Thursday, May 31, 2007
Our Manager At THE ESPN ZONE
Although I was hoping to get five minutes to speak with him on the side yesterday--it didn't work out. Our Manager Manny Acta only had less than one hour to spend with fans at The ESPN ZONE in downtown DC--and I didn't wish to impose on others and their chance to meet Manny and get an autograph--although he promised we can get together soon. But, during the Question and Answer Segment hosted by Nationals Radio Broadcaster, Charlie Slowes--Manny did have a couple nice comments that I wanted to share.
In answering a question concerning "Who Influenced you the most as a Coach?", Manny first talked about Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox, St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa and longtime Montreal Expos and recently San Francisco Giants Manager,Felipe Alou. But, what was revealing was his off the cuff remark about growing up in The Dominican Republic. "A dear friend of mine, whom I have known all my life--he went into the Priesthood, becoming a Father. I guess that sort of counts me out now since I am a Major League Manager (He and everyone in attendance was chuckling). But, this dear friend has been a great influence on me--guiding me, giving me insight--knowledge I did not have and cherish today."
You can tell that Our Manager is a very loyal person, who sticks with those that help him and vice verse. Manny also went on to thank current Nats Third Base Coach Tim Tolman and Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte--both of whom guided Number 14 during his early years in The Houston Astros Chain.
Manny Acta then became passionate when someone asked him about the influence and success of Randy St.Claire in working with a cobbled together pitching staff?
"HE CARES!!", Manny nearly shouted. "He is the hardest working guy. The first man in the clubhouse each and everyday--many times the last one to leave. I would bet right now he's over at the stadium looking at video--whether with Simontacchi from last night. Or, Bacsik for tonight. He's always looking for something. A great attitude like that rubs off and affects alot of people. Its noticed. Why do you think he was hired, before I was named manager? He's good and I am very glad he's on our staff."
Our Manager continued on the subject of Randy St.Claire for a few moments longer--saying there is "NO ONE ELSE I WOULD RATHER HAVE!!" by his side working with his pitchers.
A questioner asked Manny whether he worries about John Patterson, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, Mike O'Connor and even Brandon Claussen being on the Disabled List? Our Manager responded in his typical straightforward positive way.
"I will worry about them when they are ready, right now--I have our current staff to worry about. That's my focus--each and every day. But, I am always positive. Each and every day I go out there trying to win. Slowly some of the players are coming around getting on board and seeing the light, understanding what we are trying to do. Others, some of the more veteran players are still thinking about it, deciding whether this is for them. Maybe they will come around, maybe not. But, I am always encouraging them. You are never successful, in my book, unless you remain positive. People appreciate your efforts more."
Eventually--a fan asked Our Manager what his favorite and least favorite ballparks were in The Major Leagues. By far, his favorite is PNC PARK. "That Park is BEAUTIFUL, well appointed, great field, just a fabulous place to play," Manny said. " I love going to PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It's beautiful. I think our new park is going to be the best, because it's going to have a little of everything that those new ones have. I also like AT&T Park in San Francisco and Coors Field in Colorado."
On his least favorite park--he was reluctant to state--but Manny finally came around and said "WRIGLEY FIELD". "I know some are going to come back at me on this--but its a difficult place to work. The Dugout is small, when you sit on the bench, you can not see the field of play. So, you must stand all the time. I understand that many love the place and its a great place to watch a game. But, when it comes to a working environment--its not the best."
Finally, my favorite moment of the entire Lunchtime Session--was the sight of Our Manager Manny Acta walking into the restaurant with his assistant. Manny carrying the Box of SWAG to be given out. In this case--Red Curly "W" Caps. You gotta love a guy--The Manager of Our Washington Nationals who is just so down to earth. With me chuckling right away over seeing him carry the load--Manny came over and shook hands with me. "You the man, you'll do anything, I love that," I said to him. Manny smiling back, "You gotta do what you gotta do (laughing)." We chatted briefly, and he asked about The African Queen--by name--which made me very happy. Later, Manny would sign a special Red Curly "W" cap, personalizing it, just for Sohna.
Really, I just love the guy!!
PS--The Next Lunchtime Chat is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20th with Charlie Slowes and a Nationals player to be determined later.