Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Kenny Holmberg (Part 1)

After working as a coach at the Texas Rangers' Dominican Republic complex last year, Kenny Holmberg enters his first season as the club's DSL Manger. Lone Star Dugout interviewed Holmberg to discuss the Dominican program and some of its players.

Jason Cole: You're a fairly young guy that was playing in the Brewers organization just a few years ago. How did you get into coaching with the Rangers, and more specifically in the Dominican Republic?

Kenny Holmberg: It was kind of a whirlwind ride, I guess you would say. I had just finished the 2008 season––my last year in the Florida State League. I decided to retire and I was going to finish my bachelors degree at Embry-Riddle. I was going through the process, getting all the papers together.

At the time, I was coaching at my junior college–-St. Petersburg in Clearwater, Florida. I got a phone call asking me if I'd be interested in coming down to the Dominican Republic and seeing what was going on down here with Texas and being a coach on the staff.

I thought at the time, with my dad's influence, he obviously thought it would be a good idea to get back into the game and be a young coach in a good organization. It was kind of similar to what he did when he quit playing––he got right into an organization that was kind of up-and-coming with some young players and on the brink of having success. So I thought it was a pretty good opportunity to get back into the pro game.

It was right away––about three months off. I originally just wanted to finish my college degree and get into doing my masters. But I came down and I enjoyed it. The people I'm surrounded by every single day are great. They are good baseball minds and intelligent people on and off the field.

I enjoyed my first summer and Jayce [Tingler] obviously had some success. He guided me in the right direction, and when it came down to making the decision of whether I'd like to manage down here this summer, I wanted to tackle the job right on.

Cole: At the time you started coaching in the Dominican, did you speak any Spanish?

Holmberg: It's funny––everybody asks that. Coming from Ting, he always says that body language and facial expressions are all universal. I really bought into that. I make contact with each kid––I put my arm around their shoulder, pat them on the back. I have elevated my voice, I've spoken in a soft tone.

It's really cool when a kid who doesn't speak English really tries to lock in on you when you're speaking English, even though he doesn't really know what you're saying. He is trying hard to understand.

But on my end of learning Spanish, no. I played four years professionally. I grew up in a minor league clubhouse. I knew all the words that you probably shouldn't say, but I got on the Rosetta Stone and just being kind of indulged in the culture, I have gotten a lot better here in a short period of time.

Cole: Is it just one of those things where you're learning from them and they're learning from you as well?

Holmberg: On that end, I think it's important for the kids to have a guy here that speaks English all the time because it shortens the bridge––or the gap––when they get over to the United States. They've heard it, they know the tone, they know the baseball verbiage––attababy, nice swing, get on top, turn two, hit the cutoff. They learn those important phrases that are going to hear every day. I think it's important for me to build that bridge and shorten that gap for these kids.

But I think it's important for these guys to learn as quick as possible. You want them to be able to do an interview in Spokane or to do a radio interview in Frisco. When you get to the big leagues, you want them to be able to speak to a broadcaster or a radio guy or someone like yourself. They should be able to put together some sentences and make some sense.

It'll only benefit them, and as long as they really buy in and pay attention––we do English class every day. And we do English class every day on the field. We do it every day in the morning in the clubhouse. We really bust our butt to do a good job in that.

Cole: You guys haven't started the official Dominican Summer League schedule yet, so can you take me through an average day out there at the Rangers' complex right now?

Holmberg: I want to teach these kids some toughness, mentally and physically. We've got our guys getting up at 6:00 in the morning for conditioning. That leads to about a 7:00 breakfast. We get everybody in the clubhouse around 7:45, and we'll do 10 to 15 minutes going over the daily schedule, which is printed in English. From there, our strength guy might do about 10 minutes of motivational, inspirational, and leadership-type thing.

Then we take the field for about a 30 or 45 minute stretch of agility. From there, a various amount of things could happen. You've got individual defense, fundamentals, batting practice, infield, outfield, et cetera. It's just kind of the baseball daily routine. All that leads up to lunch and then whatever we need to do to work on in the afternoon, we've got plenty of sunshine and nice weather down here to get other things accomplished.

Cole: You're back to having one Dominican Summer League team this season. When the roster is finalized later this month, do you know approximately how many players will be on it?

Holmberg: I think you can compare it to a short-season rookie ball league, where you're going to have floaters and you're going to have guys that might throw five innings one day and be off the roster the next to make room for the 35th or 40th guy.

For right now, we're still trying to make those decisions. I couldn't really give you a number. But the roster on a daily basis is 30 guys. So anything over that or right around that is probably what we're shooting for.

Cole: I know it might be a little bit early, but do you have any idea yet how you will be dividing innings or limiting workloads for the young pitchers there?

Holmberg: We've speculated on the piggyback. We've talked about that. The schedule down here is a little different. It's basically like an Extended schedule–-you've got four games on and a day off and the routine doesn't change. We could go four-man rotation, two guys piggyback. We could go five-man rotation, three guys piggyback.

We have got some high-ceiling arms down here––some young, talented kids at 17- or 18-years-old. We want to get the best out of them and prepare them the best to have a good summer here and maybe lead up to an invitation to United States instructional ball this fall.

Whatever we can do to benefit these kids, I'm sure we'll have their best interests in mind. But I really am not quite sure right now. We'll throw some ideas out there and whatever is the best idea, we'll go with that.

Cole: You mentioned some guys possibly getting an invite to U.S. instructs. David Perez was one guy that got an invitation last year after signing a 2010 contract. Can you give me your overall impressions of him so far?

Holmberg: Like all the kids here, he is working on his toughness––the mental and physical makeup. He's a great kid with the ability to learn. He is intelligent. A 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher. He can throw it––he has gotten a lot better. He has improved big-time on his defensive skills––his PFP work, covering bases, and backing up bases.

He's just going to have to be a guy that gets out there and competes during games and we'll have a better feel by then. But he is a kid that has set goals and he is driven. He wants to get to the States. I wouldn't say he's disappointed that he is pitching here this summer, but he feels that he does have the ability to have a good summer and get out of here. Hopefully he can go out there and prove that to the organization and prove that to himself this summer.

I'm looking for him to have a great summer. If he works on the things he needs to work on––the attitude side and the toughness and the makeup stuff, he's going to be on his way.

He's just a young pup. You look at him and he's a big guy––he's a presence. But sometimes you have got to remind yourself that these guys are only 16-, 17- and 18-years-old. He's an interesting kid that is fun to be around, and when he really gets it going, he's going to be a tough kid to beat out there.

Cole: You mentioned him being 6-foot-5. Is he kind of a long, lanky, skinny guy at this point, or is he filling out?

Holmberg: I'd say he's got a nice frame. He's in and around 200 pounds. He's got those go-go gadget arms. He can get some length and some depth on the ball. He's going to put on some weight. He is going to be a nice-looking kid by the time he is 20- or 22-years-old.

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