually think I have a Ron Roenicke Dodger baseball card. So you were drafted 4 times and each time you chose not to go, and then you were finally drafted by the Dodgers. So what was that like, being drafted by essentially a hometown team, if it wasn’t the Angels it was the Dodgers that were your hometown team.

A: (Ron Roenicke) - That’s who I grew up watching. My parents would take my brother and kid sister and I to games. And as soon as my brother was able to drive and we would go to the Dodger games. The other times I was drafted, with the 4 other teams I turned down, I don’t know mentally if I was ready to do that. I was wanting to go to school and my parents wanted me to go to school, also; my brother had signed out of high school.

Also, out of high school I was still wanting to play football. I probably was a better football player at that time. So I was kinda wanting to do that. So the Dodgers drafted me and it looked like I was gonna go in a good spot, and I had been to college for 3 years. I was ready to do it.

Q: (Angelswin) - So when you think back, what were some of your finest memories as a player in the big leagues?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - In the big leagues? Well I have a lot of them, both good and bad. Good was that I got to play for a lot of different teams and play with a lot of great players. The bad was that I probably wasn’t good enough to stay with any one team for a long time. I got to play with Mike Schmidt over in Philadelphia. I got to play with Tony Gwynn in San Diego. I got to play with all the great Dodger teams, go to a world series. So, it was probably the players that I was fortunate enough to play with on all those different teams. The great ones and to learn a lot from them and to learn a lot from the managers, too. Things I liked and things I didn’t like about all the different managers that I played for.

Q: (Angelswin) - Switching gears a little bit to what’s going on right now. Spring Training started and I know it’s early and I know as fans we get really excited when pitchers and catchers report, but then we see some of the other guys like Bobby Abreu out there early. You got your eye on anybody that’s standing out, either on the mound, defensively or hitting the ball?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - We’ve got a lot of really good young arms that I haven’t seen before. So it’s kinda fun to watch that. And it’s fun to have Bobby Abreu on our team because of the way he goes about his business, and because of some of the conversations I’ve already had with him. He puts a lot of effort into what he does, he doesn’t just show up and let his natural ability go with the flow. He’s studying pitchers, he’s studying a lot of different things that makes him the professional player that he is, and I enjoy that. Last year we had Torii Hunter in for the first time and I got to go through a Spring Training with him.

It’s nice to change every year, have these different personalities and get to know everybody and try to figure out the best way to go about, “how do I get this guy to perform to the best of his abilities?” That’s one of the challenges of the mental coach, to try to figure out the personalities and how do I get to him the best way. So it’s fun to have conversations with guys that are obviously great players and they’ve done things a certain way for a long time and when you have a disagreement on how something should be done. How do you go about convincing this great player to maybe try it this way? So it’s a challenge.

Q: (Angelswin) - The thing that gets bandied about when people talk about the Angels, and certainly people who don’t watch the Angels on a daily basis, and you’re probably tired of hearing about it, is the big bat. But I look at this team and I think there’s a lot of potential to do a lot of really good things. How do you feel about this team going into 2009?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - Well, I think we all have a good feeling about it. You know, the big bat is really important to have but you need to do certain things with that big bat. If you have a big bat you have to get a lot of people on base for him. If you don’t get a lot of people on base that big bat doesn’t become a big bat anymore. You need to have certain things to complement that kind of a player. And for us, ok maybe we’ve learned that, say what if we would have re-signed Teixera, we could have figured, well his power numbers are there, the RBIs. If a guy is a professional hitter he is going to have so many opportunities if you have a bunch of guys who get on base. There’s a lot of times when there’s gonna be that runner on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and all you need is a base hit to drive in 2 runs. The 3 run homer is great, but the base hit is gonna happen a lot more often than the 3 run homer. So to have good hitters who are going to hit for good average, or are going to be on base guys, those are very important to line ups. You look at our team, I think a lot of our younger guys are getting better all the time, and they need to get better because we’re counting on them.

We’ve got the great pitching staff, but offensively we’d like to score more runs and take some pressure off of our pitchers. The young guys are getting better, add those veteran players in there, you bring in an Abreu and last year it was Torii Hunter. So you’re getting a lot of pluses from the veterans and with these young guys with hopefully the potential we think they’re going to get to, all of a sudden you’ve got a good offense.

Q: (Angelswin) - As you were talking about good hitting I was thinking about Fox Sports West was recently replaying that 2002 Game 5 ALCS. I was thinking about all those guys and how throughout the season the Angels were not a big homerun hitting team. In the playoffs we got some timely homers, but for the most part they were just a team that hit well from top to bottom. What was it like in 2002, the whole championship run?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - It was definitely a different team than we have now. Offensively we were incredible in 02. We got so many hits, it seemed like we were getting 2-3 hits in every single inning; there were people on base, we were running crazy. I was coaching 3rd at the time. It was an absolute blast to see these guys hitting. And tough outs, nobody was just going up there and making easy outs. Everybody was getting deep in the count, getting big 2 out hits, big 2 strike hits. That’s, I think, what made that season so fun was to watch that offense; especially when we got into the playoffs. Those guys could really hit. And you’re playing against a team that obviously got there with great pitching, because nobody gets there without great pitching. So we were doing that offensively against a bunch of great pitching staffs.

Q: (Angelswin) - That’s for sure. Watching that Game 5 when Kennedy hit that 3rd homerun and broke it open, I think the Angels sent 8 guys to the plate without recording an out.

A: (Ron Roenicke) - That’s incredible. That’s pretty rare in the playoffs to do that.

Q: (Angelswin) - And a lot of them were against a just coming up Johan Santana.

A: (Ron Roenicke) - yea, a pretty good pitcher (laughs).

Q: (Angelswin) - yea, not bad! Just a couple more and we’ll let you go. Both relating to you, Ron Roenicke the person, if you will. One, do you have any rituals or superstitions, and two, what do you do for fun when you’re not thinking baseball, when the season is over and the offseason is here?

A: (Ron Roenicke) - well, I’m not superstitious at all. It’s just something I’m not.

In the off-season I have a lot of hobbies. I love to woodwork. I like playing golf. I like fishing. I like hunting. There’s a lot of things I like to do. I like to cook. There’s a lot of interests I have that keep me pretty busy.

Angelswin - it was an honor to talk to you and good luck this year.

This concludes the interview with Ron Roenicke. For comments or reaction to the interview, check out our message board for the Ron Roenicke interview thread.
Love to hear what you think!

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