On Thursday, the Oakland A's promoted three coaches from within their system. Darren Bush was promoted from bullpen coach to hitting coach; Scott "Emo" Emerson was promoted from minor league pitching coordinator to bullpen coach; and Marcus Jensen was promoted from minor league hitting coordinator to assistant hitting coach and catching coach. On Friday, I caught-up with Emo as he prepared for a trip to the Dominican Republic to help at the A's Dominican Instructs program.
In part one of our interview, Emo discusses his new job, what it means to him to be in the big leagues, how it is to work for A's farm director Keith Lieppman and more...
OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on your new position! You leave Sunday for the Dominican?
Scott Emerson: Marcus [Jensen] and I will be going from the 1st to the 12th. Just enough to see about eight games.
OC: Is there anyone in particular that you are looking forward to seeing on that trip?
SE: Yeah, Argenis Blanco, Angel Duno and Emerson Nelo, whose nickname is ‘Emo Dos’. [laughs] And Ivan Andueza, a left-hander from Venezuela. Those four are just really close to coming to the States. They had terrific seasons in the DSL this past season, so I am anxious to see how they have progressed.
OC: What does the rest of your offseason look like now that you are a part of the big league staff? Do you switch gears and focus on the big league staff once you get back from the Dominican?
SE: Yeah. It’s going to be a different transition from the aspect that the thought process now goes from development to winning. Obviously in the big leagues, we’ve got to win. That’s what we are there for. I’ll still be teaching and allowed to be creative when Curt [Young, A’s pitching coach] lets me teach. I think a lot of it gets back to game-planning [in the new position]. I love to game plan. I have always loved the scouting aspect of it, to break down a hitter’s swing on video and help pitchers put together their game plan. That’s something that I really look forward to and something that I’ll really look at this offseason. When Curt asks me how we should pitch a hitter, I’ll be ready to give him all of the information.
OC: Have you talked much with Darren Bush about he handled that position the past couple of years?
SE: Yeah, we had a great conversation the last two days about 1) the big leagues in general and 2) what Curt’s expectations of me will be and how I can help Curt. Bushie I consider a great baseball guy. We have been friends and have worked together a long time. His opinion really matters to me in terms of how to handle the job. I’m sure he’ll tell me more information as the offseason goes along.
OC: You guys worked together on the same staffs a couple of times in the minor leagues, right?
SE: We actually did ’05 and ’06 and he was the hitting coach and I was the pitching coach with Stockton and Todd Steverson. Then in 2009 and 2010, I was his pitching coach when he managed in Midland. And then ’11 and ’12, I was his pitching coach when he managed in Sacramento. We have a long history together.
OC: Did you work with Curt Young much when he was with Sacramento and you were starting out with Modesto back in the day?
SE: We didn’t have that much interaction, but over the last several years – I’ve gone to major-league spring training since ’07 – and he has been there all but one year. We were fortunate in ’09 to send up that trio of pitchers when Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Andrew Bailey all made the team out of spring training. I have always talked to Curt throughout the course of the season. For the past eight or nine years, once a week or every 10 or 12 days, we have been on the phone together. It’s going to be great to basically have him mentor me as a big league pitching guy to help him out in the big leagues.
OC: You have worked with a lot of the pitchers on the current A’s 40-man roster, many of whom are likely to be on the staff next season. Does that create a comfort-level for you moving into this position, having a history with those guys and knowing how they throw?
SE: I think so. I sit back and I can see Evan Scribner’s delivery in my sleep. I can see A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker’s deliveries in my sleep. Those guys have a chance to be great contributors to the team. Anything I can do to help them out and help the team win is what I’ve got to you.
From a comfort-level perspective, one, the coaching staff makes it comfortable. Tye Waller, Mike Gallego, Bob Melvin, Bushie, Marcus Jensen, those guys are truly passionate guys about baseball. They are great communicators and are easy to get along with. We’ve gotten along for years when I was a pitching coach and coordinator and I don’t expect anything to change since I’ll be answering the phone in the bullpen.
OC: You’ve been in the game a long time. I believe this is your first assignment in the big leagues. What does it mean to you to be at that level now?
SE: I’ve done it all in the minor leagues. I started out in the rookies leagues. I went to short-season. I did A-ball. I was fortunate for a one-off season to go be a pitching coach in the Mexican Winter League. I got to do a season in the Arizona Fall League one year. I went to Double-A. I went to Triple-A. Then I was the pitching coordinator. For a guy who was built by this organization from the ground up and has touched every level and knows what every level entails and what the expectations are at every level, to be able to come to the big leagues and coach, you are at the peak level for coaching.
Those experiences in the minor leagues at every level, you can’t take away any of that. When people say, ‘well, you don’t know.’ I can actually say, ‘yes I do’ because I spent four years in A-ball, four years in Double-A. I have done three years of extended spring training when you are getting up at 5:30 am and you are getting into the grind. Pretty much when it comes to coaching in the minor leagues and being a coordinator and coaching in winter ball and in the fall league, I’ve done it. It’s a great honor from the organization and from Bob Melvin to be a part of that big league staff.
OC: You mentioned being developed as a coach in the A’s organization. What is it like to be a part of a system run by Keith Lieppman?
SE: He is a guy who you would take a bullet for. He is the ultimate teacher. He makes us read books during the offseason to better ourselves. He makes us coaches make presentations to better ourselves. He not only wants us to be better coaches, he wants us to be better people. He has been the ultimate mentor as a coach to so many people. He is the top of my list in terms of being a mentor. He has done so much for me as a coach that I can’t even put it into words.
When Keith Lieppman’s name comes up on anyone’s phone within the organization, you are picking up the phone. You can see in spring training. You can see it in Instructional League. With his presence in the room, people just want to gravitate to him and they want to listen to him and they want to learn from him. He’s the best at what he does by far and I can’t imagine another farm director like him in the game who treats his people with the ultimate respect and let’s you have a forum to speak and be creative. As I said, I can’t say enough about him.
I could talk another hour about Keith.
OC: They haven’t picked your replacement yet, but are you planning to transition that person and pass along all of the information that you have on the pitchers currently in the system?
SE: Yeah, most definitely. This is about the kids. We talked about myself and Marcus going to the Dominican and people are joking and saying ‘you guys are big leaguers now.’ At the end of the day, it’s about the kids. It’s about them. I’m not leaving them out to dry by not going. I’m going.
The transition will hopefully be smooth. We aren’t rebuilding or reloading. That’s kind of a topic that I like. We had great pitching coordinators in this system before me that started and built this program and the concepts and the theories and the philosophies. I know that we will put a guy into that position that will add his twist into the mix but stay within the continuity and the system that we preach. And he’s only going to make that program better. It keeps evolving and it keeps getting better. Whoever gets that job, it’s only going to get better.
Stay tuned for the rest of this interview, during which we discuss all of the pitchers who participated in the A's US fall Instructional League.