Tony La Russa, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chief Baseball Officer, recently visited Reno as part of his tour visiting the Diamondbacks' minor league affiliates.
He talked about his new role with the Diamondbacks, the Reno Aces, and how he sees the relationship between the clubs going forward. Below is a transcript of the press conference.
Q: Can you describe your role with the Diamondbacks?
A: It's mostly just to work with the guys in the organization. I had been in baseball for 50 years, so you get a lot of lessons in how to compete and it's just a matter of sharing it with the big-league club all the way down to the rookie ball clubs. I'm starting to introduce myself, and guys like Phil (Nevin) and Greg (Gross) I know. More than anything else it's just trying to tweak in little ways the way we compete.
Q: Was it a natural progression going from manager to this position?
A: When I retired, I kept getting asked, and I did not miss the managing, but I missed the winning and losing. Ever since I've had this job, I wake up in the morning and I'm fired up again.
Q: What was your opinion of the Diamondbacks' organization as you came in to where it is now?
A: The nice thing, after two years working for Major League Baseball, you got the big picture, and the reputation of the organization is outstanding. The club got off to a slow start, and they've been playing better the last six weeks. But what I didn't know, and now this is the fourth club I've visited, the vibes on the four clubs are very much like what you try to establish. The manager and players really relate, it's clear they're playing hard, and then what you try to do then if you're playing hard is just try to play better.
Q: What is your opinion of the Reno Aces?
A: Well, their record speaks for itself. I mean they have a nice town, they're playing the game right. I mean this facility will get you excited to play. The fun of the game really is competing with a chance to win, and they're having fun.
Q: When you look at the guys on this roster, who do you see as being impact players with the Diamondbacks in the future?
A: Now there's a question that you know I'm not going to answer. Because right now, if you're here, it means you're a step away and you have a chance to play in the big leagues. Even if you just want to be helpful and mention a guy or two, you're going to not mention several others, and there's no reason to do that. I'll just tell you that if you're in Triple-A baseball, you're capable of playing and pitching in the big leagues.
Q: Can you just speak a little bit more to the relationship that you anticipate between the Diamondbacks and the Aces in the future?
A: One of the things, when you need help, this is the first place you look for help. I know Didi (Gregorius) is there now most recently, and there will probably be another move here pretty soon, so you have to stay in communication. You have to have a lot of confidence in the situation. I've really been impressed with the facility, and I've known Phil a long time. He does an outstanding job getting guys ready. This is a really difficult place because the guys are so impatient. As great as it is to play in Reno, they want to play in the big leagues, so you stay in close touch, and you try to make sure that the same kinds of things that are stressed with the Diamondbacks in Phoenix are stressed here, and that's what happens.
Q: Do you anticipate a hands-on relationship with not only Reno but all the minor league clubs in the chain?
A: Well, the way I was taught is that you roll up your sleeves and you go to work. You don't try to improve the way a team or player competes by sending out memos or hanging by the cage, you have to get out there. You work with people, you work with coaches, you work with the managers, and they work with the players, so yeah, you have to get involved.
Q: What has been your favorite moment so far in this position?
A: My favorite moment is really, in all four clubs, the vibe that I've seen. You have to really build a closeness among a team, a family feeling, that will make you go out and compete. All four clubs, the coaches, the managers have done a really good job and the players are responding.
Q: What are your thoughts on what Phil Nevin has been able to do?
A: I'm really close with the folks in Detroit, so Phil is a known commodity. I really expect that at some point, Phil is going to manage in the big leagues.