The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Sports

June 18, 2012

Kubiak returns as Scrappers' skipper; season starts tonight

---- — NILES — The Cleveland Indians’ organization knows a good man when it finds one; it’s equally saavy enough to know not to let him get away. That’s perhaps, in part, why Teddy Kubiak returns for his 4th stint as manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

The Indians’ Class A New York-Penn League affiliate, Mahoning Valley, visits Jamestown (N.Y.) today and Tuesday, then welcomes the Jammers Wednesday and Thursday to commence the 2012 campaign.

Kubiak will skipper the Scrappers this season, his 19th as part of the Indians’ organization. During that time he has guided 7 minor league teams to postseason berths.

“ ... I’m looking for (the Scrappers) to have a fun year, teach ’em the right way, see if we can get ’em to win, and put another pennant up there on top,” said Kubiak, gesturing toward Eastwood Field’s pressbox.

“That’d be nice,” he added during the recent Media Day gathering.

Kubiak recalled, “We won the first two years when we opened here (1999, 2000, posting respective 43-33 and 48-28 records). ... Great crowds, people were great, and the stands were always filled (203,073 and 206,287 fans attended those 2 seasons), which was fun. We did win the (Pinckney-Stedler) division; we didn’t win everything, and I really didn’t think we had the best club to win everything in those years ...

“But I think the guys, at that time, gave me everything that they had, and we got more out of ’em than was expected at the time,” Kubiak continued. “And that’s all I can ask for. If I can look back at the end of the season in September and I see the guys have improved, that’s what we need.

“Where that winds up? We’ll just wait and see.”

Following his last stint with the Scrappers (’03), Kubiak spent ’04-08 serving as the Indians’ defensive coordinator, then managed the Arizona League Indians.

His attributes are myriad. But one could crystallize Kubiak’s credentials into two coveted commodities: He knows the game (4-plus decades in professional baseball), and knows how to win. He had a decade-long Major League Baseball career that included being a member of the Oakland A’s 3-peat World Series champions (1972-74).

“ ... I’ve gotta get back into the real ‘instructional’ mode, more at the basis of everything we do and everything that we teach,” he admitted. “We’ve got a lot of new guys ... and I want to emphasize things a little bit more to this group than I probably would, say, in Lake County.

“There’s a little bit more, I think, responsibility, with regard to teaching them how to play the game and doing things right.

“It’s fun,” Kubiak continued, admitting, “But you know these guys, they’ve changed so much. These kids are so different now; they don’t know the game the way we did years ago. You’ve gotta teach ’em the fundamentals: Where to throw the ball? Why do you do this at the plate? When do you steal? We talk about that every day, we have meetings and go over the game from the day before, and try to get ’em on the right path.”

Patience also is a Kubiak strongsuit, as it must be at the Short Season level.

“I don’t have a problem with (teaching fundamentals). ... I’ve been doing it a long time,” Kubiak confided. “Some of them get a little tough sometimes. But what I’m always trying to do is figure out, ‘How do I get through to this guy?’ He comes in one day doing this; so, okay, how do I get him to stop that? How do we get him on the right track?’ “I kind’ve look at it more that way, than, ‘He’s a pain.’

“He’s not a pain,” Kubiak emphasized. “He’s growing up, he’s maturing, so we’ve gotta get him out (of bad habits) and teach him what to do right.”

While his MLB playing resumé included 7 different organizations, Kubiak conceives Cleveland as “an exemple for other organizations, insofar as how they run things, how they set up things, the way they treat these guys — from nutrition, to the medical side, to the psychological side.

“Everything is done for these kids, and (the Indians’ organization) has been great in continuing to improve on what they’re working on, too,” he related. “We go to spring training every year, and there’s always something new, they’re always coming up with something. Now the mental side of the game has come into it a little bit ... moreso than in the past.

“And despite the fact there’s been some down years (for the parent club), nothing’s changed — they’ve run it the same year after year, and it’s been good,” Kubiak added.

And there’s no greater gratification, Kubiak confided, then calling one of his players into his office to tell him, “You’re going to Lake County, or you’re going to Carolina ...

“That’s nice to be able to do, and it’s really nice,” Kubiak confided, “to have guys in the big leagues who’ll call me back and say, ‘Hey, I appreciate what you did.’ ”

Kubiak cited a pair, including Kansas City’s Kevin Kouzmanoff and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ John McDonald.

“Johnny McDonald, last year, called me up in June and said, ‘I’ve gotta tell you something: I just got my tenth year in (MLB), and I remember when you told me in Watertown (N.Y.) all I needed to do was improve my (middle-infield) range and I would be in the big leagues for ten years.’ And he said, ‘I’m just calling to let you know.’ ”

“You know, what’s better than that?” a smiling Kubiak rhetorically asked. “That’s pretty nice!”

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