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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bruce Crabbe Interview Part 3: Good Things

A rainbow stretches across the sky as Lowell Spinners manager Bruce Crabbe coaches third base at Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY in June 2012. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Next Level | Part 2: Kept Grinding | Part 3: Good Things

Bruce Crabbe describes himself as a player's manager, a player's coach.

He's been managing and coaching that way for much of the past two decades.

"I know what it takes, I know what it's all about," Crabbe told The Greatest 21 Days recently. "It's about letting the players play on the field and showing them what it takes to do those types of things."

Crabbe began managing in 1994, shortly after his nearly decade-long playing career ended without him making the majors.

He's managed, coached or coordinated somewhere each year since, including three stints as manager of the short-season Lowell Spinners. His third stint with the team began earlier this year.

Crabbe spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently as his Spinners visited the Tri-City Valley Cats at Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY.

Lowell Spinners manager, right, in the dugout before a June 2012 game at Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY. (G21D Photo)
Crabbe covered his start in the game through his late father, his playing days working his way up to AAA, but never able to make the majors and his coaching days, trying to shepherd his young players on to the next level.

Crabbe's first managing job came in 1994 at Butte a co-op team in the rookie Pioneer League. Crabbe called the experience an eye-opening one, not just that it was his first post-playing job, but that job came with players from three different organizations and sending reports on those players up three different chains.

Then there was the field. The locker room was shared with a college football team. The outfield fence was portable. It also snowed in June.

"You're always able to get through it," Crabbe said of those early challenges. "You wonder how you're able to get through any of it. But the game goes on and life goes on and, no matter what the world brings you, it's going to happen again tomorrow."

Crabbe moved to Pulaski in the rookie Appalachian League by 1998. In 2001, he returned to AAA, as hitting coach at Oklahoma.

Lowell Spinners manager Bruce Crabbe coaching third base during a June 2012 game at Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY. (G21D Photo)
At Oklahoma, Crabbe said he felt he had his own experience at AAA to offer his players. Crabbe spent six years there as a player, without making the majors.

He also recalled learning himself, under the manager there, Bobby Jones.

"He taught me you've got to have a little fun in the game, plus you've also got to know what you're doing," Crabbe said. "There's a fine line in both of those."

Crabbe credited that advice with keeping him grounded in his own teachings.

Another manager Crabbe said influenced him was one he had as a player at single-A Peoria in 1985, Pete Mackanin. He also cited Tony Franklin, an infield instructor in the Cubs system.

Putting all his influences together, he emphasizes with his players the right mechanical things, that they should practice them, but not overdo them.

"You do them the right way, you have fun when you play and good things will happen," Crabbe said. "If they don't happen, you move on. It's not the end of the world."

"You just go tto keep a positive outlook," Crabbe added a short time later. "It's a tough game, man. It's about failure, failing 70 percent of the time is being successful. That's kind of an oxymoron. It's a tough, tough way to make a living."

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