Friday, November 07, 2008
Manny Acta & Lastings Milledge Press Availability
After the conclusion of yesterday's New Uniform Unveiling at The ESPN Zone in Washington, DC, The Media which covers Our Washington Nationals sat down with Our Manager Manny Acta and Outfielder Lastings Milledge for 15 Minutes to discuss, not only the new jerseys, but what lies ahead for DC's Major League Baseball Team.
Here is the entire transcript--Lastings Milledge does not join the conversation until about 2/3rd's of the way through the Q & A. Until that point, all answers are from Our Manager Manny Acta. It will be clearly marked when Our Number 44 begins to speak.
Other than your work for Fox (Spanish Coverage of World Series/Playoffs), have you had any time to actually settle down and get past the season?
“I have spent hours working trying to put together the coaching staff. We pretty much went to work right after the season was over and that took a lot of time.”
Manny, you mentioned a strange word out there with Charlie (Slowes)—Detox. Have you gotten over what happened last year?
“I don’t need time to detox as far as what I do and what I love. I know what we went through every single day. That didn’t do any damage to my character or anything. You just have to go to work everyday and face reality and that is not going to make me any different.”
Manny, Winter Meetings are coming up next month. How excited are you to get out there (in Las Vegas) and do whatever you and Jim (Bowden) are going to do to improving this club?
“Well, that is always an exciting time. As I mentioned, we are not going to be by ourselves over there trying to acquire whoever we want. It’s not an easy job, but our people are very good at what we do and hopefully we can bring in a couple of guys that can make an impact on our club.”
What you seem to need is a bat in the middle of the lineup?
“I think we would be repeating ourselves, it’s not a secret that we need at least one big bat in the middle of our lineup and a couple of arms (on the mound). And it’s easier said than done, but we also have a plan here. It would be nice if we could go over there (to the Winter Meetings) and grab whatever we need, but it doesn’t work that way. Hopefully, next year things will be different with the health of the main guys and we will be fine.”
Two-injury updates condition wise—Shawn Hill and Nick Johnson—what is the latest on them?
“I just talked to Nick today actually. Nick is swinging underwater (in pool therapy sessions) now trying to stretch his wrist. I would say that in a week, he will be making contact because right now he is just taking dry swings. He will be making contact and hitting off the tee in about a week.”
Is it possible to take dry swings in swimming pool?
“No, (you misunderstand), when he gets out of the pool he does dry swings.”
And Shawn Hill?
“Shawn Hill just went and saw Dr. Andrews (in Birmingham, Alabama) and everything is going well. He is going to start his throwing program. He and (Matt) Chico are pretty much in the same place.”
So, are you excited to be playing some day baseball next year (at home)?
“Yeah, we like those. I know that one of the reasons we didn’t play them the first year (at Nationals Park) was because we did not know how the parking (and transportation) would work out during the weekdays in town. But I think we found out it worked out well and we are looking forward to it (playing weekday day games).”
Does day baseball feel like Real Baseball sometimes during the day?
“Well, I’ll tell you what. To me real baseball is after my closer gets that 27th out, regardless whether it’s at day or at night. I just want to win. But it is nice to play day games because then guys have more time to spend with their families and go around town and see certain things that during the normal night game they would not be able to see.”
Does that new road jersey remind you of The Expos?
“Every road jersey looks alike now a days with the gray and ours with the red on. It does have a lot of similarity to The Montreal Expos. But, as I said, if you look around the league, too many uniforms look alike.”
You have had some time to reflect on the past season. Looking back on it, what would you have done differently? What could you have done differently to win some more ball games?
“I don’t think I would have done anything different myself. And this is a sticky subject because it always sounds like we are making excuses. But, geez, I don’t know what I could have done different to stop (Ryan) Zimmerman from not being out there for 50 games and losing Nick and losing Dmitri (Young) and all those guys. Take it anyway you want.”
Manny, you have a nice little problem at second base. I am just curious. Do you see (Emilio) Bonifacio or (Anderson) Hernandez as possible leadoff hitters? Are they legit leadoff hitters?
“I don’t think I can come out right now and say either one is a legitimate leadoff hitter. We are projecting Bonifacio because of his speed, that has always been the projection he can become—one of those prototype leadoff hitters. But that doesn’t mean either one will be the leadoff hitter next year. They have to earn that, no one is going to be handed the job.”
