RailRiders 2018: Q&A With New Manager Bobby Mitchell
TAMPA, Fla. — He’s got big shoes to fill, but Bobby Mitchell’s résumé speaks for itself.
Coaching baseball since 1992. Manager of 10 teams, including three seasons at Triple-A Salt Lake in the Angels organization. His Double-A Trenton teams won 179 games over the past two years, and Mitchell won Eastern League manager of the year when the Thunder won a franchise record-tying 92 games in 2017.
Now, he moves back to Triple-A, taking over for Al Pedrique, who won back-to-back International League manager of the year awards and led the RailRiders to two Governors’ Cup finals — winning the whole thing in 2016.
During spring training, Mitchell took some time to discuss the RailRiders, the Yankees organization and his philosophy on baseball.
Q How are the guys looking so far?
A Good, I mean we’re trying to get everybody, to keep them healthy for the start of the season. Starting to build up their innings played. Pitchers are starting to get up in pitch counts, and so trying to just prepare for the 6th and get everything going so that everybody’s healthy and ready to go physically.
Q Is this kind of a weird time for the Triple-A team, when some of the guys are here and some of the guys are still across the street with the big league camp?
A Yeah, it’s hard. We don’t even know what players are going to end up with us right now. It’s hard to judge, but we just go about our business, same way we always would with the guys that are here and then they can do their thing up there. Once they come down here, it’s no different. They just keep on working hard like there guys do and just get prepared for the season — and the cold weather, actually.
Q We know some of the guys who are going to be here — Chance and Gleyber are going to be here — but how exciting is it to get to see those guys for another season?
A It’s easy for me because I had them a lot going up the last two years. A lot of the players. We’re going to miss (Jake) Cave being around, but it was hopefully an opportunity for him. Then we’ve got other guys, most of the pitching staff I know, mostly all the position players I’ve had before, so it’s an easy transition for me. And actually, I think for them, too. It’s not somebody they’ve got to get used to, they’ve already played for me, so they kind of know how I run things and the expectations and everything.
Q Is there a benefit to managers moving though the system as a group of players moves through the system?
A When I first started managing, I managed two years in A ball and then went to Triple-A right away and I had coordinated before through the organization, so I knew everybody going up and down the ladder because as a coordinator, you hit every level. It’s easier, a lot easier, for everybody if they know you and you know them and know the personalities and all that stuff. Because you’re dealing with different personalities all the time. So, it’s more comfortable obviously for everybody and there’s no real transition period. So, hopefully, we just roll right into the season prepared and ready to go.
Q The minor leagues don’t necessarily have to be about winning, but the RailRiders have been really good the past couple seasons. How much of a benefit is it for guys’ development to play on a winning team?
A It always is. I came up with an organization, the Dodgers, where we always stepped on the field and, from top to bottom, felt like we were going to win or had a chance to win. I think that’s important, even from a development process. They need to know that we’re pretty good and we can go out and beat anybody on a certain night. And also realize that it can happen to us, too, so that we keep our edge and play right and play competitively, which I know these guys will, because like I’ve said, we’ve had them before and they’re all competitive and want to get to the big leagues. So, they work really hard during the pregame and early work and spring and all that stuff to get where they want to get. And then this is just a stepping stone for a lot of them to get to the big leagues.
Q How would you describe yourself as a manager?
A Hopefully, fair and I like the aggressive style of play. Especially running the bases, but you’ve also got to custom that to your personnel and everything. My thing with the players and with everybody is, I respect you guys, you respect the staff. Respect is huge with me. It’s important to have that throughout the team, so that there’s not this person bad mouthing this person. It’s all about respect and how we treat each other and that we’re really a family that goes into this five-month season.
Q When you say aggressive, do you mean going first to third on base hits? Do you mean stealing bases? Swinging on 3-0 counts?
A Yeah, as much as possible. As much as possible. Putting the pressure on the other team a lot. Trying to, as much as we can, whether it be pitching wise or running the bases wise or everything. It’s just a mentality I think that we’ve got to have as an organization. It think it’s that way, so there’s no reason for me to change it because I love that part of it. We’re not going base to base, that’s for sure. We’ll try to push the envelopes on them. I think that adds to scoring more runs which adds to more entertainment for the fans. For me, there’s no better play than a guy going either first to home, trying to score, or even a triple. And then we’ve got guys who can hit the ball a long way, so that’s a big part of it, too. Entertainment wise, I think the fans will love the fact that we do play hard. Everybody plays hard and we put a lot of pressure on the other team.
Q You haven’t been in Triple-A for a while, but it doesn’t seem normal to have this many 40-man guys on a roster.
A Pretty exciting and honored, really, to have the caliber of players we have here. You don’t see this — I’ve been doing this a while — and you don’t see organizations this stacked with players. It’s exciting for me, and I’m sure the rest of the staff, to be with players with this ability. They all deserve to be on the 40-man and a lot of them, like I said, they’re big leaguers in the making right now and they’re on their way up. Good to see them for a while, hopefully.
You’re from California. Scranton (was recently) hit with its fourth nor’easter in four weeks. Thoughts on that?
A Yeah, I heard. You know what, I just go with the flow. I spend the offseason in San Diego, but the rest of the time I’ve been, lately, mostly the east coast. And even in Salt Lake, when I managed Triple-A for the Angels, it was snow and cold. We had trips where we started where it was warm — and we’re going to do that this year with Charlotte and Gwinnett — warmer, but it’s all part of it. The players, especially being with the Yankees and stuff, they’ve got to learn how to handle the cold and play in it, too. So it’s a good experience for them, too.