Friday, February 27, 2009

By Kevin Mark - Columnist

Bobby Wilson is an "odd man out" for the Angels. Currently, Wilson is blocked by the Angels Major League catching tandem of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis and approaching from behind is #1 ranked prospect Hank Conger. Baring an unforeseen trade or injury, Wilson will return to Salt Lake for a third straight season and it appears circumstances will prevent Wilson from ever being a part of the Angels Major League roster. This is unfortunate because Bobby Wilson is a better player than Jeff Mathis and he would do a good job as the Angels #2 catcher in '09.

Bobby Wilson's strength is his defense and I rate his defensive skills as Major League ready. Behind the plate he displays excellent footwork and does a good job of blocking balls in the dirt. He has a strong, accurate throwing arm. For the Bees in 2008 he threw out 43% of runners attempting to steal. He handles the pitching staff well and the Salt Lake pitchers seem to have a great deal of confidence in him. I have seen the majority of home games that both Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson have caught in AAA and I would give the edge to Wilson as a defensive catcher.

Wilson is not a spectacular hitting prospect. He is a line drive type of hitter with little power. But he does make solid contact and he hits the ball with authority. Wilson's 2008 hitting line of .312/.386/.435 was better than any season Jeff Mathis had for Salt Lake. In my observation, Wilson has more hitting potential than Mathis.

It is highly unlikely Bobby Wilson has much of a chance to make the 2009 Angels squad in 2009. Jeff Mathis is familiar with the current Angels pitching staff and Mike Scioscia has a lot of faith in him. This entry is not a knock on Jeff Mathis and I believe he will have a nice rebound season in 2009. But in terms of baseball ability, Bobby Wilson is a better player than Mathis. It will be nice to have Wilson back in Salt Lake this year but I hope he is soon able to move to another organization. There are several teams who could use Bobby Wilson to fill their #2 catching slot.

This entry also appears on the Rounding Third and Heading Home blog.

Tim Mead speaks to the gathering at Tempe Diablo Stadium

By Chuck Richter - Executive Editor

“I do what I do because I love it, and the same applies to you, also. Personal recognition is not a goal in comparison to the satisfaction of assisting others.”

Those are the words from the Angels Vice President of Communications Tim Mead after a recent exchange I had with him. In a moment, we'll look at what he means when he says "the satisfaction of assisting others,” but first a little background on Tim.

Tim is a native of Athens, Greece. He was adopted at six months old and lived in England for two years before moving with his adoptive family to the United States. He graduated in 1980 from Cal Poly Pomona with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Tim talks about the time when he first started out with the Angels.

“When I went to college, I actually wanted to be a writer. After I realized I wasn’t going to play, I wanted to be a beat writer for a Major League team. As an intern in 1980, a particularly bad year for the Angels, I got an insider’s viewpoint of the relationships between the athletes and the members of the press. I did not think I would have had the fortitude to ask those tough questions of people. That wasn’t part of my makeup. I decided to try a different route and the Media and Public Relations departments were best suited for my likings.”

With nearly 30 years in the organization, Tim has held the position of Vice President of Communications for the last 10 years, previously holding positions as Assistant General Manager, Vice President of Media Relations and Assistant Vice President of Media Relations. As Director of Media Relations, he was awarded the Los Angeles/Anaheim Chapter “Good Guy” Award in 1985 and 1990. In 2000, he received the Robert O. Fishel Award for Public Relations Excellence in Major League Baseball. He became the 20th recipient of the award in his 20th season with the Angels. In the process, Tim had his name placed on a plaque with previous winners in baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Tim has a warm spot in his heart for those who serve our country and in April 2002 he took part in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC), designed by the Department of Defense. He was one of 60 civilians chosen by the Pentagon to attend the conference, traveling to the Pentagon, Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virgina; Sheppard Air Force Base, Sheppard, Texas; Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Ofutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb., to see the United States Strategic Command Center. The trip featured briefings and meetings with key military generals, admirals and enlisted men and women from each branch of the service. The trip is designed to present a clearer picture and understanding of the military to civic and community leaders across the country.

Tim is also a Member of the Board of Directors for the Orange County Sports Youth Association and assists other charitable groups such as Amigos de los NiƱos and Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. Mead also serves on the advisory committee for the Sports Management Program at Long Beach State and the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Communications at Cal State Fullerton. He and his wife Carole have one son, Brandon, and reside in Diamond Bar.

Assisting others is truly one of Tim’s best qualities. Tim talked to us awhile back about what it has been like working for the Angels over the years:

"I never consider a day with the Angels as work. I’ve been both blessed and fortunate with this work. There are a lot of people, players who taught me early on that I have so much respect for today.

“Being with this organization has not just been a job, but the journey has been a long road. The evolution in adulthood, from 22 into my 50s; I’ve watched death through this organization. The longer you’re someplace, the more it becomes a part of your life.

“The game within the game has had a profound effect on me. I’ve watched the beauty of it all. I owe baseball everything, baseball owes me nothing; we are just caretakers for an absolute priceless establishment. I hope I can walk out on my own terms and I hope they can say, “He bled for the Angels” when I leave. That’s my hope. In the end, that’s all I really care about. I know how hard people have worked, even in some of the failures or disappointments. I witnessed hard working men and women within the organization that gave it their all and I have the utmost respect for them.

“I wish people would put sports into perspective, the role that it has in its community, the people in the organization, the players that have made an impact in a positive way behind the scenes -- so much goes unseen. I’m proud of the people I work with and they care."

Those of us at are proud of you, Tim. We’re proud of how you’ve represented the Angels so well over the years. We’re proud that you’ve not only worked and survived under three different owners, but that you were esteemed highly by all — including our current owner, Arte Moreno. We’re humbled as the team’s fan site that when you address the Angels fans at one of our events it’s as if the event was as important as a Major League ballplayer getting introduced to the media at one of your press conferences.

On a personal level, I’m honored by the friendship we have. As you started your career with the Angels in 1980, I became a fan of the team a year earlier in 1979, at the age of 9. Now, it’s 30 years later, and last year, the man that taught me so much about the game and passion for baseball, my father, passed away on Thanksgiving Day. After you were alerted of the news two days later, you called to offer condolences, prayers and heartfelt words in a time of grieving — on behalf of the entire Angels organization.

We’re obviously not the only ones proud of Tim’s accomplishments. No, we’re not the only ones who have been blessed by his vast knowledge of the history of the ball club. It isn’t just us at who have witnessed his integrity, professionalism and work ethic. There are countless people who Tim has impacted in a positive way over the years. We caught up recently with just a few of them who have worked with Tim to see what they had to say about the man who finds “satisfaction in assisting others.”

Dennis Kuhl, Angels president of operations: He’s our archive guy. Every time we have a question on a player or anything, we go to Tim and Tim doesn’t even have to look it up. He knows. He has a wealth of knowledge. You’d never meet a nicer guy in your life. Sometimes I tell him “You’re too nice.” (laugh) He’s been unbelievable with handling the alumni, unbelievable with all of the milestones and knowing the players. He’s a great asset. He’s so involved with the community; he’s loved by everybody here. He’s a true Angel.

