Tucker’s Return to Carolina Leads New Group Toward Growth
Rob McLamb | On 16, Apr 2014
The Carolina Mudcats certainly are a different team in 2014. While many of the prospects, including former first-round draft picks Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, along with the coaching staff have progressed to Double-A Akron, there was not the level of anticipation going into the campaign.
The Muddies have started the season 6-5 heading into Wednesday’s home doubleheader versus Salem at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C. and are one game out of first place in Carolina League play as they enter the third week in April.
Scooter Tucker has been given the task to manage the Mudcats after guiding Lake County in 2013. Tucker spoke to members of the media prior to the beginning of play and gave his thoughts on the Mudcats, the Cleveland Organization and the preparation he received as a hitting coach for Carolina in 2012.
Q: How happy are you to return to the Carolina League for a second stint with the Mudcats?
“I like this league. I enjoy living here. I have got family near here. Everything about my experience [two seasons ago in Zebulon] was great. It is a very enjoyable league. For me, from a preparation-standpoint, it is a lot like the higher levels in that you have seven opponents and you get to know them. It induces these guys to learn how to prepare. This is kind of the funnel. It is where everybody gets pushed. To make that next jump to Double-A is the deal breaker for these guys. We have high hopes for many of them.”
Q: What are some of the challenges of managing at the Minor League level?
“There are 25 different personalities and they are from all different parts of the world. They have enjoyed success wherever they have came from, and that always presents a challenge. You spend a long time together; you are bound to have some flare-ups. Usually, my experience has been that these guys don’t go through that often. They have the same goal.”
Q: What do you feel has helped you prepare for managing at the High-A level?
“I was fortunate enough that I was [with Carolina] as the hitting coach, I was just very blessed to have Edwin Rodriguez as manager. He allowed me to coach third base and prepped me to do a lot of the things that I have to do when managing. I have not [managed high-A ball] before but it helps with that comfort. That was a unique situation for me where Edwin was as good of mentor as you can expect. He has big league experience as a manager and was not concerned with his so-called ‘job security.’ He is a very good coach and treated me as if I was an intern so to speak.”
Q: What are your expectations for the season?
“I think you are going to find a team with a lot of guys that play pretty hard. They like playing the game and you are going to get max effort just about every night. We have some very talented guys. They may not have gotten the press because of not being selected in the first round but I think you’ll see these guys are going to play hard. They have shown that all spring. That translates, whether it is more wins or more productive seasons individually. They are going to play gritty and hard.”
Q: In 2013, Carolina was loaded with top-tier talent but it did not translate into many wins. How do you manage the balance between wanting to win while understanding that player development is the top priority?
“I think that is always a tough thing to do, no one likes to lose. You certainly enjoy winning at whatever you play, knowing that the players are first and foremost. It is a completely different situation than last year, where a lot of the guys were top picks and hot prospects. Maybe something we will benefit from is experience, both on the field and in the clubhouse.”
“The Indians organization as a whole has done a great job of promoting front office people, on-field staff as well as, the ultimate goal, the players. We are still concentrating on developing these guys and you try to put them in certain situations to challenge them that might not be the perfect fit if you were managing a Major League team. We [the organization] are trying to keep them in mind and not my record so much.”
Photo: Carolina Mudcats