Keith Bodie recently completed his second season as field manager of the Hooks. He's led Corpus Christi to three straight Texas League South Division half-season championships and consecutive playoff berths. Bodie, whose winning percentage (.564) ranks fourth all-time among TL managers with 500 games, sat down with Hooks broadcaster Michael Coffin on Oct. 2.
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What have been the keys to Corpus Christi's success during your two seasons as manager?
The first component of any success we've had in Corpus Christi is improvement in the talent. There's no question about that. The resources that we have and the talent that has come through Corpus Christi the last two years has been much improved. That in itself does not lead to success. It's like riding a horse in the Kentucky Derby. The jockey has something to do with the ability and performance of the thoroughbred. I think that our consistent hard work and preparation, and having a plan for the players, has contributed to our success on and off the field.
Every year is a new year, and every team has its own personality. What are your lasting impressions of the 2012 club, which broke a six-year playoff drought? What will you always remember about 2013?
The 2012 club, if you remember, started off the year pretty shaky. It was kind of out with the old and in with the new. We changed the atmosphere and culture in the clubhouse. We instilled some things that players previously didn't get a chance to experience and established the Houston Astros way of playing baseball. I'm not criticizing anyone who was there before, but I have a simple philosophy and a way of doing things. You have to create that culture in the clubhouse and I think it took us a few weeks to do that, which is a pretty short amount of time. In that period, it reflected on the field - the struggles we were going through. A couple of times we had losing streaks of five or six games. I remember one time we lost nine in a row. And then we started to click and things began to turn around. It happened right before the monumental shift at the all-star break when multiple trades were made at the big league level. They had a direct effect on the complexion of our ball club. As we made changes going forward, we basically had three or four different clubs during the course of the season, everybody fell in line and picked up where someone else left off. So, 2012 was a very rewarding year.
Last year was a lot of fun. We picked up right where we left off. We had different philosophies instilled this year and we executed those philosophies well throughout our entire system, especially in Corpus Christi. We went out and played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and I think it showed on the field. The talent was very good and the guys were prepared and believed in themselves. The month of August stands out most when we had six or seven walk-off wins. It was exciting baseball that the fans in Corpus Christi got an opportunity to see. That's really special. I kind of refer to 2012 as the under-the-gun season, which means we played a lot of tight games, a lot of one-run games and extra-inning games. Our pitching and our defense kept us close and we rose to the occasion most of the time. It was exciting and gratifying to watch.
In general terms, what is the most difficult part of managing in Double-A?
The most difficult part of managing in Double-A, as well as other levels of the minors, is the movement of players throughout the course of the season. The challenge is to get everyone on the same page as quickly as possible. You have to keep everybody going in the same direction. That's just managing personalities and getting people to understand what's expected of them. If you work hard at it, you can overcome those obstacles.
What do you most enjoy about managing at this level?
I enjoy teaching. I enjoy being a mentor and a resource of knowledge for those who are trying to establish themselves as prospects and players that can help a major league baseball team. The goal is to ultimately win a World Series championship in Houston. I enjoy watching these guys progress and improve and realize their potential. Now, that doesn't mean they are all going to be major league baseball players. But my goal is for them to be the best they can be.
When did you realize you wanted to make player development your life?
I realized it when they took my opportunity to play away. It was the end of the road and my playing career was over. If you want to stay in the game, you've got to take this road. It's something I wanted to do after my playing days. I just didn't expect it to happen as quickly as it did. I've always had a passion for the game and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be in the game this long.
Who most influenced your managerial style?
I don't even know what my managerial style is. I try not to pigeon-hole myself into one particular style. You have to be flexible according to the talent you've got. I had clubs that possessed tremendous speed early on in my managerial career with the Astros. I guess my style differed then from when I was managing in Calgary when we had teams that were full of power hitters. What influenced me most is being around good people and realizing that your managerial style needs to be based on the type of players you have. You have to find out what they do best, accentuate their strengths and shore up your weaknesses as a team.
What is one thing you wish you'd learned sooner as a manager?
Relationships with umpires. Without a doubt. There were days when I first started out that I took calls that went against me and my team personally. I'm a competitive and passionate person and I reacted badly too many times. I wish that I had realized sooner the importance of quelling my emotions on the field. That's my biggest regret as a manager…being emotionally involved in the game to the point to where you don't control your emotions as well as you should. But that's youth and that's inexperience. As you grow older and get wiser, those things iron themselves out.
Many players have cited your leadership as a significant reason for their success. What about your approach resonates with Hooks players?
Well if players are saying that, I appreciate it. That's what it's all about. The plan is to be a role model, a leader, a mentor and a teacher. Along with that comes the opportunity to manage baseball games. The bottom line is player development. To develop players you have to spend enough time to get to know them. You have to spend enough time to care about them. You can't fool 'em. I've always known that and I've always been told that. I'm well aware of the trust factor. If you want to get something out of somebody, they are going to have to believe and trust in you. I believe that happens in my relationships with the players. They do understand that I'm out for their best interests and with that comes a level of trust. They start to use you as a resource.
How do you spend your time away from the ballpark and during the off-season?
Our in-season days are power packed. I'm dedicated to my family. I have three children, Brittney, Breeana and Robert, and a beautiful wife, Stacy. I miss them like crazy. I'm not going to say I neglect them during the season but our time together is limited, even when they are with me. In the off-season, I make up for lost time. I need to work. Minor-league managers don't make an awful lot of money but I sacrifice that to spend every moment I can with my family. Taking them to school, picking them up from school, sitting down for dinner every night. We are involved in their social lives, which they don't like very much as teenagers. Stacy and I enjoy mornings together. We walk, exercise and have coffee. We take family trips and make up for lost time.
What was it like to grow up as Keith Bodie in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1960s and early '70s? What were your childhood and teen years like?
It was awesome. Looking back, growing up in the late '50s, '60s and '70s was a tremendous time. It's a different world than what my children are growing up in. You had to be creative entertaining yourself growing up. There were many more days spent outdoors. Today, it's a challenge to get my kids away from iPads, iPods, TV and all of the social media gadgets. To grow up in New York City and Brooklyn was an even greater experience. You're not as sheltered as some other places growing up - suburban American or rural America. I was exposed to a lot of things that made me wiser street-wise.
You attribute your boundless energy, enthusiasm and positiveness to faith in God. How has He changed your life in recent years?
He has made a tremendous change in my life. Easter Vigil two years ago, Stacy, our three kids and I were baptized in the Catholic Church and we received our first Holy Communion. We made a commitment as a family to have our Lord more involved in our lives. He's in control of my life. To be strengthened by faith has been a tremendous energizer. My wife, Stacy, has been a force as well. She gives me energy and strength. To do what I do would be very difficult if I didn't have her love and support. Our faith, as a family, gives us a sense of peace. You wake up every morning grateful. My biggest influence is not in the game of baseball but in the lives of my children. I try to be there and be a good role model for them as well. You know, we are all leaders and role models except a lot of us don't realize it. Once you realize that, you are grounded in faith. I think that's why we are here.