Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bo Porter Has Command Presence

Bo Porter has command presence.

He's also vocal, to the point and authoritative--three more descriptions of Our Washington Nationals new 3rd Base Coach, Baserunning and Outfield Instructor. In implementing unique outfield drills, demanding players take every little detail of the game of baseball seriously, the new man in town wearing Number 16 in D.C. Red & White has stood out during the first few weeks of spring training.

No stranger to the National League East, Porter coached third base for The Florida Marlins from 2007 through the 2009 season. For the 2010 season, he left South Florida to take the same job with The Arizona Diamondbacks. A position that was upgraded after A.J. Hinch was fired as manager of The D-Backs and replaced by Kirk Gibson. Gibson making Porter his Bench Coach.
Interviewed this off-season for managerial positions with both The Florida Marlins and The Pittsburgh Pirates, Bo accepted Washington's offer to be their 3rd Base, Baserunning & Outfield Coach when Pittsburgh wavered on making a final decision.

Bo Porter was a three sport high school star (Baseball, Football & Basketball) growing up in New Jersey. He was a two-sport star at The University Of Iowa (Baseball & Football). Earner of All Big 10 Honors in both sports--Bo Porter was also Team Captain and Defensive MVP playing free safety for The Football Hawkeyes.

Whatever practice field Porter has worked these past two weeks, Washington's players have listened intently to his words.  Nats320 caught up with Bo Porter on the last day of Full Squad Practice before the first preseason game. And just as we expected, the conversation was vocal, to the point and authoritative.

Yeah, Bo Porter has command presence.
Here is that conversation:

Nats320: We’ve noticed over the past two weeks at practice--when you coach baseball you seem to be authoritative in holding everybody's attention--including us.

Porter: A lot of that has to do with my football background. From being a high school point guard in basketball, to pitcher/shortstop in baseball, to playing free safety in football at the University Of Iowa and being in charge of all the checks and formations in the secondary, I think it’s something that developed over time and it’s an responsibility I accepted a long time ago.

Nats320: So all that sports background helped you adopt the many different training methods that you use to teach baseball—like having outfielders chase flyballs while carrying footballs?

Porter: Yes. I think in different stages of your life you realize as you start to mature just how important the fine details are. We can come out here from a baseball standpoint and you can look at a guy's batting average and say this guy can hit a little bit. You can look at a pitcher and his ERA and you can say this guy can get people out. But when you start talking about the fine details of the game there are so many things in between the pitching and the hitting that factor into the outcome of the game that—as a coach—I feel like it’s our responsibility to get the players to understand. All of those things that are looked upon as minor, when they happen in a game and they decide the outcome of the game, it’s a major headline.
Nats320: Dedicated players that didn’t have outstanding major league careers, many times become excellent coaches. You are similar in that respect. Why is that?

Porter: That parallel doesn’t always equal out. Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Joe Torre, those guys had pretty good playing careers and they are pretty good managers. I think it’s an individual thing. You have coaches like myself. I pride myself on preparation and I firmly believe that it’s not just the check the box preparation. We can come out here and bang baseballs to these guys, but at the same time, for me, it’s about proper preparation which prevents poor performance.

It’s the five “P’s” (Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance) I talk about to the players all the time. It’s not just taking that ground ball. It’s not just taking that swing. It’s not just running that base. It’s putting yourself into a situation where you are training your mind so when it does happen in a game you feel like you have been there before. It doesn’t feel like this is the first time I had to think about this. So we try to get them in situations and put them into situations where we are not only training the physical skill but we also training them in the mental approach.
Nats320: You were quoted last week saying in past years The Nationals were pathetic running the basepaths. Having seen this team play over the past four years, what needs to be done to improve that aspect of the game?

Porter: I spent three years in the National League East with The Marlins playing against these guys—18 or 19 times per year. And I basically said this to the team: If you want to find out the identity of a baseball team? Watch them run the bases because it is a selfless act. OK? It’s probably not going to get you an RBI. It’s probably not going to show up in arbitration. It’s a selfless act that basically shows the rest of your teammates, the rest of the league you care. I think the biggest disrespect you can show to any teammate, any former player, any future player, your family, your friends—is to not play hard! I think that is the biggest disrespect that anybody in any competitive team sport can do. Now if it’s an individual sport and you decide that today, say it’s track, and you decided I’m not going to run—and you are running an individual event—you are affecting yourself and yourself only. But if you are playing in a competitive team sport and you don’t put forth your best effort—that’s disrespectful.