Mike DiGiovanna, Angels beat writer from L.A. Times: I have known Tim for 25 years at least. He is a true professional in every sense of the word. I think what makes him really good at his job is that he’s obviously employed by the Angels and he’s always looking out for their interests, but also he’s always been an advocate of the writers and the media — and that’s a fine line to walk sometimes — and he’s kept both sides fairly pleased for a long time. So, you know if he’s survived in this business for as long as he has, he has to be really good at what he does.

Bill Plunkett, Angels beat writer from the Orange County Register: Tim is the best. I first met him more than 20 years ago and his professionalism and good nature have never changed — even as my employer, job description and circulation did. He treats everyone with the same level of respect. We’ve solved the problems of the world (and the media, in particular) over many a press box meal and I only hope the Angels realize what an asset they have in Tim.

Abe Flores, Angels Player Development: Tim’s three decades of professionalism and service to the Angels is immeasurable. He is a positive and honest sounding board to players, coaches and front office staff. Plane and simple, he is one of the best at what he does in Major League Baseball and is an asset to the organization on a daily basis. I have always appreciated his patience, insight and advice for the last seven years.

Eddie Bane, Angels director of scouting: Tim Mead is the Angels. Arte Moreno came along and made the Angels a model organization, and Tim Mead has always been a great face for the Angels. Tim is a great person also in the media department and as a friend.

Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times: Tim is the epitome of class and professionalism. He has represented the Angels so well for so long that you think of Tim when you think of the Angels, just as you think of Gene Autry and Jimmie Reese and Jim Abbott and Tim Salmon.

Rob Goldman, author of “Once they were Angels”: Having been around Major League Baseball for more than three decades, I can unequivocally say that Tim Mead is one of the finest men in the business.

For me personally, Tim has been a godsend. Before writing “Once They Were Angels,” my experience with the team had been primarily in the clubhouse. Although I was a relative novice to writing, Tim and his staff were always there with the needed phone number or press pass to keep the process moving. Having Tim on board meant that the Angels had my back and for that I am eternally grateful.

Tim has many great attributes, but perhaps his best is his ability to empower others to help reach their goals and aspirations. This quality is rare in any enterprise and Tim does it with a sincerity and enthusiasm that is infectious. The Angels are truly fortunate to have someone of his caliber in the front office. I am equally fortunate to have someone of his character and integrity as a friend.

Jeff Biggs, Angels AM 830 host of “The Biggs” show: Not only is Tim Mead the best in baseball, he’s an even better person! As you know, the legendary broadcasters we’ve had here in Southern California have blessed us all: Vin Scully, Chick Hearn, Dick Enberg and Bob Miller. But for those of us who have been fortunate enough to work in the media, Tim is a true Hall of Famer. I’m lucky to know him. Angel fans are lucky, too!

Jennifer Hoyer, Tim Mead’s secretary: I’ve been working for Tim for three years, so this will be my fourth season with him. I’m embarrassed to have my name mentioned in an article, but I will say that I feel very blessed to learn from him and be associated with him. He works hard, he gives everything he has every day and he is also one of the most quality human beings I know.

When people tell me what a great guy I work for, I can respond with 100 percent honesty that, yes, he really is that genuine of a person and he really is that easy to work for. I’m lucky, he’s a great boss and I really respect him both as a person and professionally.

Dan McKechnie, member: “I first met Tim when I was working with Anaheim Sports and doing commercials for the Mighty Ducks. Tim was very helpful when I was doing some Angel projects way back when.

Tim helped us get a suite for our posting group (the old L.A. Times Angels Forum) back in ’99. I remember Tim stopping by and speaking to our large group of Angels fans, which included Chuck and myself. Shortly after the visit, the Halos rallied against the Tigers with a Spiezio blast in the ninth off closer Todd Jones. We were all jumping up and down in the suite like a bunch of kids.

I’ve sat in Tim’s office and talked over pictures of his favorite Angels (Jim Abbott and Jimmy Reese) and other baseball stories. Tim is so giving of his time. Whenever I think of the Angels front office, I think of Tim and how very lucky we are to know him. He exudes what Angel baseball is all about.


The testimonies above and legacy Tim Mead has built during his walk of life have inspired many, including myself. As Dennis Kuhl said “he’s a true Angel.”

When thinking of Angels baseball as a fan or professional in the business, who are the personalities that come to mind? To some, it may be a ballplayer, perhaps their all-time favorite Angels player. To others, perhaps a manager, say Mike Scioscia. Maybe to another it’s the greatest owner this franchise has ever had in Arte Moreno. All of those choices are solid and would make anyone think of the Angels in a positive light.

For this writer and fan of the club for 30 years, it’s simple: The face of Angels Baseball will always be the man who finds satisfaction in assisting others — the Angels vice president of communications, Tim Mead.

By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

They say that all great things must come to an end. Fortunately, those great things must also have a beginning; and sometimes we’re lucky enough to enjoy them from start to finish.

In 1990, the California Angels used their fourth round draft pick to select a slender 17-year-old outfielder out of Kennedy High School in Granada Hills. Now, 19 years later, the Los Angeles Angels bid farewell to their all-time franchise leader in games played, plate appearances, hits, runs, total bases, extra base hits and runs batted in.

For all intents and purposes, Garret Anderson’s Angels career ended on Oct. 28, 2008, when the organization announced it would not pick up his $14 million option for 2009.

But what a career it was.

It began on July 27, 1994. The Angels played host to the Oakland A’s. The game would prove to be a microcosm of the first half of Anderson’s career, as he laced two base hits into right field while the team, particularly the pitching staff, put on a dismal performance in an 11-3 loss.

Despite the Angels playing great baseball for the majority of 1995, Anderson’s first full season and one which saw him finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to the Twins’ Marty Cordova, the team would suffer one of the worst collapses in the history of the game, finally succumbing to the Seattle Mariners in a one-game playoff for the American League Western Division. While the pain of that season left a permanent scar on the Angels fan base, it also gave it its first look at the smooth and stoic outfielder, who in the next decade and a half would not disappoint on that first impression.

For the next six seasons, from 1996 through 2001, the Angels managed to flirt with success, but would compile a pedestrian 466-505 record. In those six seasons, Anderson achieved something the team could not: consistency. He never once dipped below 600 plate appearances in a season during that span, averaging 185 hits, 20 home runs, 94 RBI and a .293 batting average.

Overshadowed by the likes of Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad, whose talents and remarkable accomplishments of their own grabbed the attention of the media and loyalty of the fans, Anderson would fly under the radar as one of the game’s most under-appreciated players.

