SPOKANE, WA - You might not ever see Paul Kruger at Avista Stadium but his fingerprints are all over the field. The Assistant Director of Player Development for the Texas Rangers works tirelessly in the day-to-day operations of player development which includes overseeing minor league player plans, managing affiliate rosters, and balancing international budgets. Kruger, who has a B.A. from the University of Missouri and a Master's from Ohio University, joined the team as an intern before working his way up to the Assistant Director of International Operations where he coordinated all activity at the club's academy in the Dominican Republic. The native of St. Louis, Missouri recently spoke with the Indians from the D.R. about his work and what makes Spokane the perfect affiliate for the Rangers.
What is your background in baseball? How did you end up working for the Rangers?
I was the bullpen catcher and manager for the University of Missouri from 2004-2008 and had the chance to catch future Major Leaguers Max Scherzer, Kyle Gibson, Nick Tepesch and Aaron Crow. I had the pleasure to meet Mike Daly, who was formerly the Director of International Scouting for the Texas Rangers, while I was in High School in St. Louis and he was an area scout for the Cleveland Indians. I was in between my MBA and MSA (Masters in Sports Administration) years and was in need of an internship, so I called Mike (who was also a Ohio U MSA program grad) and asked if there were any internship opportunities, and he said that there was one, if I was willing to go to the Dominican Republic and help run the operations at Rangers Dominican Academy. At the end of this 10-week internship, I was ultimately hired on to oversee the Rangers Dominican Complex Operations full-time, and I have been with the organization since.
Where is home? Do you spend more time there or on the road?
Home is in Dallas, Texas. I spend roughly 200+ nights a year on the road.
Is it difficult to see players you work with (i.e. Kyle Hendricks, CJ Edwards, Jerad Eickhoff) get traded to a different organization?
Our player development and scouting departments put a lot of time and effort into these players, and you always want to see them succeed in a Texas uniform. Unfortunately trades are a part of the business and it is difficult to see guys go. Ultimately our job is to develop players to help our major league team win a World Series, one way or another. I will continue to follow the progress of the guys we have traded away, and wish them nothing but the best of luck… except for when they are playing the Rangers!
You spend a lot of time in the Dominican Republic. What has that experience been like?
I spend roughly one week a month in the Dominican Republic overseeing our Player Development and Academy operations. The people in the Dominican are some of the nicest and hardest working people I know. My favorite aspect of working so closely with our program down there now is that I feel like I can have a huge impact on people's (players and staff) lives for the better. It is not only about the opportunity the game of baseball provides on the field, but it is about teaching and building upon values such as hard work, respect and being a good member of your family and your community.
What makes Spokane such a great fit for the Rangers?
There are many reasons why Spokane is a great fit for our organization, starting with the great relationships we have with Bobby Brett, Chris Duff, Otto Klein and the entire Spokane Indian front office. I am not sure there is a better front office to work with on a daily basis that is truly invested in our players. Additionally, the support that the Indians fans show our players each and every night is second to none. No matter if we are winning 3-2 or losing 15-0, the fans will be doing everything they can to cheer on our guys to perform to the best of their abilities. I honestly think Spokane is truly the best place any young player can start their professional playing career. Speaking of which, seems like a good time for another Spokesman Review K-Card!
What is your favorite thing about visiting Spokane?
Seeing Avista Stadium packed with the best fans in minor league baseball night in and night out.
Favorite mascot - OTTO, Doris, or Recycle Man?
Recycle Man! Was he a former player?
Which current Spokane Indians prospects should fans be keeping their eyes on?
There are a lot of young and talented players on this year's Indians squad that we think will have a bright future in our organization. Some names for fans to keep their eyes on are CF Leody Taveras (17), SS Charles Leblanc (20), SS Anderson Tejeda (18), LHP CD Pelham (21), and RHS Kyle Cody (22).
Is this the year the Rangers win the World Series?
I'll let you know in November, but we are going to do everything in our power to put our organization in the best position we can to do so.
Anything else you'd like to tell Spokane fans?
The support you all have shown our players since 2003 is unmatched in Minor League Baseball. With the energy and passion you all show for the Indians each night makes it feel like we have a 10th player on the field night in and night out. I know the players and staff on the 2016 version of the Spokane Indians are going to do everything in their power to make you be proud to be an Indians fans and bring the Northwest League Championship back to Spokane where it belongs.
About the Indians
The Indians are the Short Season Class "A" affiliate for the Texas Rangers. For more information, please visit www.spokaneindians.com or call (509) 343-6886 (OTTO).