The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Sports

June 13, 2014

Kubiak guides Scrappers; open season tonight at Jamestown

- — NILES — If you’re an 18-, 19- or 20-year-old athlete attempting to break into professional baseball and you’re fortunate enough, your first manager will be Teddy Kubiak.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers are commencing the 2014 Class A Short-Season tonight in Jamestown, N.Y. against the Jammers, and it will be the professional debut for many of the newest of the Cleveland Indians’ affiliate.

For Kubiak, however, it is season number 43 in a career that included a decade in the Major Leagues as an infielder, including a stint as a member of the Oakland Athletics, who 3-peated as World Series champions (1972-74).

Kubiak already has “set the tone for what I want (the season) to turn out to be: Basically, learn how to play the game professionally, stay on an even keel — not get too high, not get too low. But it’s gonna be very difficult for them. They’re gonna find out.The guys who’ve already had a couple of years know that.

“But the new draftees, comin’ out of college usually find out that, ‘Wow! This is not the same.’ It’s kind’ve a rude awakening,, I think, to get used to playing every day,” Kubiak continued.

“But it’s just fun to be at this level, dealing with these kids, seeing them progress, seeing them move on and be successful.”

While Kubiak marveled at one of his new-found interests — the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals — as well as professional basketball players and golfers, he acknowledged,

“I know this game (baseball) is very, very difficult to play.

“They’re here to learn the game,” Kubiak continued. “I don’t manage the game so much from that standpoint; we just try to put ’em in positions where they’re developing on what they’re supposed to be working on.

“I’ll do some things to try and win some games, but most of it is just developing and giving them the opportunity to play,” Kubiak explained.

However, he also admitted his love for the game is what enables him to endure 3-, 4- or 5-hour bus rides – some longer, like a trip to Burlington, Vermont to take on the Lake Monsters.

“Just bein’ out on the field. I just love the game. … I can’t do it, but I would like to be out there hittin’, fieldin’ and throwin’,” Kubiak confided. “Even throwin’ BP (batting practice) is fun.

“I understand what happens … it’s hard, it’s a very hard game to play,” Kubiak continued.

On teams with Reggie Jackson and Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Kubiak contributed as a role player to the Oakland A’s mini-dynasty during the early-to-mid 1970’s. Unfortunately, that is lost on today’s players, so he has to earn his credibility through other means.

“The kids today are really different, simply because they’ve grown up differently,” Kubiak opined. “They don’t understand the game of baseball, the nuances of it. They don’t understand the various situations that happen out there, all the mentality that goes into the game. There’s an awful lot of that. They’ve been brought up to just hit the ball, see the ball, catch the ball if they can. You’ve gotta even teach them how to step on the bases properly.

“But they’re different athletes – they’re better than we were. They’re bigger, stronger, more athletic,” Kubiak continued, noting, “I mean, the plays that infielders make, for instance, are a lot more acrobatic than we used to do.

“I always look at (old-school players, like himself) as being more ‘text-book,’ more disciplined, more fundamentally sound, if you can use that term. But,” Kubiak confided. “I wish I had their ability.

“They don’t need to know that,” Kubiak continued, referencing his playing resume. “They’re only impressed by what we do for them. They’re not impressed by who we are. (The 3 World Series) rings probably opens their eyes once in a while, but they still don’t know that that means.

“They’re so far away from knowing what winning means … and that’s what I’m trying to get ’em to understand,” Kubiak continued.

The Scrappers’ 2013 season ended at 30-44, and this is Kubiak’s third year in his third stint as Mahoning Valley’s manager.

“It’s usually the last two weeks of the season, every year, that I can look at what’s out here and really say, ‘All right, we’ve had a decent year, we’ve improved.’ I don’t look at the (won-lost) record.

“The clubs that we’ve had here and won (his 1999 and 2000 Scrappers’ squads ended 43-33 and 48-28, respectively, and won Pinckney-Stedler Division crowns), I don’t think those were the best clubs in the league. But I think I got ‘em to play better than maybe they thought they could, and that’s my goal — to get more out of them than believe they have, ’cause they don’t even know what that is yet.

“This should be a fun year, hopefully. I think we’re gettin’ a couple of the top guys (draft picks), we’re supposed to, so that should make it a fun summer” Kubiak continued. “I like being here at this level, I just like havin’ the uniform on,” he chuckled, later adding,

“We’ll see what happens. We’d like to win, but sometimes that’s a surprise,” Kubiak concluded.

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