Thursday, March 13, 2014

by David Saltzer, Senior Writer -

When I’m not reading about baseball, I will indulge in one of my other passions—military fiction and nonfiction. One of my favorite authors is Richard Marcinko, known for his Rogue Warrior series, which stem from his exploits as the founder of SEAL Team 6.*

In his books, he includes his Ten Commandments for SpecWar. The first Commandment states, in part, “I will always lead you from the front, not the rear.” The third one states, in part, “Thou shalt do nothing I will not do first”. Combined these two Commandments make it clear that in his opinion that leaders lead from the front and by example.

I fully agree. My best and favorite leaders commanded respect by what they had done in life, regardless of their field. They led by example and were out front and visible.

Throughout this offseason, I, along with every other Angels fan had heard about the need to change aspects of Spring Training in order to get the Angels off to a better start in April. Along the way, we heard that the Angels had hired nutritionists to work with the players in the offseason in order to come to camp better prepared.

During the Fanfest weekend, I got a media pass to do some interviews with the players. Part of the routine for reporters prior to the game is to meet with Mike Scioscia at the entrance to the clubhouse to do the daily questions.

While waiting for Mike Scioscia, I spotted a member from the Angels Boosters who had brought quite a large assortment of Girl Scout Cookies to distribute to the players. Unfortunately, very few of the players were taking them, making her feel a bit despondent. I tried to console her about the new nutritionist on the staff and maybe that was why the players weren’t taking the cookies.

When Mike Scioscia came out to meet with the reporters, I had to do a double-take. I almost didn’t recognize him. It’s been published that Mike Scioscia has lost about 35 pounds. In person, it looks like a lot more. He’s svelte. It gives him much more presence. He’s not the same person I talked with last year.

And then I got it.

As fans, we’ve heard a lot about the changes that needed to be made to Spring Training. But none of those changes would work if they didn’t run from the top to the bottom of the organization. Leadership starts at the top, and the top of the Angels is Mike Scioscia.

At that point, everything made a lot more sense. Of course players wouldn’t take the Girl Scout Cookies—not when their manager had made a big effort to lose weight in the offseason and set a new tone for the camp. It’s a lot harder for the players to skip a workout when they see their manager working out to get into better shape.

During the offseason, I wrote that in order for the Angels to succeed in the offseason then the Angels would need to find a new team identity. Last year, the team seemed rudderless at times, never really forming a team identity.

After attending Spring Training, talking with the players, and seeing Mike Scioscia, I believe that they are well on their way to finding a new team identity—one that will extend to everyone in the Angels organization. Players in development now will know what is expected of them and what they will need to do in order to succeed in this organization. More science and analysis will be implemented to make the players healthier, stronger, and better.

One last thing: over the years a lot has been made about the so-called rift between Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto. After all that I saw and heard this weekend, I have to say that this has been way overblown by the fans. Many of the changes that we are learning about, ranging from the nutritionist to the renewed emphasis are coming from Jerry Dipoto who is unifying the organization around central principles.

The leadership, though, is still coming from Mike Scioscia who isn’t just implementing the changes, he’s practicing them. He’s leading from the front and doing all he can to take the team in a new direction. Hopefully it will lead to a winning April and games played in October.

 *If you are really into military writing, I highly recommend the Rogue Warrior series. It’s a brash, fun, death and destruction type series perfect for anyone looking for some high-octane reading.
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