Q&A With Lake Monsters' Mgr Rick Magnante

For the past eight years, the Oakland A's have turned to Rick Magnante to guide their short-season A-ball affiliate. Donald Moore spoke with Magnante towards the end of the 2013 Vermont Lake Monsters' season to find out how he felt the season when, who stood-out during the year and more...

Donald Moore: Coach, how's do you feel this team did this year?

Rick Magnante: It was a mixed bag. As Forrest Gump said, "life is like a box of chocolates," and you really don't know what you got until you get out there. And coming into the season, it was a primary extended spring group, and that was pretty thin in terms of overall talent and we got out to a very slow start.

We were here [in Troy] and we opened up against Tri Cities and they swept us in three games and they beat us like a drum. So from the get go, we were working our way uphill and we basically have all year. We found our way to .500 at about the halfway point, and we got above that by a couple of games. But we should have won more than three in a row and now we are on a longest losing streak of the year which is eight.

So, it's been an uphill battle in terms of trying to win ballgames. The big picture is always the same. The goals, the objectives are always the same, which is development and also the fact that we want to orient these kids into what is expected of them on a daily basis, what the routine is, prioritization, making the proper choices and getting into a routine everyday that prepares them emotionally and physically to come out and give their best.

So from that standpoint, we've reached our objectives. If we can put the Ws and Ls kind of on the back burner, and not let that be the over-riding barometer, what is success, and what is not success, then I think we've met a lot of objectives of the team itself. The kids work hard and they've given an effort. The camaraderie, the fellowship has been terrific and it's a good group of guys. The guys have been fairly easy to manage, in terms of disciplining and directing their efforts in the right places. Overall, you know, I'd say it's been a good year and again, if you don't look like to the wins and losses, then yes, I think we got successes this summer.

DM: Who were your standouts this season?

RM: As well as Boog Powell and B.J. Boyd go , it's kind of the way the Vermont Lake Monsters have gone. Those two guys are at the top of the order as a catalyst. Both are young players. Boyd is a high school player one year removed from high school and Powell is a young junior college player, one year removed from JC, so those two guys have really been the guys provided the impetus and the energy that allowed us to win ballgames when we needed to both defensively and offensively and on the bases. So position wise, those are the two guys who have been the biggest contributors this year.

We have Chad Pinder, who was a second-round draft pick [this year], a shortstop out of Virginia Tech. He got off to a slow start and then was hurt for six weeks. Had some shoulder problems, wasn't able to throw and then pulled or strained an oblique. He's been out for a long time, so we really haven't got the chance to really see who he is in regards to that.

Ryan Huck came from Western Kentucky. He came here right off the get go and was very offensive and produced to help us to win ballgames, but he's kind of hit the skids here a little bit, in the last couple of weeks and scuffled at the plate. But what he did, he was able to contribute.

Ryon Healy, our third baseman/first baseman, who was our third pick out of University of Oregon, came on the scene and contributed early and was able to help us win offensively. And also as of late, he's struggled with the bat, so the middle of the order has been very inconsistent and has not allowed us the score the runs we need to score.

Overall, the pitching has been very good. [Pitching coach] Craig Lefferts has done a great job with our staff and I think up to a week ago our ERA was 2.72 as a team. We have always been in the top three pitching, but you know, we pitch and we don't hit and we have a chance to win. When we don't pitch, and we don't hit, we have no chance to win and that's been pretty much the story of the Lake Monsters this year.

The pitching has been good, but we've not done a very good job objectively of playing catch. We've made way too many physical errors in the field as reflected in [a] ballgame against Staten Island. Tie ballgame, bottom of the eighth inning, runners at first and third, a ground ball to first base, a routine play, we can't make it. The runner from third scores, they go up by one, they get us out in the ninth, we lose 3-2. So, defensively we've had our hiccups as well, but the pitching has basically been our strong point.

Brent Powers, who was here last year and was 0-7, has been our ace of the staff. He's made the All-Star team this year and he has made tremendous strides as a pitcher, so he has been a guy who has done a very good job. Kyle Finnegan, another right-handed starter, was promoted about a week ago, so we lost him. Bobby Wahl, who was a high-round draft pick for us out of the University of Mississippi, is a big, physical kid, with a plus arm and a feel for the curveball. He's been limited in terms of the number of innings he can pitch. As you know in Oakland, we adhere to a pitch count and based on how many innings they had in college, it limits their roles. What their role is here this year may not be ultimately next year as they go forward with their careers.

So, we've had some good pitching. We had Trevor Bayless, who was our closer and was promoted two weeks ago to Beloit in the Midwest League. He got seven saves and made the All-Star team, and was very good for us. Sam Bragg also did a very good job, so overall, the pitching has been pretty solid. It's just been a function of trying to catch it consistently and just do a better job of being offensive at the plate.

DM: This is the third year for you managing at the helm of the Lake Monsters. Will you be back for a fourth?

RM: [laughs] I hope so. You know, there is nothing for sure in this game, but my job is two-fold. As you know, I scout Southern California for the amateur draft, and then I'm lucky enough to come here in the summer and be the manager of the team. So this will be my third year completed here in Vermont, and my eighth year at this level with Oakland, so I hope they allow me to come back and continue what I do, that I'm doing here again, this upcoming year. I'll keep my fingers crossed on that.

DM: Do you know if Oakland will renew their working relationship with the Lake Monsters after the 2014 campaign?

RM: I don't see why we won't. Everybody seems to be extremely pleased with our working relationship with the Vermont ownership group. The things they've done at the field to improve it, everything we asked them in terms of improvements, they've been on the ready to do it, and have it completed. We got new dugouts this year, which is a big, big plus for us. And we took the bullpens from the foul lines on the left and right side out into right center, so that's much better.

They've re-done all the seating. Everything is permanent seating there now, there is no more bleacher seating any longer. The look of the ballpark is much better. They've brought the foul lines in in areas a little bit. They've brought the fences in a little bit. So the look of the ballpark is nice. We have a very capable groundskeeper in James Ryder, who has done a great job. The surface plays well and I think everybody likes it in Vermont. We like them and I think they like us, so I hope we have a continued long-standing relationship with the Vermont Lake Monsters.

DM: Any off-season plans?

RM: Yeah, actually, I'm going to head up to Vancouver for a week to my old stomping grounds with the Canadians, and hang out up there and take a little vacation. Then me, Craig Lefferts and hopefully our hitting coach, Lloyd Turner, are going to make that trip to South Africa in December to do the African Nations Baseball Academy and do that as well. So I'll be busy in the off season. I have some things with Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well. I've got a lot on the plate in the off-season, so I'm looking forward to that.

DM: Coach, thank you so much for your time.

RM: You are very welcome.

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