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Interrogation Room is open for another season.
The newest manager of the Timber Rattlers showed no fear and stepped
right in for the first edition of 2011. Matt
Erickson has been the hitting coach of the Rattlers for the last two seasons.
This year he gets to manage his hometown team.
He is ready.
The Interrogation Room:
How excited are you to take over as the manager of the Timber Rattlers?
Matt Erickson: It is a great situation. To have the opportunity to
work for the Milwaukee Brewers (the team I grew up watching & played for) is
pretty special. On top of that, I get to stay at home & be close to my
young family. I'm truly fortunate in that this position provides
balance between family & work. That is a luxury not many coaches get
to experience in professional baseball.
TIR: What was the
reaction in the Erickson family when they found out that you would be the
manager this season?
ME: Well... my wife
(Julie) said, "Does that mean you are going to get paid more?"
Maddox (6 yr old son) said, "My teacher told me that daddy is
now the boss of the T-RATS..." And my baby girl (Aubrie) doesn't seem
too impressed. She continues to giggle & throw food at me!
TIR: What are the main challenges that you see for the upcoming season?
ME: I think the biggest challenge for me on the field will be learning
the pitching staff. Every successful team that I played on seemed to
have clearly defined roles. I think it helps the players with their
preparation when they know what is expected of them.
TIR: Both the Arizona
League Brewers and the Helena Brewers won their league championships. Have
you heard about any players from those teams making the move up to the Midwest
League this season?
ME: Unfortunately, I
can't give a lot of detail about our team at the moment. Our team will not
be finalized until the end of Spring Training, as many of the players will be
competing for a roster spot. It seems that every year a handful of
players repeat a level, but most of our team will be a mix of the above
mentioned short season teams. Many of the players will be
experiencing their first full season in professional baseball.
TIR: In your speech at
the Red Smith Banquet, you mentioned going to Goodland Field to watch the Foxes
play. Do you have a favorite memory of watching minor league baseball in
ME: There really isn't a
specific memory that jumps to mind. I just remember watching for a bit
& then running behind the bleachers with my glove & ball... pretending I
was one of the players. I loved being around the ballpark. Just
the smell of the park was inviting... a spectacular combination of pine tar
& burgers:) As I grew up & went off to school in Arkansas, I would
still call back home on one of the first milder days in early Spring & say, "I
could smell Goodland Field today... it must be getting close to baseball
TIR: Your father coached
for many years at the high school level in Appleton. What kind of a coach
ME: Dad was a fiery
competitor with a big bark at times, but what made him great was his
communication at practice. Every player that played for him was well
prepared. He earned respect from his players because nobody was ever
bigger than the team.
TIR: Are there any
similarities between your dad's coaching style and your own?
ME: For sure... I often catch myself using the same phrases &
terminology. He preached fundamentals & repetition. Baseball is
a skill game that requires tremendous repetition to become consistent, and
that consistency is what produces successful teams over a lengthy baseball
TIR: While doing some
research on the 1996 Timber Rattlers season, I found an article about that
year's draft, another about how you mentioned to your coach at the University
of Arkansas that you thought that Eric Hinske of Menasha should be able to play
at the Division I level, and one more about you playing for the Utica Blue Sox
in the Florida Marlins system. What do you recall of the whirlwind of
those months in 1996 that took you from a Razorback to being drafted to playing
ME: Wow... that was a
while ago now. Time goes so fast so I try to enjoy each experience.
Going away to school & playing 3 years at the University of Arkansas really
helped me grow up not only as a player but as a person. I was out of
my comfort zone for the first time & had to learn how to prioritize my
time. Accountability is something that I needed to develop in order
to learn from past experience. Too often we are quick to judge others for
our personal misfortune instead of asking ourselves what we could do to make the
situation better. I believe the transition to professional baseball helped
me appreciate the daily preparation that the game demands. I
started to get my best results when I learned to take pleasure in the process.
TIR: Which hitter from the 2010
Timber Rattlers do you see making the biggest impact at the next level in the
ME: Good question. We had a few guys with nice offensive season's last
year. Khris Davis (.280 22 72) had 54 extra base hits last season.
He is capable of driving the ball to all fields & his pitch selection
is advanced for a young player. Scooter Gennett can flat out put the
barrel on the ball. On a day to day basis, he hit the ball on a
line with more consistency than anybody. He is another guy that is capable of
spraying the ball around the field. D'Vontrey Richardson is also a guy
to get excited about. His physical tools are impressive & he
is not afraid to work. Relatively new to the game... he had his
struggles early in the year, but he might have been the most
dynamic player in the league the last month of the season. An athlete with
great skill & confidence is fun to watch!
TIR: What are your thoughts on Milwaukee's minor league system after
trading away so many top prospects this past off season?
ME: The Brewers did what they
had to do to bring quality established Major League pitching to Milwaukee.
Our job in player development is to help as many players in our system get to
the Big Leagues as possible... whether that is being called up to the
Brewers in the future or as part of a trade that helps the present day
Brewers. A good trade is a trade that helps multiple organizations.
I wish successful Major League careers for all of our prospects that were traded
this off-season. Again, it is up to our scouting & player development staff
to provide more Major League prospects.
TIR: How are you going to handle your first Spring Training as the manager of
ME: Ask a lot of questions.
We have a great staff that is willing to help any way possible. I am also going
down to our Spring Training complex a little earlier this year to get acclimated
with new responsibilities before the season starts.
TIR: Chris Hook is back as the pitching coach for 2011. What do you like
best about the way that he works with the pitchers on staff?
ME: Hooky makes it fun! He is always well prepared & has great
knowledge. I'm glad that we were able to work together the last couple
year's & develop a relationship. I trust him & will rely
on his opinions for many of the pitching decisions.
TIR: What can you tell us about Dusty Rhodes, the new hitting coach?
ME: Dusty is a well respected
baseball man across the country. He has been inducted into the American
Baseball Coaches Association HOF. He started the baseball program at the
University of North Florida & coached there for 23 seasons. He was
also involved in professional baseball at the lower levels with the Yankees
& Brewers organizations. I have spoken to him a few times on the phone
& he has great passion in his voice for the game. At least 2 of our
phone calls have ended with the battery in my cell phone going dead! I
look forward to meeting him at Spring Training.
TIR: What are you most looking forward to in the 2011 season?
ME: I look forward to a successful season on & off the field for our young
players. I know that their time here in Appleton will be something
that they will share with others for the rest of their lives. It has been
a lot of fun to be a part of the last 2 seasons with the T-Rats. The
relationship with the Brewers has brought a tremendous level of excitement to
the Valley. The fans & the T-Rat front office create an
outstanding environment for our players to develop as young men.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.