Lake County Captains Enter Season with New Manager but Same Process
Steve Eby | On 11, Apr 2013
It has now been ten years since the Captains opened up Classic Park in Eastlake and became the geographically closest minor league affiliate for the Cleveland Indians in 2003. Through the past decade, the Captains faithful has had numerous future Indians and Major Leaguers don their uniform and even with new faces at the helm, the goal remains status quo.
“The best thing that could ever happen to our staff is that every one of these guys would progress out of here and they’d have to send us all new players,” Captains new manager Scooter Tucker said. “It’s not realistic, but that would be the ultimate for us.”
Tucker is a former Major League catcher, who spent parts of three seasons with the Houston Astros as well as 20 games as a replacement backup catcher for the Indians in 1995.
“Most of the time that I was there I was in awe of the guys on (the team),” Tucker said of the ’95 Tribe in an interview from June 2012. “It was a phenomenal team.”
Tucker came back to the organization where he last put on a Major League uniform last season, as he was hired as the hitting coach for the Carolina Mudcats. He worked for manager Edwin Rodriguez, who he credits with giving him confidence and on-the-job training.
“I was very, very fortunate to work on a staff with the guys that I did last year,” Tucker said. “Edwin Rodriguez, even in the one year that I was with him, was a mentor to get me ready for this role. Edwin was really comfortable allowing me to coach third base and doing some reporting and it really trained me for this opportunity. It really got me prepared for this year. I was blessed and fortunate to be with him last year.”
Tucker will have an opportunity to pay his great experience forward, as the Captains coaching staff also features a young, former minor leaguer in Hitting Coach Tony Mansolino as well as another former Indian in Pitching Coach Steve Karsay. Karsay worked last season in the organization as the pitching coach for the Arizona League Indians.
“I’m excited to be here and having the opportunity to work with some of these guys last year after being drafted, coming in in their first year and making the next step to this level,” Karsay said. “We talk a lot about me being in their shoes at one point and being a young guy, the different things that it takes, not only on the field, but off the field to be successful and what it takes to get to the next level as far as pitching goes. Talent is one thing, but the mental side (of pitching) really plays a big factor. Any little bit of information that I can give them to prolong their career or move farther along in their career would be a great thing.”
“(The organization) is excited about the arms,” Tucker said of his pitching staff. “Obviously, I’m looking forward to seeing some of that.”
Some of what Tucker will see includes starting pitchers Luis Dejesus, Ryan Merritt, Mitch Brown, Jake Sisco and Dylan Baker. At the back end of the bullpen, both Louis Head and Francisco Valera are expected to see time in the closer’s role.
“It’s been a great experience for me so far,” said Brown, the Indians second round pick in 2012. “I’ve met a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players. I’ve made some friendships and bonded with these guys a little bit.”
“I’m just really excited to get this opportunity,” Baker added. “I’m really excited. It seems like we’ve got a really good squad.”
“I’m excited,” Sisco agrees. “I’m excited for the opportunity to be here. My goal is to keep working every day and to eventually make the Indians team better.”
Along with the young, talented pitching staff comes a young, high motored offense. The Captains have speed to burn both in the field and on the bases.
“Offensively, I’d say we’re not going to be a big, power hitting team,” Tucker said, “but we do have a little bit of team speed. I look for a brand of baseball that is not station to station. I hope they keep me busy.”
One of those speedster-guys is 2010 second round pick LeVon Washington, who is coming back off of hip surgery but claims to be better and faster than ever.
“The players (on the Captains) are a lot of young players; a lot of young prospects,” Washington said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good team.”
The youngest and brightest star on the squad is the 18 year old shortstop Dorssys Paulino, who tore up Rookie Ball last season by batting .355 with six homeruns, 30 RBI and nine steals in just 41 games. He is widely regarded as the Indians third best prospect behind only Trevor Bauer and Francisco Lindor. Paulino, like his teammates, is excited about the possibilities of this season.
“We have a good team and we’re going to fight it all the way out,” Paulino said through an interpreter. “I expect us to be in the finals at the end of the road, and that’s only going to be possible with a good manager, which Scooter is. With all that together, I definitely see a team like this going to the finals and winning a championship.”
Paulino may be the star to watch, but he is not the only player who speaks highly of his new skipper.
“I just met him (Tucker) this year, but he seems like a really cool guy,” Baker said. “In spring training, after I’d come out, he just talks to you and lets you know everything.”
“Scooter is a great manager and a great guy—I learned that in spring training,” Sisco agreed. “With a great manager we have a chance to be really good.
“I got a chance to meet Scooter last year when I got called up to Carolina,” Washington added. “I heard a lot of good things about him as a hitting coach and I’m looking forward to playing for him…he’s a good guy.”
It’s Tuckers approachability and style that makes him such a ‘player’s manager’. Tucker wants to win, but wants his players to progress in the organization more than anything.
“At this level you’re looking more for the process that we’re trying to teach more-so than the results,” Tucker said. “We’re trying to teach them the process to make themselves a professional baseball player.”
This process is what Class-A baseball is all about.
Photo: Jesse Piecuch/DTTWLN photographer