But Anderson would eventually find himself on the national stage. In 2002, he played in his first All-Star game before leading the Angels to their first playoff berth in sixteen years and ultimately the franchise’s first World Series. In the deciding game seven, it was Anderson, the team MVP, who would get the big hit, clearing the bases with a ringing double down the right field line in the bottom of the third inning, giving the Angels a 4-1 lead; one they would not relinquish.

In 2003, Anderson finally took center stage as the world of baseball looked on. In his second consecutive All-Star appearance, he would make history. He won the Home Run Derby on a Monday night in Chicago. The very next night, Anderson went 3-for-4 with a double and two-run home run, earning him the All-Star Game MVP award.

After the 2003 season, his fourth consecutive with 28 or more home runs and 116 or more RBI, the Angels rewarded their MVP with a well deserved $48 million extension. It appeared as though the never-injured and ultra-consistent Anderson had firmly cemented his place on the national scene.

Shortly after signing the extension, however, Anderson was diagnosed with arthritis of the upper back, shoulders and neck. The man who had played in at least 150 games in each of the previous nine seasons was limited to just 112 games in 2004. And though he still batted over .300, his power numbers dropped considerably.

Despite a poor ending to the regular season, the man that drove in the game-winning hit in Game 7 of the World Series two years prior, came up huge again for the Angels, driving in the winning run against the A’s on the second to last day of the season, clinching the Angels’ first Western Division Title in 18 years.

The first half of 2005 brought relief to Angel fans, as Anderson appeared to be completely recovered. He made his third All-Star team in four years and was on pace for another 25 home run, 100 RBI season before the injury bug bit again in early August. He only missed 20 games in 2005, but hampered by a bad back and knee, Anderson struggled in the final month of the season and finished with just 17 home runs.

From 2006-2008, Anderson remained a productive bat for the Angels, particularly in the second halves of ’07 and ’08, which saw him put up big numbers and make even more history. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007, Anderson took what was remarkably his first curtain call at Angel Stadium after hitting a grand slam in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees, giving him a team record 10 RBI in one game.

Three weeks later, on Sept. 8, Anderson drove in a run for the 12th consecutive game, adding to the team record he had broken the day before.

However, the injury bug, which had eluded him for the first 10 years of his career, refused to disappear. His body would not allow him to live up to the big contract he had undeniably earned.

With the younger, better and more prolific fan favorite Vladimir Guerrero leading the Angels in the seasons following 2003, Anderson’s reign as the marquee Angel really only lasted a season, as prior to 2003 fellow all-time Angels greats Salmon and Erstad garnered much of the fans’ attention.

I doubt Anderson cared. And if he did, he’d not let anyone know it.

It’s 2009 and Spring Training is underway. It’s the first in more than 15 years that Anderson won’t be in Arizona. Instead, he’s spending his first spring in Florida as a member of the Atlanta Braves, who signed the left fielder to a $2.5 million contract earlier this week.

The initial reaction of Braves fans to the signing of Anderson appears to be as indifferent as the reaction of many Angel fans to his departure.

While the great players are celebrated in their time, regardless of how long that greatness lasts, the very good players must often wait to be acknowledged. For most, that acknowledgment comes long after their playing days, when their typically uneventful exits are far removed. So might be the case for Garret Anderson, who in his own way polarized a fan base with his seemingly effortless play and indifferent demeanor.

We’re reminded of the fictional athlete — silver screen football player Rod Tidwell, whose agent Jerry Maguire pleaded with him to “dance.” When Tidwell finally did dance, he was rewarded both financially and with the adulation of the fans.

That Anderson never “danced” illustrates humility and respect that will be sorely missed by one portion of Angels fans, and sadly forgotten by another.

At 632 hits shy of 3000, Anderson holds out hope that he can put together four solid, injury-free seasons and just maybe thrust himself back onto the national stage with quiet whispers of Cooperstown.

The odds, of course, don’t favor him. Instead, it’s likely Anderson will finish short of history, exiting the game in much the same quiet manner in which he played it. Perhaps nothing would be more fitting for a reluctant star.

Enjoy some pictures of Garret Anderson over the years with the Angels.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Interview conducted by David Saltzer - Columnist

Abe Flores has been the Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim since October, 2007. I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about what it’s like to be a Director of Player Management, how the Angels develop their prospects and how he sees his job after his first full year. I finished the interview impressed at how well he knows his job and how passionate he is about the Angels and baseball.

Q: ( - I just wanted to start off by saying thanks on behalf of everyone at the community for taking the time to do this interview.

A: (Abe Flores) - Okay.

Q: ( - Let’s start off with some background questions. Where did you grow up, what schools did you attend, what sports did you play?

A: (Abe Flores) - I grew up in the San Fernando Valley

Q: ( - Which High School did you attend?

A: (Abe Flores) - San Fernando Valley High School. Then I went to Cal State Sacramento. Then I got my Master’s Degree at the University of Arkansas.

Q: ( - What were your degrees in?

A: (Abe Flores) - I got my Associates Arts Degree in General Ed. from Valley Junior College (Los Angeles Valley Jr. College). Then I got a Bachelors Degree in Social Science and then got my Masters Degree in Sports Management. I started coaching when I was finishing up at Sac-State then went to American River Junior College for two years. Then I was an assistant at Arkansas while I was in grad school there.

Q: ( - Did you play?

A: (Abe Flores) - Yes, I played.

Q: ( - What position?

A: (Abe Flores) - First base. Then started coaching at Arkansas and went to the College World Series which was very exciting. I coached summer ball in the Cape Cod League twice. Then I worked as an assistant at USC for 3 years.

Q: ( - How did you come to the Angels?

A: (Abe Flores) - I was an area scout for the Colorado Rockies for 9 years. My territory was Southern California. The position became open when Tony Reagins took over for Darrell Miller so his position became available—the manager of baseball operations. And now I’m the Director of Player Development.

Q: ( - So what is a typical day in your life like, if there is such a thing as a typical day?

A: (Abe Flores) - On a typical day I look at a calendar of events leading up to the different parts of the year. For example, in the offseason we’re building towards getting ready for minor league spring training and we have a great staff that works with me—or I work with them—on visas, travel, acquiring 6-year minor league free agents, plugging in holes in our system. We have people working on the travel arrangements and getting things ready to go. We have an excellent guy in Tempe Eric Bricboum who takes care of the hotel arrangements. Other people that are a pretty integral part of player development here with the Angels are Tory Hernandez, Justin Hollander, and Terri Shambaugh. Those are critical components of the player development staff—I couldn’t do it without them. Tory is the manager of baseball operations. Justin is the Assistant of Player Development and Scouting and Terri is our Assistant of Player Development.

Q: ( - How have things changed in the post-9/11 world? What are some of the complications you’ve had to deal with?

A: (Abe Flores) - I don’t know so far as complications. Basically, the issue has been fraud concerning their date of birth, which is now almost a non-issue. It’s been cleaned up over the last 5 years.

Q: ( - We’ve seen Santana age 10 months and found out that it wasn’t his real first name.

