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They Can Manage

I was thinking the other day about all the managers I’ve covered on a day-to-day basis during my seven (I think) years covering major-, minor- and independent-league baseball. Now, my memory isn’t always the strongest, but I’m going to take a trip down Memory Lane and discuss all five of them. Each of them brought different things to the table personality-wise and were different levels of media friendly. This doesn’t have 100 percent to do with the Wingnuts, but I figure many of you will be interested since four of the managers I’ve covered have been in Wichita. Here we go:

Keith Bodie, Wranglers (2003) — The absolute worst manager to cover for a 20-year-old kid who was getting his first taste of covering professional baseball. I’ll give Bodie credit for being a smart baseball man, and he definitely would have some value as a roving instructor in a major league organization. But he just wasn’t a very good human being. There was no such thing as a good question with this guy, because no matter what you asked him, he made you feel like it was the dumbest thing ever said. I dreaded interviewing him after every game because I knew, win or lose, that he would have absolutely nothing positive to say about anyone or anything. It’s no surprise to me that he never climbed the managerial ranks because he wouldn’t have lasted as manager at a level higher than Double-A.

Frank White, Wranglers (2004-06) — The polar opposite of Bodie and a sigh of relief for me after covering the Wranglers under Bodie in 2003. The best indication I got that White was a nice man came during our one and only disagreement. I don’t even remember what it was about, but he dropped an expletive or two, never raised his voice and allowed me to voice my side. And that was it — it was over. I figured that if that was the worst he could be, then I had it pretty easy. Every other time I talked to White, he was quite even keel. Never got too excited about a win or dejected about a loss. A perfect leader in that sense, because during a 140-game season emotional roller coasters are healthy for no one. I hope White gets a shot to manage in the majors one day because I believe he has earned it. I enjoy listening to him in the Royals’ TV broadcast booth.

Bobby Cox, Atlanta Braves (2007) — I spent a summer internship in Atlanta working for during the 2007 season and got a chance to cover and interact with one of the managerial legends of the game. Bobby is definitely the King of that franchise. Interviewing him before a game took skill — it was practically an art form. He’d have a baseball game on in his downstairs office (the smaller one) and a group of usually four or five reporters would cram in and talk about the events of the day. Once there was a lull in the conversation and it got silent, you could ask your question and usually no more than one follow up. Then the process would start again, and during the next lull it was somebody else’s turn to ask a question or two. If you didn’t get the answer you were looking for, you had to wait until the next rotation to try it again. I did my best to make an impression with Bobby by always being the first to answer every time he asked, “Who’s this?” about a player on TV he was unfamiliar with. “It’s Dallas Braden!” He wasn’t intimidating, but you definitely had to pick your spots. One of my career highlights is covering the game in which he set the MLB record for ejections.

Kash Beauchamp, Wingnuts (2008) — Most famous in Wichita (and probably elsewhere) for an infamous disagreement with an umpire, Beauchamp was adversely affected by the rigors of competition. He wanted to win too badly, and he brought down a lot of Wingnuts players with his overbearing clubhouse nature. But that was only one side of Beauchamp, who off the field was an enjoyable guy to be around. When I had time after games, I would sit in his office and just talk baseball with him before I began the official postgame interview. I was intrigued by his old-school approach to the game and he definitely brought a different viewpoint about in-game managing. I was also fascinated by the connection he had with his late father, Jim, who passed down that old-school approach to Kash. I think there was some regret on Kash’s part for never reaching the majors after being a No. 1 overall draft pick, but I don’t think it made him bitter. Kash could be done with baseball soon — he was recently let go as hitting coach of the Joliet (Ill.) Jackhammers of the Northern League and is doing instructional work in Taiwan. After that, according to his Facebook page, Kash will attempt to become a police officer or firefighter.

Kevin Hooper, Wingnuts (2009) — The jury is still out on Hooper’s managerial skills — he has obviously had good results thus far but 35 games don’t make a career. What is not arguable, however, is that Hooper has a positive effect on everybody he comes across and not just the players he manages. He is always upbeat, always energetic — most of his text messages end with an exclamation point. He’s no Kash Beauchamp in regard to juicy quotes, but being the antithesis of Beauchamp is more of a good thing for the Wingnuts franchise than bad. In fact, there are no drawbacks to it. All of the Wingnuts players love to play for Hooper and I definitely wouldn’t bet against him reaching his goal of becoming a major league manager. Hooper usually accomplishes his goals.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back with some more Wingnuts tidbits soon.