Between the time of now and spring training, what are your plans? Baseball Stuff?
“We continue to work basically work through the phones with Jim (Bowden) on players. Also, we have to keep talking to the coaching staff about how we are going to put together our spring training. What we are going to address and how we are going to schedule those things to give everyone of the new coaches the chance to do what they can do to help out in their areas. And I am also going to be doing some work for my Foundation (impActa Kids) in The Dominican Republic and start building that (his Baseball Academy)—one of the fields for the youths down there.”
How many guys do you have playing Winter Ball this year?
“Mostly, the native guys from The Dominican and Venezuela are playing Winter Ball right now—that is if you are not counting the Arizona Fall League.”
Who on the staff now will be organizing everything (at Spring Training)? I know that Tim Tolman did it the past two years. Who on the new staff will be that guy?
“We are going to do it as a team. Also, we are thinking about a guy like Bob Hendley from the Minor Leagues to be in our Big League Coaching Staff (for Spring Training). And we can probably give him some of those duties—but we are going to do it as a team. It’s pretty standard what you need to do and all you need in the morning is a voice to basically go over what we are going to do. Nobody is going to be re-inventing the wheel. You have a certain amount of time and certain things you are going to do, certain pitchers to throw on certain days and others to do pitching fundamentals--so we will do it as a team between me, Randy (StClaire), (Rick) Eckstein, (Jim) Riggleman and Bobby (Hendley), as the outsider, could just handle the coordinating thing by himself.”
Manny, about today. You talked about the road jerseys, but overall, what do you and Lastings think about the uniform changes?
“They are nice. I think you accentuate “Washington” a lot. That’s what it looks like and it’s a nice change. But that being said—we just want to continue to make progress and win more ball games—regardless of how I look before or after the game in that uniform.”
What about you Lastings?
Lastings Milledge joins the conversation: “It’s good for the fans, so they can buy new memorabilia and stuff like that. We have no choice over what we wear (on the field). We just kind of go with the flow. But I think it’s good for the fans and also for the kids.”
I know that both of you got to meet The President (Bush) when he came to throw out the first pitch (at Nationals Park). If Barack Obama got to throw out the first pitch, would that be something special for you?
Manny: “I think he’s expected to do it. Right? President Bush did it twice, I believe. It will be great. I think our country has sent a message to the whole world that they had some type of opinion on our country and we have just sent a message that this country really has made a lot of progress and the problems we had in the past are going away. Also, by Obama winning, it sends a message to the youth in The United States to stop making excuses, regardless of where you come from because you can do it if you put your mind to it.
Did you every think you would see this in your lifetime?
Manny: “Yes, because throughout the years, you have seen all the different changes and because I don’t think like everyone else. You still find people on the streets that doubted that, but this country has really shown the whole world what we are all about. And it’s nothing against Mr. McCain who is also a great hero and candidate. It’s just the fact that what our country was able to do against all the naysayers. And I am not into politics—I am done with that.”
Lastings—along those same lines—I don’t know if it was an accident or on purpose—you and Elijah (Dukes) who is not here today—were picked to model the new jerseys. There have been lots of stories about the disappearing black ball player in the major leagues. And some of it got attention during the post season—as there weren’t a lot of black players. Do you think it is a good thing for the team to present you guys as models to the community to entice black men back to the game and young kids to pick baseball as possible sport? Are you comfortable with that?
“It’s a touchy subject, to be honest. I think that you have to be a pillar to the black community. As far as baseball, I think you do have to have professional athletes like Elijah Dukes and myself who actually represent part of The Nationals. And I think it is an important part we have to play because they see us out there. They see what we do. They see how the game is play and how we play the game. We have to have those guys to look up to. We have to be those people that kids look up to and I think it is a good thing. I think it will help a lot because I can speak in the inner cities and they can follow their peers and follow their heroes. So, if we can be heroes in the community, maybe we can bring the inner city kids back to baseball.”
If you can see President-Elect Obama throwing out the first pitch at your first home game this year, how significant would that be for you?
Lastings: “I think it is significant for any President to throw out the first pitch. Of course history has been made and it will be important to myself if he threw out the first pitch and it would be important for me to actually meet him and shake his hand. Like I said, we are living through history right now and for crying out loud—USA Today was selling for $250 bucks (Obama Wins Headline)—so it’s kind of a special thing. It will be special for myself and for Washington as well.”