A: (Abe Flores) - It’s Ervin. A lot of that stuff has been cleaned up because obviously they are coming in here to work but then they want to know who is coming in here to work so they are going to go to the umpteenth detail to know exactly that that is your identity. But, because of MLB opening an office in the Dominican, it’s become easier now.

Q: ( - So that’s a typical day during the offseason, what’s a typical day like during the minor league season?

A: (Abe Flores) - Basically looking at team reports every morning, making note if there are any injuries with the club. If there is an injury, I always have my cheat-sheet which lists all of the rosters on every club—the starters, the relievers, catchers, infielders at every position, outfielders, and it allows me to basically see the whole playing field the whole board in case we have to make roster moves. If we do have to make roster moves, either that night or the next day, I talk to either the field coordinator, pitching coordinator, catching coordinator, infield coordinator, to see who is the right person for that need.

Q: ( - What is a typical day like during Spring Training?

A: (Abe Flores) - That’s 32 days of 6 in the morning ‘til 6 at night. Breakfast and cereal with pitchers and catchers, but it’s pretty much Groundhog Day continuing every day. Meetings in the morning every day at 7 o’clock in the morning to determine what we’re going to do for that day so far as the practice plan—what we’re trying to execute for that particular day, where we’re plugging players in for rotation time system, bullpens, catching those bullpens. There will be some pitchers and some extra position players that we roll into full squads and obviously breaking them up into work groups by team—there are 4 teams that are full season that will break camp—and try to put the rights players on each team—prospects too—and we’ll try to align that all up. So far as our work groups and teams, that is an ongoing process. It never just ends. That’s bigger than just Spring Training. That’s done relatively in advance and really we put that together at the end of Instructional League.

Q: ( - I would like to get into Spring Training and how our players are doing, but you talked a little bit about plugging holes in our minor league season. Last year you had to plug a few holes in Arkansas with players like Greenberg, a player out of the Independent League, could you talk a little bit about that?

A: (Abe Flores) - We basically had what we thought at the time was a season ending injury to the centerfielder on that team. He broke a bone. They needed somebody basically they said in 24-36 hours. We called up the Independent League and we went for him. He was the best person available at that time.

Also, in the process, when we have more time, both Justin and Tory are in charge of the active reserve list. We maintain in our computer an inventory of players either are playing Independent Ball or who have been released and basically putting those players in preferential order by position so that we can assess that we get the right player for that particular moment based on ability. Then, the other factors come in. Once we’ve identified that group of players, that there’s no medical issues and that they have no makeup issues, or minimal medical issues.

Q: ( - Let’s get into a little bit about Spring Training. What are the daily reports that you are receiving? Who’s looking good? Who should we be keeping our eyes on?

A: (Abe Flores) - Well I was only there for 4 days. I just came back. I won’t be going back’til March 4th. So far as standouts, it’s too early to tell now. But the most important thing is that everyone came back to camp in shape, for the most part, so things are looking good. We have our normal bumps and bruises, but that’s always kind of the norm every year.

Q: ( - How do you factor in Winter Ball performances? Kendry Morales and Erick Aybar both had really good winter performances and Brandon Wood struggled a little bit. How do you evaluate that coming into Spring Training?

A: (Abe Flores) - I think it’s on a case-by-case situation depending on what that player is trying to accomplish in that Winter Ball scenario. For some players, what they’ve accomplished doesn’t always show up statistically. For some players it does show up statistically. The main thing is that they are there and getting in their homework for what they need to accomplish. It’s a difficult and different environment. It’s a great opportunity to learn all of their skills. It’s a passionate environment, so for me it’s all a positive. It’s all predicated on the player himself whether it is a positive experience.

Q: ( - How about Kendry Morales. Several of us at project big things for him this year. We saw those tough at-bats he had in the post season. He had an incredible Winter Ball. What do you see out of him and what has changed in him over the past couple of years?

A: (Abe Flores) - I think number one I think Kendry has become a little bit more comfortable in our culture. He did not have a grasp of the English language at all. So if you put anybody in that environment they are going to struggle. Struggle with taking direction, struggle with trying to execute the direction. It takes time. And I think it did take time. He’s a talented guy, he’s a skilled guy, but he had to learn a different system about how they go about playing the game. There’s an adjustment period. I think he’s really blossoming and I think he’s becoming a very complete player for us. He’s really blossoming in front of everybody’s eyes. It’s a pretty neat thing.

Q: ( - How often do you get to see each and every player throughout the season?

A: (Abe Flores) - I basically go to each affiliate 3 times—Rancho, Arkansas, Salt Lake and Cedar Rapids—3 times. Twice in the first half and once in the 2nd half. We have 3 short-season teams and I get to see them twice, once in the first half. And I’ll go to the Dominican twice. Once during the Major League All-Star Break—that’s a good time—and once again in the fall.

Q: ( - Do you see anyone jumping a level or standing out yet?

A: (Abe Flores) - I haven’t gone to camp yet, but as I said, our rosters are pretty much set going into camp. We have a good idea where guys are going to fall. What throws that completely off or throws a wrench into it is when injuries occur. And, injuries will occur. If we don’t have injuries, then it’s really power to us, but injuries occur. They are a part of the process. We have to be able to get the proper players the proper player who will be productive within that group.

Q: ( - How do you rank someone like Pettit or Sweeney, both of whom pretty much lost an entire year to injury? How do you assess where they should go?

A: (Abe Flores) - Pettit missed a large part of his season. He came back but was definitely rusty when he got back to the double-A club. But he had a tremendous Arizona Fall League—he really tore it up. Basically one of the top MVPs of that league. That being said, if we were breaking camp today, he would project out to double-A to be patient with him a little bit more. We expect some big things out of him and he could potentially have a really quick promotion, but that remains to be seen. In the case of Sweeney, he hasn’t been on the field in over a year. I’m more than curious to see how he’ll move and react to live pitching or game situations. That’s one of those things at his age and skill level that I would probably not hesitate to send him to a high-A ball club, but, that’s one of those wait-and-see situations.

Q: ( - At the start of Spring Training, do you set individual goals for everyone to work on for Spring Training and the season? How are those goals set?

A: (Abe Flores) - Basically there is a group and we all have a say on that player so far as the comments and on putting together a plan for that player—their strengths and their weaknesses. Their goals can come from us but basically we want active participation from that player because when he’s involved in the process he needs to buy-in and be a part of what we’re trying to do or accomplish. So, it’s a partnership.

Q: ( - Could you give us a hypothetical goal that you might set with a player?

A: (Abe Flores) - Basically it would be more of a general sense of trying to accomplish something specifically within his skill level. So, in other words, trying to refine a breaking ball that’s going to help his overall pitchability. Maybe becoming more conscientious as a position player. It could be a couple things--being more conscientious of his work—his work level, his effort level, his focus level on a daily basis. Maybe concentrating on some components with his swing. We keep it pretty simple and keep it pretty general. I don’t want to bog them down with a lot of technicalities and walk out of there with their heads spinning. I want to give them some really good sticking points that they can accomplish that are reasonable through the course of the season. Once they accomplish those, they adjust on them. There’s some more things for them to work on. It’s an ongoing process. It never really ends.

