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Q&A: Bats Manager Pat Kelly

March 24, 2020

BatsBaseball.com interviewed team skipper Pat Kelly for a feature in the upcoming season's game-day program. As Kelly approaches the rare milestone of 1,800 career managerial wins in Minor League Baseball, we wanted to delve into the process of coaching in the minors for 30-plus years. The full transcript is below,

BatsBaseball.com interviewed team skipper Pat Kelly for a feature in the upcoming season's game-day program. As Kelly approaches the rare milestone of 1,800 career managerial wins in Minor League Baseball, we wanted to delve into the process of coaching in the minors for 30-plus years. The full transcript is below, but first are some of the more intriguing thoughts from Kelly (top photo by Photo by Floridaminorleaguecamp.com)

1. On his “welcome to Major League Baseball” moment

"The first time was in 2007, I became the bench coach (with the Reds). I was doing the Gulf Coast League, riding in vans and playing at one in the afternoon in Florida. The next day I helped Pete (Mackanin) run a game; we’re playing the San Francisco giants, it’s ken Griffey Jr. versus Barry Bonds. It’s quite a culture shock.”

2. On certain wins during his career that stick out in his mind

“I think my 1,000th win was in Richmond and I wasn’t even there. My daughter was graduating from high school and I had gone to the graduation and we happened to win and I got credited for the win. And that was my 1,000th win. That’s also been part of my philosophy; family is more important, to be home for my daughter’s graduation was more important than winning my 1,000th game.”

3. On how he’ll measure a successful 2020 season:

“Obviously developing players. And our job right now is to send competitive players to Cincinnati to help them win the pennant. We’ve got a competitive team in Cincinnati this year, so that part is exciting, we’re going to be able to send guys up that are going to jump into a pennant race. I think that’s probably the number one priority. But also, it’s important for us to win this year in Louisville. I think we have enough depth in the organization now that we should have a more competitive club and I think it’s important to win some games."

Kelly is introduced at the Bats' annual Skipper Showcase. photo by The Courier Journal
BELOW IS THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW:

On how Kelly began his managerial career:

“It’s interesting, because when I was ending my playing career, I remember having a manager ask me about managing, I told him I didn’t think I was interested in that. I thought maybe I’d do something front- office related or something, and then a year or two later, physically I was at the end of my career, the White Sox offered me a job to finish the season at s a pitching coach. And I kind of just fell in love with it; I enjoyed working with young players every day.”

On what drives him each and every day

“I guess because it beats working for a living. It’s the fact I can put on a uniform every day and act like a kid. I enjoy the game so much and the fact I can at least participate somewhat, I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”

On his biggest influences during his managerial career:

“I’m very lucky, I’ve worked for a lot of good people coming up when I was young and I think probably the guy that influenced me initially was Bobby Winkles, who was actually the first farm director I worked for. And then John Bowles, he ended up managing in the major leagues and at that time was the farm director with the Expos. I would say those two were big influences in my career”

On what specifically stood out about Winkles and Bowles:

"From Bobby’s standpoint, he had done so much, he was a famous college coach at Arizona State and managed the Angels in the big leagues. He was just a terrific teacher and I think that’s where he really emphasized that our job is to teach and to make our players better, players one through 25. I think he really emphasized that to all our staff members and that really stuck with me."

On taking things from other managers to implement in his coaching:

"I think you kind of take a little bit from everybody, guys you played for, guys you liked, guys you didn’t like. You like the way you were treated by a certain guy, didn’t like the way you were treated by certain people, you take a little bit from everyone and adapt that to your personality and go from there.”

On his “welcome to Major League Baseball” moment

"The first time was in 2007, I became the bench coach (with the Reds). I was doing the Gulf Coast League, riding in vans and playing at one in the afternoon in Florida. The next day I helped Pete (Mackanin) run a game; we’re playing the San Francisco giants, it’s Ken Griffey Jr. versus Barry Bonds. It’s quite a culture shock.”

On advice he’d give to himself when he was first beginning his career as a manager:

“Probably mellow out a little bit. I think we all have the tendency to initially coach like we were coached, when I grew up in the '60s so you were used to being yelled and screamed at, and I think that’s initially how I thought you were supposed to coach. Fortunately, I matured through the years and learned there’s a lot better ways to get your point across and develop relationships with players.”

On getting the most out of players:

“I think everybody is different and that’s the key is realizing you have 25 different personalities; you’ve got 25 guys that are motivated different ways. I think the key is developing relationships with them, understand what makes them tick and being able to see if you can’t get that to find a way to improve themselves. At our level it can be very tiny things that make the difference between (being) in the big leagues or being in Triple-A. (The players are) so close, they;re so talented that a lot of times it’s just being able to get them to realize that it not the whole aspect of their game, but it may be one little thing that determines whether they play in the big leagues or not.”

On balancing developing players for the Reds and winning games with Louisville

“I think winning is a part of development. As an organization, we try to develop winning players, so I think that’s an aspect of their development, learning how to win, how to be a winning player. But I think also that my job is to help develop players and sometimes you have to be patient, especially with the younger players; know they’re going to have a lot of downs before they have ups, and just try to be patients with their development and realize at times it may effect the (outcome of a) game. But I always feel like there’s an opportunity to win the game [regardless of in-game moves that are made with development in mind instead of just winning the game].”

On reaching 1,800 career wins:

“It means I’m old. I think the biggest thing is I’ve always said that baseball is a game of persistence. And I think that’s basically what It means; you know guys don’t get a chance to manage 30 years anymore, the turnover nowadays is incredible. So, just the fact I’ve been able to persevere for all these years. Fortunately, I’ve had good players to play for me and along the way we’ve won a few games.”

On certain wins during his career that stick out in his mind

“I think my 1,000th win was in Richmond and I wasn’t even there. My daughter was graduating from high school and I had gone to the graduation and we happened to win and I got credited for the win. And that was my 1,000th win. That’s also been part of my philosophy; family is more important, to be home for my daughter’s graduation was more important than winning my 1,000th game.”

On the biggest assets he’s had on his coaching staffs

“I’ve had so many good coaches, just to name a couple is really hard. I had a coach in winter ball, his name is Edgar Perez, he’s actually a scout for the Boston Red Sox. I had him for probably six years in Puerto Rico. I think that just he came along at a great time, kind of taught me of patience, taught me a lot about the Latin culture. I think that he ended up being a big influence…we’ve developed a great relationship.”

On how he’ll measure a successful 2020 season:

“Obviously developing players. And our job right now is to send competitive players to Cincinnati to help them win the pennant. We’ve got a competitive team in Cincinnati this year, so that part is exciting, we’re going to be able to send guys up that are going to jump into a pennant race. I think that’s probably the number one priority. But also, it’s important for us to win this year in Louisville. I think we have enough depth in the organization now that we should have a more competitive club and I think it’s important to win some games.”