TigsTown Q&A: Whitecaps manager Matt Walbeck

When he was a catcher in the big leagues, everyone always pointed at Matt Walbeck and said, "now that guy is a future manager." True to the word, Walbeck has hung up his cleats but now leads the West Michigan Whitecaps, who have had incredible success under Walbeck's leadership. Jared Wells talked with Walbeck about managing and his philosophy on doing the job.

TigsTown: Well, let's get this started. You recently went through a coaching change as your hitting coach resigned. What's behind that?

Matt Walbeck: Tony [Jaramillo] left for personal reasons. He wanted to spend more time with his family. That's all it was. And now Tom Brookens, the manager from Oneonta will be here until the short-season starts in mid-June. Then the plan is for me to take over after he leaves. It shouldn't be a big deal to do that. But I'm really excited to coach with Tom, he coached most of these guys last year and it should be a good fit right now.

TT: The team is off to a tremendous start. What impresses you most about this team?

MW: The character and makeup of this team are very impressive. They have a very humble attitude and they are always willing to learn more about the game. I really like that in a team. That and we've had a lot of good luck.

TT: Who are a few players that have impressed you so far this year?

MW: Really, they have all impressed me so far – I hate to single anyone out. Obviously Cameron [Maybin], Dusty Ryan, Mark Haske and Matt Joyce just to name a few. But I've really been impressed by the whole team so far.

TT: Pitching has been a huge part of the fast start, did that catch you off-guard or did you see pitching being a strong point?

MW: Yeah, it definitely caught me a little off-guard. But we have one of the best coaches in AJ [Sager] and that helps the pitchers. He's got to be one of the best in the league. It's always fun to work with him.

TT: What is your philosophy of managing?

MW: First of all, it's not about me, it's about the players. I know all my attention goes to the players, and that's where it needs to be. I try not to think about myself climbing the ladder or anything, because that takes away from the team. Some guys get too obsessed about themselves and forget what they're here for – teaching. Anyway, it's better to give than to receive.

TT: How do you incorporate what you learned as a player into your coaching?

MW: You have to try to get your experiences to translate, because they are a huge part of how you teach. The game is very different to play, and for most of these guys it's their first full season of 140+ games. It also taught me you have to be patient, listen more than you talk, and take good care of yourself.

TT: What is your favorite part of this job?

MW: I love when you see the light bulb click on. The teaching part is so fun, to see these kids learn. And there's always something more for me to learn. You can learn it from another coach, or sometimes these guys tell me something that I didn't know. It's always fun to keep learning no matter what.

TT: What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

MW: The bus rides are pretty rough. And being away from your family. It's challenging to keep everything in perspective, but I try to keep in touch with my family as much as possible. We have a webcam setup so we can talk every night on the computer, but it's tough sometimes not to be there. That's got to be the hardest part – being so far away from your family for so long.

Tigs Town Top Stories