Q: ( - We’ve been lucky to have an Eddie Bane feature here at for the past 3 years. What’s it like working with Eddie?

A: (Abe Flores) - Awesome. Tremendous charismatic guy. A very competitive guy. He wants to beat the competition in getting the best players for this organization. He has tremendous resources and by resources I mean a tremendous staff that is basically unselfish and is willing to do what is asked and go above and beyond what is asked. I worked with those guys and still work with those guys for seven years and what is going on as year eight. Eddie is a tremendous person, a good resource. Very patient—a good listener. Definitely can bring some levity into a meeting room. A very original thinker in some cases. A very critical thinker.

Q: ( - At what point do you get involved with a potential draft pick. Eddie has the scouting team—they identify and rank the potential draft picks. When do you get involved in the process?

A: (Abe Flores) - Whoever they pick is up to them. There may need to be some holes that need to be filled as we get along further in the draft—after the 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th round and we need to assess these holes. We’re always going to need a lot of pitching. But, we may be short on some position players, some specific position players. So, as the draft really goes along, hey, we need a 1st baseman for Tempe. We may need a 3rd baseman for Orem. Is there anybody on the board who or on a certain round or certain place that can address that? But so far as when it is those high pick drafts, I have nothing to do with it. It’s all up to his staff as to who they think in their estimation is the best one for the Angels. Once we do sign those players, it’s making sure we got them on the right team and on the right spot.

Q: ( - And that would be entirely within your domain or purview?

A: (Abe Flores) - Yes. Obviously we get written reports from our scouts on what were getting. And we really want to make sure that when we’re talking to our scouts that they’re giving us their assessments as to what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, what are the things that this guy needs to work on. Is this guy abused? Is there any red flag that we need to be aware of either mentally or physically so that we’re aware of it and it doesn’t catch us blindsided.

Q: ( - Let’s get into a little bit about Angels’ organizational philosophy towards hitting, pitching and fielding. Are there any key philosophies that we should be seeing or that you are specifically trying to work on?

A: (Abe Flores) - Well obviously with hitting we believe in using the middle of the field. We want to make solid hard contact towards the middle of the field. We want to be able to—our style of play is being aggressive on the bases—so we want to be able to advance runners. This isn’t anything that anyone else is doing. Base running is a big component of what we do offensively. Teaching repeatable swings. Being efficient with the bat. Being able to recognize situations based on the counts. These things are not as easy as they may seem in an interview. They are very difficult. And it takes time for our players to understand this and more importantly to execute it.

Pitching, hey, basically, being efficient with what you have. First off, it all starts with teaching a repeatable delivery. The one thing that we do introduce here—which Bill Stoneman started with—is the full windup, that old-fashioned wind up. We believe in more athletic aggressive type deliveries instead of cookie-cutter mechanical type deliveries. Those are some of the things that kind of jump into my mind.

A big component here is our catching—that pitcher catcher relationship. It’s well documented Mike believes in it and preaches it at all levels—as well as our base running at all levels—that once they come aboard with us and have yet to play that is a big component of what they are expected to learn here. They are expected to learn it fairly quickly. And there is a key intensity level that is expected of them for them to basically continue and advance within the Angels’ organization. Not only do they have to hit, but they are professionals so far as the intensity level to be the kind of players that we are trying to produce. We’re trying to produce contributors on a championship caliber club. That’s kind of a nice little encapsulation but a lot has to do with being that type of player. You have to be able to contribute in a lot of different ways and in a lot of different roles.

Q: ( - What can fans read into starts in a Spring Training game? If I’m an Angels fan, and I’m reading a box score, and it’s late in Spring Training, and I’m seeing someone like Chris Pettit starting for 4 innings, can I read anything into that?

A: (Abe Flores) - For me, Spring Training can be a little bit like fool’s gold. It can get deceptive on a performance in Spring Training, but don’t. Be very careful on that performance. Take the body of work, the track record with that individual player. What did he do last year? What did he do the year before that? What has he done maybe in an instructional league moving forward? Spring Training has different matchups with different players. There’s advancing, no scouting. It’s basically players competing against other players. There’s not a lot of advance work or prep work so far as how you’re going to attack a certain hitter. There is, but it isn’t as intense as it is during the regular season.

Q: ( - But then again, we also saw Darren O’Day have a really incredible Spring last year and made the major league club.

A: (Abe Flores) - Good point. If there is an open spot then it becomes a little bit of a tryout situation for that group of players who are competing for that open spot. Players may shine through and have great springs and may push other players out of the way. But if that person comes in not having a very good track record, that should be weighed into that decision too, ultimately.

Q: ( - You’ve now been on the job for a little bit over a year. How do you like it? What have you learned on the job? What has surprised you?

A: (Abe Flores) - Number one I think it is one of the best jobs in major league baseball bar none. I think it is challenging. But the best part about it is that you get to see the players grow from when they first come until they grow all the way up and graduate to the major leagues and hopefully become impactful on our major league club and become impactful on a championship caliber club. Most of the things that are really rewarding are working around a group of dedicated people from those in the front office to those on the field to our coaches and our staff—who are basically are our unsung heroes. Being a part of that group is one of the things I’m most proud of. Basically being a part of that group that is going to dedicate that focus. Things that probably surprised me? Not much because I saw Tony do it for 6 years. I guess what you really find out is that until you really start doing it, you really don’t understand the weight of that job. As much as I can observe Tony being the GM, I’ll never know what its really like to be the GM until I sit in his chair. I think this holds true with this position also. As much as I thought I knew Tony’s job, I really didn’t because it all falls on your lap in your department.

Q: ( - What’s the hardest part of your job?

A: (Abe Flores) - Cutting players. Telling players that they’re not going to be a part of your organization. Players that you care about, players that have been with you for a while, players who were committed. Even if they haven’t been here for a while, it pains you and it pains them. This is work that they really want to do and unfortunately you have to cut them loose. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t continue playing baseball. It just means that they won’t be playing baseball with an Angels uniform on their back.

Q: ( - Let’s get to the lighter side. What’s your favorite movie?

A: (Abe Flores) - This year or ever?

Q: ( - Both.

A: (Abe Flores) - Probably the best movie I’ve seen this year has been The Wrestler. Number two would be probably the Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Q: ( - And, for all time?

A: (Abe Flores) - I don’t have one of them. I have a bunch of them. That’s one I’ll have to sit down and think about for a while. You will have to come back and write to me on that one.

Q: ( - Favorite band?

A: (Abe Flores) - I have a bunch of them. Pretty eclectic, I like everything.

Q: ( - Favorite place to eat?

