Fan Correspondent @ClevelandChick chats with Mike Hargrove about managing, ‘Human Rain Delay’ and more
Our Spring Training Fan Correspondent @ClevelandChick had the chance to sit down with Mike Hargrove and throw a few questions from Twitter at this Tribe legend. Below is their transcribed Q&A from Goodyear.
CC: How would you describe your role with the Tribe right now, and will it go into the season?
MH I’ll answer the second part first. Yes it will go into the season; this is the third year I’ve done this. Part of my responsibilities are in-season. My job — I’m a special adviser. I think that’s what it is; they wanted it to be senior adviser and I said no, no no.
I watch the players, I look at the players. I help out here in Spring Training as I can with the staff. I’m kind of the staff’s sounding board. I talk to some of the coaches and help them if they have any responsibility problems. We’ll talk out situations and give them advice; they’re free to take it or not.
And I do the same thing with Terry, only probably to a lesser degree because Terry doesn’t need a whole lot of help. It’ll continue through the season. I also do some PR work with Bobby DiBiasio around the stadium during the games and functions away from the field.
CC: We are definitely excited to hear that! How is the vibe at this year’s Spring Training been different from past years?
MH: That’s a hard question to answer and an easy question to answer. It’s hard because I don’t want to talk or say bad things about the previous people. When different people come in, they bring different sets of things with them. This is a good camp. You can tell when you walk in the door there’s an energy and a vibe about it. Not that there wasn’t last year, but there’s just a different sort of energy and vibe. The clubhouse is a little more animated and I think that has something to do with the personalities in there now as opposed to before.
(Former Indians manager) Manny (Acta) has his way of doing things and Tito has his own way of doing things. It’s not for me to say which one’s right or which one’s wrong, but right now this is a real good camp and it’s going in the right direction.
CC: What is the key to managing all the personalities to get them to fit into a successful team?
MH: That’s a tough question. When people talk about what comes first in chemistry of the ball club—does the chemistry come from winning or does it come from an atmosphere you set as a manager? I think it’s a combination of both.
Probably the biggest key is to convince the players to take ownership of the club and of their clubhouse. I don’t think people understand or realize that we spend more time here at the ballpark and around each other than we do with our families during the season. Obviously there’s going to be minor irritations you have in a family setting, kind of magnified around here because you have a bunch of guys with a lot of testosterone flowing. Sometimes you say hello to them and they say hello to each other, and they question whether or not you really mean you said hello.
If you can get them to take ownership of the club and the clubhouse –which is their home–and let them know that you back them and you’re in it with them, (you’ll be successful). You let them have a say-so. When I managed I told the guys, “I run this as a democracy, everybody will have a say in it. But in this democracy, there’s only one vote that counts.” So you let them have a say in it and you decide which way it needs to go.
CC: How did the “Human Rain Delay” get started and who did it annoy the most?
MH: Me, probably. No I don’t know, it annoyed a lot of people obviously. When I was in the minor leagues I damaged the nerve at the base of my left thumb, where if I hit the ball just a little bit wrong, my whole thumb goes numb. So I built a thumb pad, out of those surgical pads and tape.
I went through layers of skin and quarts of blood breaking these things in. I figure to be able to do your job to the best of your ability you have to have total concentration. And if there was something that was bothering me, I would try to fix it before I’d try to hit the pitch. One of the things was with the thumb pad, screwing it down on top so it wouldn’t come off when I took off running, and (I wouldn’t want to) lose the thing since it was hard to break in.
So it just kind of built from there, where there were certain things in between pitches I needed to take care of to concentrate. I also used that time to mentally prepare myself for what the next pitch might be.
It irritated a lot of people. (Laughs)
CC: What do Tribe fans have to look forward to this year?
MH: In one offseason, the face of this club changed dramatically. From what I’ve seen down here, it’s more of a veteran club than it was before. Not that it’s totally (a veteran team); we’re still a very young ball club. But it’s an exciting club; they believe in themselves and they’re playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. And they’re playing with an enthusiasm we haven’t seen in a while.
They know when it’s time to play and when it’s time to work. Finding people that know that difference — you wouldn’t think it’d be difficult but a lot of times it is. And these guys do that. I think it’s a better ball club — better able to compete on a day-to-day basis than we’ve seen in Cleveland the last three to four years.
–TribeVibe Fan Correspondent Traci (@ClevelandChick)
Cleveland native Traci Christler, who blogs independently at http://www.HappinessIsaHotPierogi.com, is in Goodyear this spring and writing about the Indians for TribeVibe. The Indians are not compensating her for her coverage, nor did they fund her travel.