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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Interview Part 3: Ted Kubiak, His Gut

Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak exchanges lineups before a game at Tri-City in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Loved Baseball | Part 2: Major Leaguer
Part 3: His Gut

The first time Ted Kubiak stepped into the dugout as a manager was at AAA.

It wasn't really the start Kubiak had envisioned as he tried to learn his new role leading a team.

"Honestly, the first night I spent in the dugout ... I said I don't know if I can do this," Kubiak told The Greatest 21 Days recently of that job filling in for the regular manager. "'There's just so much to see, so much to do. There's so much to be aware of.'

"I said, "Holy cow, I don't know about this.'"

Kubiak eventually did know about it, learning the job over time. He also learned it well, as he has continued to manage in the minors in the quarter century since. For 2014, he's serving as manager at short-season Mahoning Valley.

Kubiak spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY, before his Scrappers took on the Valley Cats in a New York-Penn League contest.

Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak in the visiting manager's office at Tri-City. (G21D Photo)
Kubiak told of his time growing up in New Jersey, then working to make the major leagues as a pro. As a pro, he told of playing for the three-time world champion Athletics teams as a utility player, but also proving he could be a regular with the Brewers.

Then he told of getting back into the game a decade after he left it, doing so as a manager in the minors. He's been with the Indians since 1994, managing in the NYPL nine of those seasons.

Looking back on that first experience at Tacoma, Kubiak said he laughs now at some of the things he did. But, after that stint, he settled in at his full time job managing single-A Modesto.

Kubiak recalled his method of learning the job as a simple one.

"I just did what I thought was right," he said. "I mean, I learned along the way.

"I don't know what I knew when I started, but I know a heck of a lot more now about how to deal with players, personnel and how to run the games."

Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak makes a pitching change in an August 2014 game at Tri-City. (G21D Photo)
He also reached back to his playing days and lessons he learned along the way.

"I took everything, my own experience and my own dedication to winning and the way I knew how to battle and the right way to play the game," Kubiak said. "I just tried to instill that in the players."

The 72-year-old Kubiak said he's also now putting his many experiences in the game down for a book.

Kubiak ended up spending five full seasons at Modesto, his last in 1993. He then moved to the Indians system as manager at AA Canton-Akron.

He arrived in the NYPL for the first time in 1996, as manager at Watertown. He then stayed in the league through 2000, moving with the club to Mahoning Valley in 1999. He returned to Mahoning Valley in 2003 and again in 2012. He remains there for 2014.

Over his quarter century as a minor league manager, Kubiak said he's learned to "go with the flow."

He has to implement organizational policies, but he also gets to do his own thing.
Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak, right, with hitting coach Phil Clark in the Tri-City dugout in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
"I still kind of throw some thins at (the players) that probably shock them," Kubiak said. "But I think they need that. I think they're let off the hook too often."

Kubiak was speaking in the visitor's manager's office. Just then, hitting coach Phil Clark came in.

"But Phil and I keep them in line, right Phil?" Kubiak said. Clark answered in the affirmative.

Kubiak said he's also picked up ideas from other managers along the way, including Dick Williams and Tony LaRussa. He may recall how they handled a situation and maybe do it that way himself, he said.

In the end, though, he said he learned that he has to do what he things is right.

"I did learn that if I go home at night and I'm ambivolent about something that I did during the game, that that's not right," Kubiak said. "I have to go with my gut all the time. That was a big thing I learned.

"Because I think I'm pretty aware of what's going on," Kubiak said. "I'm not always correct, but moreso than not."

Part 1: Loved Baseball | Part 2: Major Leaguer
Part 3: His Gut
Read Part 1: Ted Kubiak, Loved Baseball

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