A: (Abe Flores) - In Arizona, Oreganos.

Q: ( - How about here in Anaheim?

A: (Abe Flores) - I really can’t say it. I frequent a lot of places here in Anaheim and don’t really go back to the same place often.

Q: ( - How about your favorite stadium food?

A: (Abe Flores) - I don’t eat stadium food.

Q: ( - Well, I’m just striking out here.

A: (Abe Flores) - No, there’s Tony’s box. It could be a hamburger, it could be anything. No, you’re not striking out, just asking me questions I haven’t given any thought to.

Q: ( - Wife, kids?

A: (Abe Flores) - Wife, no kids. My wife is a school teacher, she teaches 4th grade. She’s been the Time-Warner Teacher of the Year for 3 years and we expect her to hopefully be Teacher of the Year again this year. She was chosen as the alumni of the year for within her own Department at Long Beach State—her Teaching Department. So she will go back and be recognized at the Long Beach State‘s graduating ceremony this year.

Q: ( - Congratulations!

A: (Abe Flores) - Yes, congratulations for her. It’s well earned. She really cares about her kids.

Q: ( - Favorite place to stay on the road?

A: (Abe Flores) - Marriott.

Q: ( - What’s the toughest place to go to on the road?

A: (Abe Flores) - So far the toughest has been to get to is Cedar Rapids. That’s because of the time change and the connections. You just barely get there at game time it seems like. It’s tough and tricky. The weather has a lot to do with it too. Coming through Dallas or going through Chicago in the summertime it can be really tight making your connections and making your connections on time.

Q: ( - Is there anything else you’d like to share with the fans?

A: (Abe Flores) - The one interesting thing that I wanted to pass along to the fans is that mark of scouting and player development is that 53 of our 66 players in major league camp are home grown. That’s an amazing thing that we have going on here. We have the talent and other teams really covet our talent. With our talent we had 3 players taken in the major league phase of the Rule-5 draft. Being placed on our 40-man roster prior to that contributed towards that. Nick Green got selected off of waivers and was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers just recently. What a great opportunity. I just talked to him yesterday and it’s a great opportunity. The door is wide open for him for him to make a fresh start and a great impression in another organization.

When I’ve gone around to talk to our different Hot Stoves or our different affiliates who are kicking off their Hot Stove sessions, I’ll talk about those 40 Kernels of our 66 players who are in our major league camp. Think about that. At any affiliate you have that big a group of guys who have come through your city and are now in major league camp and are now around major league players and are now competing against other major league players. There have been 42 Quakes. There’s been 43 Travelers. 40, 38 or 39 Bees. That’s pretty awesome!

Q: ( - I would have to say so. I’d also have to say it’s the right way to go through development because they all learn the same system so that they can all play together when they come in. They can just come in and immediately know what they need to do.

A: (Abe Flores) - I think that the neat thing as Mike has been there for a long time is that every manager from Salt Lake to Cedar Rapids is in major league camp. The complete Double-A and Triple-A staffs are in the major league camp right now. To keep our system uniform we teach our philosophy to our players. In a way it gets back to scouting and player development. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. A lot of people say that for scouting and player development the proof is in our numbers and what we have in camp. Now does that mean everyone is an all-star in camp? No. But we really believe in drafting and developing our own players. Yes, we do sign free agent players, no doubt to supplement the club at the major league level. But we really believe in player development and I’m really grateful to Arte in believing in that and us.

Q: ( - That’s great. I really appreciate your time and insights. Would you be open to doing a mid-season follow-up after the All-Star Break?

A: (Abe Flores) - Sure. Give me a call and we’ll get this thing going.

Q: ( - Thanks again! I really appreciate the time.

A: (Abe Flores) - Take Care.

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.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview conducted by Chuck Richter

I had the chance to chat over the phone with the Angels team president Dennis Kuhl yesterday and we talked about several items that pertain to Angels Baseball, the business side and got to know the man behind the scenes that makes the experience for Angels fans all the more enjoyable.

On behalf of everyone at, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to conduct this interview with us.

Q: ( - So, Dennis, let’s start off with a little background on Dennis Kuhl and how you and owner of the Angels Arte Moreno met.

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - Arte and I attended the University of Arizona together. We were fraternity brothers in Tucson. Arte and I became friends and ended up in the billboard business together, working together for 30 years. Arte sold the business, I stayed on for a while and Arte was looking for something to do. He was always a tremendous baseball fan. Even in college, we played on pick-up teams, C League teams; anything that had to do with baseball, we both enjoyed it. We’d go to games, we’d go to Anaheim and watch ball games or spring training games at Hi Corbett Field (in Tucson). We always loved it and Arte had the opportunity to buy a team. We had worked together for years and we’d become friends. I was fortunate to have Arte ask me if I would help him come down and run the team. I said absolutely, a dream come true.

Q: ( - What has it been like working for Arte Moreno over the years?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - One of the things about Arte that I really admire is that he’s a real visionary. He looks out 4-5 years. He has a vision of what he wants things to look like, how he wants the team to look. He's a great visionary. Myself and John Carpino — he's another one of us who worked in the billboard business and we worked together for years. We brought him down to be in charge of marketing. He’s one of the most creative guys I’ve ever known — John and I are the guys that have to put Arte's vision to work on a day-to-day basis. He’s already thinking what do we have to do next. What do we have to do three years from now? How do we want to look? Guys that are successful are good visionaries. Working for Arte for so many years you understand that. You almost know what he’s going to do after working closely with him for so many years.

Q: ( - What are Dennis Kuhl’s responsibilities as the Angels Team President?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - As team president I oversee everything that doesn't happen between the white lines. That means marketing, community affairs, all of the concessions, all the ticketing, all of the financials, all of the personnel, all of the sponsorships — anything that it takes to run a business. It’s about generating revenue, watching your expenses and trying to bring a profit to the bottom line. I’m very fortunate that Arte lets me in on what’s going on the baseball side. Tony does a great job, we all communicate daily. We all have an open policy here; everybody talks.

When you have 40,000 people come into your home every night, you want to make sure they’re taken care of, they’re fed, they’re parked and they’re having a good time. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re building that same experience. That’s watching your concessions to make sure they’re affordable, that's making sure you have the right merchandise, the right food, affordable pricing, you’re selling tickets, bringing groups in, doing all the stuff in the community that you need to do, doing outreaches, selling your sponsors, all of your signage throughout the stadium, merchandise sales in the team store, all of that on the business.

Q: ( - Wow you have your hands full, huh?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - I do have my hands full. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. Every day there is another challenge out there to make the Angels experience even better.

Q: ( - True, like every good job or challenge, it’s good to have surrounded yourself around solid people.

A: (Dennis Kuhl) – That’s right and when you have somebody like Arte, you know his direction, it’s a lot easier because you know what he wants and how he wants to go with it. He’s really a perfectionist, he really is and we always move forward. We know that and we always move forward.

