Oakland A's Q&A: VT Mgr. Rick Magnante

TROY, NY - The Oakland A's short-season affiliate, the Vermont Lake Monsters, finished their 2012 regular season on Wednesday night with a victory. Although the Lake Monsters finished well out of the post-season race, several players had strong individual campaigns. A week-and-a-half ago Donald Moore spoke with Lake Monsters' manager Rick Magnante about his club.

Rick Magnante has been a vital contributor to the development of young players within the Oakland A's system since 1998. Magnante served as a scout with the A's from 1998-2007. As a scout, Magnante was responsible for scouting and signing players in the Southern California region, including Barry Zito, Eric Byrnes, Bobby Crosby, Ryan Ludwick and Grant Desme, among others. In 2006, he also added managerial duties to his resume. For the best six seasons, Magnante has been the manager of the A's short-season affiliate.

In addition to his service to the A's organization, Magnante has been a central figure for Baseball South Africa, as he has led that nation's team as a manager in several international tournaments.

Donald Moore caught-up with Magnante with a little more than a week left in the season to get his thoughts on his 2012 Lake Monsters' squad and more…

Donald Moore: Coach, how well would you say this team doing this season?

Rick Magnante: Well, every year is a different year. You know, it's not like your building a team on a continuum to win ever year. You're always dealt a new set of cards. That's what is always challenging, is to get those players to improve, to build their skill sets, to understand truly -- because usually they are mostly first- and second-year players -- what it takes to be a professional on and off the field, how to prioritize, how to energized themselves and how to get better.

So, that's the goal always. Once the game begins, certainly the objective is to win, and unfortunately this year the wins have come at a much slower pace than they did a year ago, but the personnel is different this year too. If the goal is to develop, I think we are doing a good job developing and preparing them for their futures.

But if the goal is to win ball games, then we have probably fallen a little short of the mark this year.

DM: What is your team biggest strengths and weaknesses this year?

RM: Well, I think attitude and effort would characterize this ballclub in terms of their willingness everyday to come out and give their best effort emotionally and physically. I think if we assess truly what the strengths and weaknesses of the club are, versus maybe what they were in 2011, certainly we have less team speed. We stole 108 bases last year and so when you can disrupt the defense and put pressure on them, it gives you an opportunity to be more opportunistic and score more runs, so we are lacking in team speed.

It's obvious also to me we do not have the same kind of power and offensive production we had a year ago. We don't have the home runs we got from the Nick Rickles and the Dusty Robinsons, and people like that, so that has impacted our offensive game as well. And our starting pitching probably hasn't been what we hoped it might have been in terms of winning ball games or getting us deeper into ball games so we don't have to depend on our bullpen as much.

So those are the areas that I think we might have been a little bit deficient this year that translated to wins and losses.

DM: Any specific players stand out this year in particular?

RM: I think this year, especially I think our draft reflected a move towards finding that blue skies, maybe a little higher risk , but that higher ceiling type of prospect in the draft. We took many more high school kids than we normally do and we've had an opportunity to see at least three of them come through the system so far this year.

Chris Bostick, our second basemen, who was a high school player last year in Rochester, New York, is a good-looking young player who has a bright future. We had Addison Russell, our first round draft pick this year, albeit a short time. He was here for six or eight games and made a tremendous impact on the team and he is a very, very special young player, a special athlete with special tools and certainly special skills. I look for him to be a big leaguer very soon. Now we have Daniel Robertson, who is a third basemen, that we took in the comp round this year and who is also 18 years old, who shows a lot of potential. I would liken him to a somewhere between a [Will] Middlebrooks and David Wright type of player.

When I look at that, I say that is terrific to have these three young high school guys at least to be able to get to this level in their first year and experience this kind of challenge and this kind of competition. It's only going to accelerate their progress and maybe what we are really looking at is three quarters of the Oakland A's big league infield in maybe four or five years, so that's always exciting to have those types of players.

Certainly, John Wooten has been a bright spot for us this year, our right fielder. He's a young kid that shows the ability to hit, field and to throw and he'll only get bigger and stronger, so he's certainly has been very good for us this year.

On the pitching side, I would have to say that Austin House, by name our closer, is a good young pitcher with an electric arm. On top of the velocity he shows, he also has a lot of movement and an arsenal that he can utilize. Whether he'll be a starter or a reliever at this point, I'm not sure , but those guys stand out for me, as well as Kris Hall, who made the All-Star team, whose is no longer with us [he finished the year on the DL with a "dead arm" injury], but also is a good young, durable, strong, hard-throwing right hander that has the chance to be special player as well.

DM: Coach, your team's record this year is much better at home than it is on the road. What, if any, contributing factors would lead to it?

RM: That question has been asked of me before during the year and I can't give you an specific answer for why that is. I know home cooking is the old adage, and you always do better at home and certainly and that has been the case this year. We played a little bit better on the road last year, and we've taken our lumps here in 2012 season, but I can't speak to anything specifically that I can say that it is the travel, or the rest or it's the diet. I just think it's the way the cards have fallen this year, the chips have fallen, and in that manner we have struggled on the road. That's unfortunate, but specifically I can't give you any particular reason why that's the case.

DM: What are your plans for the off season?

RM: Yeah, I've got a busy fall. I'm heading to Vero Beach on the 12th of September to join up with the South African National Team in the World Baseball team qualifying tournament in Jupiter, Florida. I look forward to that and am hoping we can win our bracket and advance to the World Baseball Classic in 2013. That will keep me busy for a couple of weeks. Then I'm home for about a month or so and then I head back to South Africa on December 9th, for about 10 days to participate in the second all-African Nations Baseball Academy, which I did last year. I always look forward to that. So yeah, I kind of have a busy baseball off-season.

DM: Does your family ever get to see you?

RM: Well, I don't have much of a family left. I've got boys, both who are grown. One whose is married and has a child and lives in Santa Cruz, California and my younger one, who just graduated from Syracuse University last year, working at a talent management company in Beverly Hills. Those are the only two immediate family members.

I'm not married so I don't have anybody complaining I'm not home, I'm not around to do "the honey to-do list," so I can be so self absorbed into baseball and my own personal interests in the off season.

DM: Coach, thanks again for your insight and it's always a pleasure to speak with you and the best of luck to you.

RM: Thank you so much, Don, I appreciate it.

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