Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Interview Part 3: Rob Leary, Fortunate Man

Sun Life Stadium in 2011. Rob Leary worked to get players there from 1995 to 2001 as a minors coordinator and director for the Marlins. He's now Marlins bench coach. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Great Decision | Part 2: His Potential 
Part 3: Fortunate Man

Note: Special thanks to former Marlins minor league coach Randy Hennis for making this interview with 2014 Miami Marlins bench coach Rob Leary possible.
 
Rob Leary has been involved in baseball now for nearly three decades.

Along the way, he served as a catcher in the minors, then as a coach. He's been a coordinator, director and a manager.

But it wasn't until 2010 that he finally took a different role, that of assistant coach in the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox. For 2013 and 2014, Leary's role has been as bench coach for the Miami Marlins.

"I hope people have always known that, with hard work and with dedication and commitment, that people can realize their dreams," Leary told The Greatest 21 Days recently. "I've realized mine."

"I didn't do it as a player, but to be in this situation, as a major league coach and working for and with a person I have the utmost respect for and many others, also - I'm an extremely fortunate man, both in the game and outside the game."
A pitching change at West Palm Beach in 2011. Rob Leary played and managed at West Palm Beach's old Municipal Stadium. (G21D Photo)
Leary spoke to The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from San Diego, where the Marlins were taking on the Padres.

He spoke about his beginnings in the game as a youth south of San Francisco, working his way up through college and then into the pros. He also spoke of his turn to coaching, and his eventual arrival in the bigs.

Leary's early coaching career was spent as a minor league manager in system of the team that once drafted him, the Expos. He managed at single-A Rockford and then high-A West Palm Beach.

The trick, he said, both then and now, is relating to his players.

"I tried back then and it is still a daily process - 'I'm here for you. What do you need? What else can we do? Is there something else?'

"That's the thing that I really like, those personal relationships, those personal-professional relationships, in trying to help each player to get to that next level when I was in the minor leagues or now, ultimately being here in the major leagues."
The former Thomas J. White Stadium in St. Lucie, Fla. Rob Leary managed there in 1993 and 1994 with visiting West Palm Beach. (G21D Photo)
Leary stayed with the Expos through 1994. He then moved to the Marlins and his first stint there. There, he served as minor league catching instructor and later minor league field coordinator and director of field operations.

He was also there for the 1997 championship season. It was the first of three times Leary's organizations won championships. He later served as minor league field coordinator for the Red Sox for their 2004 and 2007 championships.

As a field coordinator, Leary had a hand in the entire organization at multiple levels starting in spring training. He recalled his first major league spring camp being 1995.

Once he became field coordinator, he started working major league spring training, then with players from AAA, down to the Latin American summer leagues.

"I've had such wonderful experiences meeting, working, working for people from all over the world," Leary said. "To me, I feel so fortunate that I've been afforded some of these opportunities and that I've earned some of these opportunities. I've tried to make the best of each and every one of them."
Championship banners at Sun Life Stadium in 2011. Rob Leary served as Marlins minor league field coordinator for 1997. (G21D Photo)
One of the people Leary worked with in the Marlins organization was Randy Hennis. Hennis joined the Marlins the same year Leary did, spending his time as a minor league pitching coach. In 1999 and 2000, Hennis coached at AAA Calgary.

Hennis recalled Leary doing both jobs, catching coordinator and field coordinator, "extremely well."

"Field coordinator can be a very under-appreciated and difficult job to do," Hennis recalled in an e-mail, "but Rob did it with as much energy and class as could be done and we were ecstatic he got promoted to director of operations."

"On a personal level," Hennis added later, "he is also a great human being, true friend and has a great family."

Leary and his wife Candace have been married for 19 years. They have two sons.
Fenway Park in July 2004. Rob Leary served as Red Sox minors field coordinator that year. He later served as assistant major league coach there. (G21D Photo)
Leary joined the Red Sox in 2002 and he stayed with them for a decade. He started as catching instructor, then moved to field coordinator.
In 2010, he got his first big league job, as an assistant coach in Boston. He called that a "huge thrill and a great learning experience." He helped run spring training and he worked with the major league players.

"It was a good experience for me personally and professionally," Leary said. "It was something I believe helped me out exponentially to be ready for this role that I have as bench coach."

Leary arrived with the Marlins as bench coach for 2013, after spending a season with the Indians as minor league field coordinator. He served as a Red Sox assistant coach from 2010 to 2011.

As Marlins bench coach, Leary runs all of spring training. He puts workout schedules together. He does that with many winter conversations with manager Mike Redmond and the rest of the coaches. They talk about who needs what work and how much.
The Marlins celebrating their 2003 World Championship at Yankee Stadium. Rob Leary worked with Marlins minor leaguers from 1995 to 2001.
"I actually put it down on paper and make sure we run a real organized and efficient spring training," Leary said.

This year, they had about 67 or 68 players in camp. Last year it was 72 or 73.

Leary also coaches the major league catchers. For 2014, he's working with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Mathis. He helps them with drill work, handling the pitching staff. He also throws batting practice and helps other coaches.

"Then it's helping Mike Redmond put lineups together," Leary said. "Ultimately, when the game starts, it's helping Mike run the game."

He also prepares charts with matchup numbers for that night's game.

Leary praised Redmond, saying he's always prepared. But he also seeks out the opinions of his staff. Then Redmond makes the final decisions. "He does a tremendous job using the resources around him," Leary said.

As for being where he is now, Leary said "it means the world." He credited the many people he's worked with along the way with making him into the coach he is today.
Marlins Park under construction in 2011. Rob Leary now works there as the Marlins' major league bench coach. (G21D Photo)
He credited his family, getting their constant support, knowing the time he'll be away. He credited John Boles and Gary Hughes, both constant figures in his career. There is also Redmond, who wanted Leary on his staff.

"I don't think I could truly express the feeling, the amount of respect that I have for those people," Leary said, "not because of getting this job or that opportunity, but just because of the way people have treated me and afforded me opportunities."

"I really do have a difficult time trying to express exactly what these people have meant to me and my career, and more importantly to my life."

Leary also looks back to his youth, growing up in the San Francisco Bay area. It was there that Leary learned his work ethic. His teachers were his parents.

"I think I've carried that over to my life on and off the field," Leary said.

Read Part 1 of the Rob Leary interview: Rob Leary, Great Decision

Part 1: Great Decision | Part 2: His Potential 
Part 3: Fortunate Man

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