Q: ( - Do you see AM 830 KLAA Angels Radio as a success after a year of being on the airwaves? Anything new in store for AM 830 in 2009 or beyond?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - We see all of that as moving forward, every day getting better and better. That’s a new project that I’m overseeing. It’s been a real interesting experience for me because it’s something that I’ve never done before. But when you put the right people in the right positions. it makes it a lot easier. I feel like we’ve been fortunate. I’m real happy with the talent, like Jeff Biggs, Roger Lodge and Dave Smith — I think they’re good. I think we have a long way to go, but we’re making headway. Our deal with KFWB is something new and exciting because we want to make sure everybody can listen to the station. It’s just another outlet for us. I think everyone wishes they could broadcast their own games.

Q: ( - Yeah, it has been a pleasure working with Paul Sakrison and Julio Morataya at AM 830. By the way, we’re all thankful for your interest in our content that we’ve supplied for the AM 830 Website going on a year now.

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - Thank you for the content, it’s great. It just enhances everything. I like the idea. The big thing now for a Website to work is that it needs content — and good content — and that’s what you’ve supplied for us. It helps both of us out.

Julio has been after me for bringing him on. I love Julio Morataya’s ideas; he’s very creative. Radio is about promotion and promoting your radio station. They've taught me a lot. They work with anybody, Paul and “Pollo,” the guys, they share ideas together, the guys come up here and say, “We got this great idea, what do you think?” I say, “Let's go, let’s make it happen.” So, just great guys to work with.

Q: (Angelswin) - A couple Tuesdays ago, we had two of our writers Adam Dodge and Eric Denton on the air live with Jeff Biggs and they had a great time on Angels radio.

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - Jeff Biggs is a great guy, isn’t he? I really, really like Jeff. He does a really good job at 830. He has a tough job sometimes at night with some of the testy callers. He had one guy on last night and I said, “Come on, Jeff, get him off the air.” (laughs) Radio has been a real treat.

Q: ( - Can you measure how successful the name change has been in terms of increased revenues?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - Well, no you really can’t measure that yet. It’s tough to measure something like that. We just feel it has opened doors for us from the standpoint of it has gotten us larger accounts. We feel that we’ve gotten our name on the map. It is going to take a long time. To me, it’s all about building the brand. We’re more concerned with building the “A,” the color red and “Angels.” That's what we’ve focused on since we’ve got it.

I look at brands out there all the time. The Yankees have one of the greatest brands; they’ve never changed their uniforms, they’re the same all the time. I just think they’ve done a tremendous job with their brand. The Dodgers and Lakers have a great brand; I watched them and see how they’ve branded their name. It just takes a long time. It didn’t happen overnight for the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers or Lakers. It didn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of years to build your brand.

Q: ( - How does Angel merchandise sales rank in relation to the rest of Major League Baseball? What are the annual sales in dollars?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) – We’re right up there in the top-10 from what I understand, from the information I’ve received.

Q: ( - What has been the impact of the recession on advertising, corporate suite renewal and season ticket renewal and how will this affect the Angels 2009 revenues?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) – Well, you know, (sigh), we feel very confident that the people have supported us very well here in Orange County and our sales are — we’re going to see a little bit of an effect, but we’re real optimistic that we’re going to do real well this year from that standpoint. To give you an idea about sponsorships, instead of having one or two huge sponsors, we’ve had to work harder at going out and finding four to five more sponsors. It’s just you adapt to the economy and you adapt to what is going on. We will do things, we will really work hard on group sales to fill the stadium, we’ll work hard on anything else we can to get people to come see a game. It is going to affect everybody and I think the biggest thing I hear out there is that people are just being cautious right now. But a baseball game is a fun thing to do, it's a family thing to do and I still think that people love the game so much that they’ll come out. Maybe they won’t come out 10 times a year, but they’ll come out eight times a year.

Q: ( - Especially coming after a 100-win season. You know, spring training comes around and the excitement is in the air, they just can't wait for the season to start and get out to the ballpark.

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - I know, it's just amazing that it renews the passion every year and baseball to me is a year-round sport because you talk about it. There is no other sport like it. My dad and I would sit down and talk — my dad was a St. Louis Cardinals fan and I just love listening to the radio when we go back to Illinois and the passion that the St. Louis Cardinals fans have. And they talk about it all year long. Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, all of those guys.

People, when I'm out speaking, they’ll say, “I just want to let you know I’m a Dodgers fan,” and I say, “That’s great. Look, if you're a baseball fan, that’s what counts.” We want to make sure that the kid that’s 5 years old, he’s going to be 7 years old, then 13 years old, then 18 years — that’s where we’re going to build up that image. You become a fan of the team and you follow that team through good times and bad times. I grew up back east and I followed the Yankees. I still follow the players; I check out the starting lineups, I have a bunch of Baseball Digest books. I like to read these old baseball books to see how this guy turned out or what happened to that guy; he was a can't miss, he was a phenom. This game is so much fun to follow; so much fun. Even during our Angels Tonight program, the people want to talk. Last year, the guys said they did OK when we first introduced it, but now there are callers on hold before Angels Tonight goes on the air. The people want to talk baseball. How’s Kendry doing? How’s Escobar doing? It just amazes me how knowledgeable these people are about this sport. I love it.

Q: ( - Any stadium renovation plans? Any chance of team opting out of lease in 2016?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) – We’re always looking at new ideas, new processes. We don’t have anything on the drawing board right now. We spent a lot of money on the scoreboard, new seats. It takes a lot of money to maintain a stadium this size. We do a lot of maintenance work year round. Right now, we’re trying to clean it up for the All-Star Game in 2010 to look sharp. I can't wait. As far as the lease, we haven’t gotten that far. That would be something you’d have to talk to Arte about. Right now, I’m just trying to run the day-to-day business.

Q: ( - If approached, would Arte consider working on bringing football to the Orange County/L.A. area?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - Arte gets approached on a lot of things and I can tell you right now that Arte’s focus is baseball. He’s a fan first and owner second. I've been out with him drinking some beers and we talk baseball for hours. Just look up in the suite and we’ll be talking baseball during the game; sometimes in the wee hours in the morning. It is so much fun to be up there and second guessing Mike Scioscia during every game. It is so much fun.

Q: ( – Speaking of the games, let’s talk Angels Baseball on the field now. I’m sure you’re pleased with the signing of Bobby Abreu, that it will put to rest the Manny to Anaheim rumors. What does Dennis Kuhl think of the Angels chances in 2009 with the team that’s in Tempe right now?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - Yes, it will. But you know Dave Smith, he’ll still bring Manny up. He won’t let that die. Every morning when I come to work, “What about Manny Ramirez?” — he’s too much. He’s a great guy.

Bobby Abreu makes us better. He’s got a great attitude, he fits into the team really well, great work ethic. I love his plate discipline very much. Getting on base before the big guys, and he can run, fits right into Scioscia's mold. He loves guys that can get on base and run.

