The 'Caps General

Sparky Anderson once said, "People who live in the past generally are afraid to compete in the present. I've got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them. There's no future in it."

In a quirky sense of this particular quote, Whitecaps manager Joe DePastino lives by this claim.

He is a husband, he is a father of two and he is now the eighth manager in the Whitecaps' history. November 16, 2007 the Tigers named DePastino West Michigan's new manager, succeeding Tom Brookens. Almost immediately after he was hired the 2007 Midwest League champion ‘Caps began to take new shape.

"There's no pressure on me. Nope, not at all," DePastino said. "What the past two managers and players did here was great and I'm happy for them, but that's in the past now. I can only work with what we have now and we have a great bunch of kids and they will be prepared every day."

The ‘Caps revamped their championship roster with some talented contenders for the 2008 season. Names such as, Casper Wells, Christopher Carlson, Alfredo Figaro and Jordan Newton now roam in between the foul lines. Each player has a certain respect for DePastino and give their all for the rookie manager, who in many ways is in the same position they're in.

"Joe is a great guy," outfielder Casper Wells said. "He doesn't put pressure on us. He lets us play our game, but knows what each player needs too."

When hired, Lew Chamberlin, the West Michigan Chief Executive Officer and Managing partner, spent a few weeks in Florida during spring training and got to know DePastino.

"The more I saw DePastino on and off the field, the more I liked him," Chamberlin said. "He has some things to learn in terms of actually managing the ball club because he hasn't had that experience, at least at the pro level. We've had managers in the past that came here without that experience and did quite well.

"What I like about DePastino as I watched him was the way he coaches and teaches. He's hands on in a positive way, talking mistakes through with them, and the kids seem to really respond to that."

At 34, DePastino is the youngest manager in West Michigan's club history. Going back 16 years, the right handed catcher was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 7th round of the 1992 amateur draft. He spent the majority of the next 11 years in the minors going from club to club until 2003 when he landed with the New York Mets. DePastino received a phone call that would make any minor leaguer drop to a knee. He was called up to join the Mets for the next night against the Houston Astros.

"As soon as I came in the next night, (Mike) Piazza said, "Hey, you're in the encyclopedia."

Mike Piazza was referring to ''The Baseball Encyclopedia,'' a huge book that lists every player who has ever appeared in the major leagues.

Pinch-hitting in his first game, the nervous DePastino was 0-2 before he swung at a slider, grounding out to third. The out didn't matter. Joe DePastino, in that small moment, was a major league ball player.

The next nine greatest days of his life, he would claim, went by fast as he played in one more game and was sent back down.

Though 28 at the time, DePastino would gather worldly knowledge that eventually led him to manage for West Michigan. He acknowledges most of this because he was a catcher.

In a lot of ways the catcher position is reminiscent of that of a running back in football. The career is short and the physical demands— at times— are strenuous. However, it is a fact that most catchers make great managers— Connie Mack, Mickey Cochrane and Mike Scioscia are a few examples of this.

The catcher— not the pitcher as most people think— is the General of the field. He has a bird's eye view of the whole diamond and has to be quick with not only his legs and arm, but his thinking, being situations ahead of all other players.

The ‘Caps (23-20) are starting to take off in the Mideastern division as they sit pretty in first place. They hope to carry this momentum to the All-Star break June 17.

DePastino's pitching staff is getting stronger and he is finding where every piece to the puzzle of success goes now.

Talking to DePastino it is easy to see his eyes flicker around the field, looking at the possibilities of either a question, game scenario or a reflection of what once was behind the plate. If you look in any manager's eyes you can see that.

Whitecaps fans have no need to worry about the Sarasota, Florida native. He's carrying the torch of winning for a much talented ‘Caps team, and will be here for a while.


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