Q&A: Brooklyn manager Mookie Wilson

Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch catches up with the Mets legend and Brooklyn Cyclones skipper for an exclusive Q&A, discussing numerous aspects of his club and the New York-Penn League season. (Premium Q&A Content)

I know you said before this season that wins and losses weren't going to be your primary focus, but are you pleased to have your team off to a solid start (13-8 through Wednesday) at this early point?

Oh, no question. Wins are important. I just don't want to make that the focus of the whole season. We're here to develop ballplayers.

If we do that properly, we're going to win more ballgames than we lose. While it's not the primary reason we're here, it is important, there is no question.

What do you like about your team so far?

I like the desire to go out and play hard, you know? We're still trying to figure some things out with some guys, figure out who belongs yet or not.

But these kids do play hard. They go about their business every day in a professional way and I'm intrigued by that. I think that can take over for whatever their lack of talent may be, and some guys are short in some areas, but that's why they're here. They're here to develop.

Who are some of the players who have really stood out to you?

The pitching staff as a whole has been really good. I've been really impressed with the entire pitching staff, no one person. I've been very impressed with Jonathan Malo at shortstop; this is his first year in pro ball. I've liked what I've seen from Josh Petersen, playing a little bit of first base and third base.

Those are the two guys offensively who really stand out. Now, the other guys, I'll know a little bit about them already, like Jesus Gamero, who's started slow but is starting to come on. Caleb Stewart, also slow but coming on now, Jonel Pacheco. The other kids, I'm not sure I've seen them enough to know where they are.

At the major league level, people sometimes talk about a club taking on a manager's personality. Do you think that can be done at the minor league level?

I think it's very difficult, because a lot of these kids are trying to figure out who they are. Our job is to shape that personality.

I think, in baseball, the personality you take the field with is very important, and they don't know that yet. It's humbling. They've been successful in baseball their whole lives, and now they have to compete against guys who are their equals.

I see some of the guys, and they're afraid. I think guys need to find out who they are and we go for there.

Do you see a lot of that, players being afraid to play?

Maybe afraid is a strong word. I think nervous is a better term to use. They're experiencing something they've never experienced before, and that's failure. That, in itself, is an adjustment. Afraid is a bad term, but they are nervous, and I think once they settle down and start to figure out who they are at this level, they'll be fine.

This is a long way from where you managed last season in Kingsport. When a player makes that jump, how does it affect them?

It's very much different, and it's not much of a surprise to me – I played here for a lot of years – but it does affect young ballplayers who aren't quite accustomed to the New York atmosphere. There's a frenzy about sports in our area, and it's an adjustment. Even for the kids I had in Kingsport, it's a shock to them, because they didn't experience this excitement. It's good, but our main objective right now is to get these kids through this first month. Hopefully we will and they'll be fine.

Would you say this can be a pressure cooker of sorts, tossing kids right out of college into pro ball with Brooklyn?

I think it is tough for some kids, and some kids really embrace the idea. They look forward to the challenge. But we take that into consideration when a kid starts. If he starts slow and struggles and goes into a slump, we have to look at where they are and where they come from. It's a fight, regardless.

You had a few guys like Jeff Landing come down from long-season leagues. How does that change your clubhouse?

It helps, but the guys who came down were supposed to be here in the first place. They probably had years last year that showed they could pitch at this level, and that they didn't need to go to extended spring. It's a plan for those guys all along; they're at the level they're supposed to be at. In the early part of the season, you need more pitchers anyway for the guys going in, so that's the biggest change.

That being said, you are pleased with your pitching staff, so it must be doing something.

It helps, because they stabilize the guys. As the old saying goes, 'This is not your first rodeo.' It helps having guys with a little experience.


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