As far as 2009, you know everybody keeps saying “we need a bat, we need bat.” I’m telling you, I think it’s time that one of our young guys breaks out and has a big year. I don’t know which one it’s going to be, but it’s time. Look at our lineup, Chuck, it’s a nice start with Figgy, Abreu batting second, Guerrero, Hunter and Morales fifth, some nice sticks in there, Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli. I think Rivera is going to have a huge year for us. I think Howie Kendrick strokes the ball very well. He’s a great kid. He’s a fine ball player. We got two great shortstops in camp, too.

Q: ( – We’re set to air’s “Top-50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball” on AM 830 this spring. What has been Dennis Kuhl’s Angels Greatest Moment you’ve witnessed as a fan since you’ve been president of the team?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - My greatest moment is the first time as team president on Opening Day. I was down on the field and I’m saying to myself, “I’m standing here on Opening Day as part of a Major League organization — it doesn’t get any better than this.” Next time it will be when we win the World Series again. That will be my next greatest moment. Last year was great — 100 wins. That was great. We have a strong pitching staff. I can’t wait for opening day, just like the rest of the fans. Same for Arte.

Q: ( - Now that Garret Anderson and Francisco Rodriguez have left via free agency, two of the fans’ favorite players, John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero, are in the final year of their contracts. How important is it to the Angels to sign these two All-Stars to an extension going forward?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - You know, that decision and those decisions are made by Tony Reagins and his staff. They evaluate and make recommendations to Arte. Boy, Guerrero, I feel like he’s been here forever. He’s been here since I got here. Same with Lackey, he’s been here since before I got here. I think they both have enjoyed their stay here and I believe they want to stay on as Angels to finish their careers. Tony, coaches and scouting, they make those determinations.

Q: ( - One of the most respected men, with more than 30 years in the Angels organization and friend of mine, Tim Mead, must be a pleasure to work with on regular basis. Was Tim a valuable resource to both you and Arte on the history of the franchise because of his tenure in the organization?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) – He’s our archive guy. Every time we have a question on a player or anything, we go to Tim and Tim doesn’t even have to look it up. He knows. He has a wealth of knowledge. You’d never meet a nicer guy in your life. Sometimes I tell him “You’re too nice.” (laugh) He’s been unbelievable with handling the alumni, unbelievable with all of the milestones and knowing the players. He’s a great asset. He’s so involved with the community; he’s loved by everybody here. He’s a true Angel.

Q: ( – Let’s wrap this up with a little bit about Dennis Kuhl the person. What does Dennis Kuhl like to do for fun when he’s not working?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - I love to ski. I still play baseball, hardball, in a senior league every Sunday. I figure if I can still do it, that’s great. My release is whenever I can get out to the mountains, the snow. You’re by yourself and it’s quiet. It energizes me. On Sunday, we play baseball. All of us are Angels fans. We talk Angels baseball all through the game. Sometimes I bring my radio and we’ll listen to the game while we’re playing. It’s loads of fun. You know, play on Sunday and get out of bed on Wednesday.

Q: ( - What are your favorite sports teams not named the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - My No. 1 team I follow besides the Angels is the University of Arizona basketball and football teams.

Q: ( - Favorite beer?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) - I can’t tell you that because I have too many beer sponsors. I drink them all. Let’s put it this way: I never had a beer I didn’t like.

Q: ( – Let’s wrap this up. Last question: What would you like to say to the daily readers and contributors of, who will be reading this interview?

A: (Dennis Kuhl) – We’re all looking forward to a great season. We love our fans; fans are number one. I wish I could go around and thank them all for their support. It’s really great when I can go out to the ballpark and see smiling faces, kids smiling. We’re fan strong, that’s what we are. Everywhere we go in Orange County or Los Angeles, people love the Angels and that makes me feel good.

This concludes our interview with Dennis Kuhl, to which now after our chat is known by me as Dennis "Cool".

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

By Eric Terrazas - Columnist

As they gear up for the 2009 season, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfield will sport a mostly familiar look. Two major changes, however, took place during the offseason.

One of those changes was the departure of longtime left fielder Garret Anderson. After 14 plus seasons, the Angels bid adieu to Anderson, who holds club records in several categories, including hits (2,368), RBI (1,292) and games played (2,013).

The other significant change was the recent signing of veteran Bobby Abreu, who comes from the New York Yankees. The left-handed hitting Abreu, who batted .296 and collected 20 home runs and 100 RBI last year, should bolster the Angels lineup. Abreu, who stole 22 bases in 2008, will give the Angels some speed on the base paths, as well.

Abreu, who has played mostly right field in his 13-year big league career, is expected to play left field for the Angels. That might bring about an adjustment period for Abreu, who has played only 16 games in left. The last time Abreu played left field was in 1997 when he was a member of the Houston Astros. Abreu, a 2005 Gold Glove winner, made just two errors and recorded 10 assists last year.

Patrolling center field will be Torii Hunter, who will begin his second season with the Halos. Hunter did not miss a beat defensively in 2008, committing no errors and winning his eighth career Gold Glove.

Hunter, however, experienced an offensive dip last year. After batting .287 with 28 homers and a career-high 107 RBI with Minnesota in 2007, Hunter fell to .278, 21 HR and 78 RBI.

Another player looking to rebound offensively is right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who batted .303 and collected 27 homers and 91 RBI last season. While those numbers would be good for most players, it represented somewhat of an off-season for the eight-time All-Star. For the first time since the 2003 season, Vlad missed out on both an All-Star selection and the 100-RBI mark.

An offensive recharge from both Hunter and Guerrero would make the Angels lineup that much more fearsome.

Juan Rivera also returns to the fold. Rivera, who recently signed a three-year, $12.75 million contract, will probably see time at both left and right field. He also figures to receive his share of DH at-bats. The Angels would love to see Rivera regain his 2006 form, when he contributed a .310 batting average, 23 homers and 85 RBI. Rivera, who missed most of the 2007 season with a broken leg, batted .246 and delivered 12 home runs and 45 RBI last year.

Gary Matthews Jr. and Reggie Willits are the two other returners. Matthews’ availability for the 2009 opener is in limbo after he underwent surgery in October to repair the patella tendon in his left knee. Matthews, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $50 million deal, batted .242 and recorded eight home runs and 46 RBI in 2008. He saw action at all three outfield positions last year, contributing six assists, but making eight errors. The Halos are hoping a healthier Matthews can make a difference.

Willits will also look to earn playing time. After enjoying a solid 2007 season (.293 batting average, 74 runs and 27 stolen bases), Willits got caught in a numbers game last year. In 82 games, he batted .194 in just 108 at-bats and finished with seven RBI and two stolen bases. Like Matthews, Willits saw time at all three outfield positions.

With Abreu adding to a talented cast, the Angels’ outfield figures to be one of baseball’s best. If this group of Angels stays healthy, they should cause plenty of problems for opponents. Shop

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