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The Interrogation Room: Matt Erickson

February 2, 2011
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The 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 Appleton?

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 season!"

TIR: Your father coached for many years at the high school level in Appleton.  What kind of a coach was he?

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 season. 

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 professionally?

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 Brewers system?

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 the Rattlers?

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.