Nats320: Being new to this team, is it tough to get their attention on that?
Porter: It helps that a lot of these guys I already knew. Me and Matt Stairs played together in Oakland. I had Adam LaRoche last year in Arizona. We both played together in Atlanta. During all the years I coached 3rd Base, Ryan Zimmerman and I have had more conversations than with any other 3rd Baseman in the Big Leagues. On top of that, I am a people’s person. So even if I don’t know someone, I am going to take it upon myself to introduce myself, talk to that person, make them feel comfortable with me and just let them know that there are no barriers set up with me as far as coach-player.

We are all in this thing together. If I have something to say, I want to have the liberty to feel free to bring it to you man-to-man.  And if you have something to say, I want you to have the liberty to bring it to me man-to-man. I think when you have that open line of communication and that dialogue with the players, they basically look at it as—OK, this guy is here for one thing and one thing only. Let’s get on board and ride this ship.

Nats320: It’s interesting how you mentioned Ryan Zimmerman, because we’ve talked about how many times we had noticed you chatting with him while coaching 3rd Base for The Marlins.

Porter: All the time!! We talk all the time. And I’ve got to tell you, the majority of the time it’s not about baseball (busting out laughing). The majority, in fact, all of the times when we are talking, the ball is not in play. It’s either a pitching change, warming up before the inning or the coach is out there talking to a guy on the mound.  We talk about fantasy football. It’s just a moment when the game is stationary and it’s just: ‘Hey Zim, how are things going? How’s your family doing? How was your off-season?’ And so forth and so on. It keeps the dialogue going and it allows that person to get to know you on a personal level.
Nats320: Coming here to be the 3rd Base Coach, you were also in line for The Pirates Manager’s job—what convinced you that this was your place for now?

Porter: The Pirates process got a little bit more lengthy than they anticipated. Myself and Clint Hurdle (who eventually got the job) and Jeff Banister kind of went down to the wire. They were trying to make up their minds. Of course, The Texas Rangers were still playing (in the World Series with Hurdle as Hitting Coach) and they didn’t want to tell me that I wasn’t going to get the job. But at the same time, they knew I had to secure a job. I was talking to a few teams. Once I decided I liked the situation in Washington--if I don’t get the manager’s job in Pittsburgh--Washington is the place for me. I communicated that to Pittsburgh so they knew at that time. They said: ‘Well, we still need to make a decision on our manager. If we don’t hire Bo, then he is going to be the 3rd Base Coach in Washington.’

Nats320: How valuable was being the Bench Coach for Kirk Gibson last season in Arizona?

Porter: It was a great experience. Years of coaching 3rd Base you see the game, and I am a student of the game. I’ve managed a game from 3rd Base. But being able to get into the dugout and now see everything from that viewpoint—it was a great experience for me.

Nats320: In the little bit of time camp has begun, who’s impressed you the most? Guys that you might not have recognized before—having not seen them regularly?
Porter: I would really say everyone. But I would definitely point out Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond.  They have really been impressive with me. You are talking about a guy like Desmond with one year in (the majors), Espinosa got called up last season. Their maturity level, the way they are going about their business and their willingness to learn from the veteran players. They ask questions to Jayson Werth or LaRoche or Zimmerman or Stairs. You see those guys being a sponge and being willing to learn.  There is the benefit of having quality, quality, professional veteran guys around highly talented young players that are willing to share their experience with them. You hope that will allow the learning curve to happen that much faster.

Nats320: More on a personal level, is your family fascinated in calling Washington, D.C. your home?

Porter: Washington is one of the places we wanted to go. We have a three-year old son (Bryce). D.C. is a place rich in history. There are a lot of things for him to do. My wife (Stacey) has already mapped out a list of things to do (chuckling). I don’t even know what is on the list. But when you think about Washington, D.C. and all the historical things you can immerse yourself in—I am pretty sure she will have Bryce pretty busy. 

All Video & Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

Doc said...

Reading the interview suggests to me that Bo Porter is one of the more impressive BB coaches out there!

The Nats should have him in mind when they go to the next level. Don't think Bo would put up with Morgan's nonsense of last season, which said as much about Riggleman's managerial style as Morgan's attitude.