After being hired as an intern with the Indians in 2008, Carter Hawkins quickly began his ascent within the organization through the player development department and eventually to the Director of Player Development, where he has seen to it that the team's goal remains building from the ground up. Now he is becoming a rising star among major league executives with his latest promotion putting him alongside team president Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff as the new Indians Assistant GM. During the Akron RubberDucks' first ever Hot Stove Banquet, at which he was an honored guest speaker, Hawkins found time to talk with Jake Dungan and Daniel Sherriff of IBI to discuss his promotion and how the Indians have managed to build a World Series team in his time with the franchise.
Q: First of all, congratulations on the promotion to Assistant General Manager. Can you take me back to when you first came to the Indians organization 10 years ago and describe how the team has transformed to a pennant winner in your time here?
Carter Hawkins (CH): Yeah, it's a great question, and thank you. I got here in 2008 and we were coming off a great year in 2007, but then there were certainly some tough years in there, the '09s, '10s and '11s. But a lot of decisions that were made in some of those years helped create some of the core that got us to the place where we were this year. Even trades for Carlos Carrasco and trades for Trevor Bauer, some of those really, really difficult decisions that Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins, Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff and those guys had to make. I think it certainly gave some validation to us that our process was at least solid and I think, moreover, we really took a step back and realized that the most important part of our process is we have to continue to try and improve it. So there was certainly no resting on our laurels this offseason. We're just trying to continue to get a little bit better at what we do, make a little bit better decisions and hopefully continue to maintain and build the core that can keep this not just for one year, but for many past that.
Q: You guys have made a lot waves this offseason in bringing in guys to help solidify your core. How would you categorize the moves the organization has made this winter?
CH: Yeah, it's been fun, obviously. We've been given some opportunity both from the core of players that we've scouted and developed, but also from our ownership in committing some of the funds to get guys like [Edwin] Encarnacion. So I think that's, obviously, a little atypical for us to be playing at the top end of the free agent market, but also a good thing to experience. Our ownership has always said they would spend when the time is right and, certainly, this is that time. We can only do that because we have the core of young, developed players in place and controllable-type players that we thought could really be complemented by a guy like Edwin, so it's a very exciting time for us and a very exciting time for the city of Cleveland. Hopefully we can take advantage of the opportunities we have.
Q: So obviously you're coming from the player development side of things with the Indians. What can you say about the organizational shift in philosophy that has put more of an emphasis on player development over the last several years and how you've been able to reap some of the benefits of it now?
CH: I think we've always been extremely focused on scouting and development. As a small market team, it's imperative that that's what we're doing and that's the area that we are the best at. That said, I think as we took a step back and tried to analyze where we could be a little bit better in our decision making on the scouting side and our developing on the player development side, we thought about really trying to be systematic with both of those processes, you know, especially on the scouting side. And then on the development side, really finding the types of players and encouraging the types of players that are looking to grow and looking to get better and having great coaches that are a part of that. I heard a principle for a charter school, a really successful charter school network was asked the question 'What makes a great school?' and they said 'Great teachers and more of them.' We sort of realized how beneficial it is to have great staff members in place throughout the minor leagues and, secondarily, great scouts throughout our scouting system. It's definitely something that we will continue to focus on and continue to try to improve, but we're really excited, like you mentioned, to reap some of those rewards.
Q: Going back to 2012, you guys were coming off a forgettable season and then Terry Francona answers your phone call. I know his impact has been felt throughout the organization, but how specifically has his influence helped you guys in building a roster and even player development?
CH: Yeah, one thing amongst many things that Tito does really, really well is has a remarkable amount of consistency: consistent effort, consistent in the way that he treats people, consistent in the way he prepares... It's so difficult to do over a 162-game season, that's 183 days over the course of the season, plus spring training and plus the playoffs... Every single day preparing for a new game. It's very easy to get inconsistent within that process, but Tito does an unbelievable job of coming everyday to the ballpark and saying 'I'm going to focus on step one here, which is to win tonight.' And everything he does is focused towards that. He has a big vision in place, but he does small visions every single day and he's consistent within his ability to achieve those small goals, which lead to some pretty big goals being accomplished as we saw last year. So we couldn't be more excited to have a guy to lead our players and our staff like Tito and he's certainly the face of the franchise in more than one way.
Stay tuned for part two of this conversation tomorrow...