Wednesday, January 06, 2010

10 Off-Season Minutes With Jim Riggleman

While talking with Jim Riggleman about his upcoming Manager's Show on WFED in 2010 yesterday, Jim also mentioned his desire to become involved in the local community off the baseball field. As some already now, Riggleman grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland and is looking toward helping young kids in the D.C. area and those many wounded soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. Both are topics Jim Riggleman is very passionate about. Additionally during our chat, we got off on a tangent discussing his managerial style and what assets Jim Riggleman feels he brings to the table this year as the 3rd Field Manager in the short history of Our Washington Nationals. We didn't get into the personnel of players available, as the 2010 Spring Training Roster has yet to be completely set.

With that here is 10 Off-Season Minutes With Jim Riggleman:

How excited are you to return as The Nationals Manager?

“I am very excited. This is what I love to do. I love to manage ball games. The level of disappointment I would have experienced had I not come back would not been devastating because I felt we did everything we could do last year to make some progress and get the players to respond and so forth. We felt like enough good things happened that I could look in a mirror and say: ‘you know what, we did everything we could do. There is nothing to be disappointed about. I just didn’t get the call.’ Fortunately, I did not have to deal with that. Mike Rizzo, Stan (Kasten) and The Lerners decided to bring me back and that was the number one scenario I wanted and it did come out that way.”

What are your strong points that made The Nationals feel you are the right manager, right now?

“I really don’t have any feelings along those lines. There is no way I can sit here and say nobody else could manage this ball club as well as me. But at the same time, I couldn’t say that about other ball clubs either. I think that whoever is managing another club he is not the only one right for that situation. He’s just the one that is given the opportunity at that time. But that being said, I am not trying to bring anything different. I am not going to be re-inventing anything. I am just going to try to continue on.”

“The one thing I can bring to the ball club is the familiarity to the ball club and the organization. Now, Manny (Acta) had that. Frank Robinson had that. But Frank’s not here now; Manny’s not here. If I were not here, someone else would have to come in and develop some knowledge of the current roster, familiarize themselves with the minor league system—stuff that I have a little bit of a head start on—if they had gone with somebody else.”

But I would take that you have great confidence in your managing acumen on the field?

“Well, it’s funny. Years ago, when I started to manage, I felt I had a good background and good resume—managing A Ball, managing AA and AAA and then getting up to The Big Leagues to manage. I felt like I was totally prepared to manage in The Big Leagues, the X’s & O’s. I felt like that was the most important thing (at that time). The X’s & O’s were the most important factors. I really felt that way, but other people told me—‘no, no, no—everybody understands the X’s & O’s—it’s dealing with the players, it’s dealing with the situations that come up, it’s managing people’. And over the years, I’ve come to realize in today’s world almost every manager is pretty much expertly handling the X’s & O’s. So I have now come to believe it is every bit as important to be able to manage people, handle situations, deal with umpires—deal with the media—all the things that I felt like were not as important. I’ve come to realize they are every bit, if not more important, than the X’s & the O’s. You wouldn’t get these positions if you couldn’t do the X’s & O’s—everybody can do the X’s & O’s. Some do them better than others, but I felt like I was totally prepared to do that from day one—those years in the minor leagues prepared me to do that. But really, you are not getting any edge over another because they are pretty good at it also.”

You just touched on a interesting topic where today it’s almost as if the manager is more of a player personnel manager—keeping folks in line, on course, and moving in the right direction?

“I asked for some advice from a really good baseball man—Bob Skinner—who was an older gentleman who was managing at AAA with Tucson when I was managing AAA with Las Vegas and it was a little bit more apparent I was going to get a chance to manage in the Big Leagues in the near future. And he said: ‘the best advice I can give you is put out the small fires before they become big fires.’ And that was great advice, simplistic, but it was really good advice because you’ve got to get a feel for what to address and not to address. You don’t want to wear the players out by knit picking on every little thing, but you do have to have a feel. If you see something brewing, you see a little attitude starting to take place, you see some friction between a couple of players, you see something that is happening that just doesn’t feel right—then I am going to nip this in the butt right now so it never becomes an issue. Invariably, if you say ‘I am not going to mess with that’, it will come back to bite you and you say: ‘you know what, I should have taken care of this one month ago and I didn’t and it’s become a bigger issue.”

Your agent Burton Rocks mentioned you are looking to become involved locally with The Ronald McDonald House, The Wounded Warriors Program and other charitable organizations? Can you address that?

“Spiritually I am involved, but actively it’s something I would like to get more involved with. The things I am most interested in involve children and families that use The Ronald McDonald House. The people who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan at Walter Reed Army Hospital. I am very interested in being involved with our veterans that come back from service and are recuperating at Walter Reed and beginning their rehab at Walter Reed. I’ve made some contact there that I would like to continue. And also with other children who need more physical activity. I am interested in being more hands on with kids—in any kind of way--to encourage kids who are physically able to get outside and get them to exercise. They spend too much time in front of the TV. We need to find a way to get them more away from that technology and encourage them. The NFL does a program where they promote 60 minutes of exercise for kids per day. And they have gotten that message across. I’ve seen some ads on that. We need to do something like that for kids too.”

How soon do you hope to be involved in these efforts?

“I’ve talked about this with our media relations department and I’ve express my interests to them. When they can put me to work doing it—I will jump into it.”

With that final answer--10 Off-Season Minutes With Jim Riggleman concluded.

Photo Credit--John McDonnell, Washington Post

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