Lastings looking ahead to next year, what do you look to improve on most in your game?
Lastings: “Defense, offense, pretty much all around. Every year you have to improve and you have to get better. So, I just want to get better. There is no specific point to what I want to work on. If I can be a better player than I was last year, then I am happy with that.”
You always seem pretty confident. Did you prove anything to yourself last year?
Lastings: “Yes, I did. I proved a lot to myself by dealing with failure. Last year, I didn’t get off to the best start that I wanted to. First half, I didn’t play near my capability. And to see myself come back from that, and especially being a young player, is far more helpful to me if I was able to hit .330 this year. I know I can handle failure. Not a lot of guys really know if they can really handle it, but I have actually been through it and I can actually say that I can handle failure and I can battle back and get myself back into the position that I need to be.”
So when you look at that hurdle you jumped, what do you think was the key difference?
Lastings: “The biggest key was just playing every day—that’s the key when dealing with failure. Having the opportunity to come out the next day and do it all over again—I think that when your playing time is cut and you don’t know when you are going to play—it’s kind of tough to deal with. And it’s tough to get into a groove, because if I didn’t play everyday there was no way I could ended the season in the way I ended it.”
That concluded the Question & Answer Period with The Beat Writers of Our Washington Nationals.
But just before Manny & Lastings signed autographs for fans attending after The Uniform Unveiling Program ended, they both answered questions for The TV Media. Here is the transcript of those conversations:
Are the jerseys super or what?
“Pretty sweet!! I wish we could wear this more often than five or six times.”
New jerseys—a lot of fans want to see new players—do you anticipate a lot of action here (during the off-season)? Free Agency, etc.?
“Well, we are not by ourselves over there. Obviously, we need some injection here in our ball club. Other ball clubs are also competing with us (for talent). I know we need to bring something extra to the table because of what we went through last year, what happened to us. We are building here. We needed every single one of our guys healthy, it didn’t happen, and obviously ended up being not a good season for us. So, we need some injection here and I know that Jim (Bowden) and everyone in the Front Office is working very hard on that.”
How much do these jersey’s represent change in the organization with the players and yourself?
“I believe it does bring a sense of a change. But not until we add a couple of guys and get out there and get after it, and play good baseball, and get our fans over here behind us every single game—and they have been out there every game supporting us. Only then, will change come—and at that time the uniforms won’t matter. I would exchange all the new uniforms for 20 to 30 new “W’s” (Wins) next year.”
And finally--Lastings Milledge talking to the TV Media:
What do you think of the new coaches?
“I am looking forward to working with Marquis Grissom and him working with me in the outfield. Hopefully, his talent will rub off me a little bit when I get out there. But definitely, I am excited to see what the new coaches have to offer, because with new personnel, there is always new information.”
What about new players? A lot of people are going to say new uniforms are one thing, but when a team wins 59 games they got to do more than that. What would you say to those fans out there?
“Every season does not go according to plan. This is the game of baseball. The best team can’t finish last and anything can happen at any given time. Who thought The Rays were going to be in The World Series? Who thought The Tigers were not going to make The Playoffs? At any given time, anything can happen, so what I will say to the fans is just be patient. This is a crazy game and we have to take it day to day. Let’s see what happens.”
Did putting on the new jersey feel like Little League? Ok, here we go. It’s got to be pretty nice to put on something new to represent a fresh start?
“Yeah, definitely. Like I said, anything new is great because it represents change and excitement as well. Fans get to buy new memorabilia and get to buy the new Ryan Zimmerman Jerseys (chuckling), so it will be cool--especially, for the fans. Our Fans deserve this.”
Do you guys (the players) ever put your own input into what guy you would like to see play for The Nationals? Say Adam Dunn, we would like to see him on our ball club? Or this guy in the lineup?
“That is why we have Jim Bowden there. Jim’s a go-getter. He knows what the team needs. That’s his job and what he gets paid the big bucks to do. We just go out there to play. We get paid big bucks to play. That is his field and he is going to do a good job and I have full confidence he will get the job done and do what we need to get done.”
But there has got to be a guy out there that you say we must have on this team?
“All the free agents are nice. There are some good players out there. And anytime you have that crop of players anybody would want to have those type of players on their team.”