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Q&A with new manager John Massarelli

11/06/2013 10:25 AM -

The T-Bones announced Wednesday that John Massarelli has been hired as the club’s fifth manager since the team moved from Duluth prior to the 2003 season. He replaces Kenny Hook, who went 91-109 in two seasons with Kansas City. Massarelli, 47, brings to Kansas City an overall record of 716-536 in 12 seasons as a professional baseball manager. In those 12 seasons, eight of his teams reached the postseason (three missed out by one game or less), and he took two teams to the Frontier League championship series, winning with Lake Erie in 2009. You can read the official release here. The following, however, is more of Massarelli’s initial conversation with Matt Fulks, the T-Bones Director of Media Relations.


What made you want to take this job with the T-Bones?
John Massarelli: I told people that I was semi-retired because I decided I wasn’t going to manage again unless it was a perfect fit. There were only a handful of places I’d get excited about managing, and Kansas City was one of them. So when I talked to Chris Browne (T-Bones’ Vice-President and General Manager), I knew this was the right situation and the right organization, and I jumped. From all I know about the Kansas City T-Bones, it’s a great organization from (owner) John Ehlert on down.

You had last season off. What did you do?
JM: This was my first summer since starting in professional baseball in 26 years that I was off. It was my first summer without something to do. In 2008 I didn’t manage, but I was working for (Lake Erie) and trying to get that organization going. So I went from playing to coaching to managing. My wife and I are empty nesters, so to speak, because our daughter is in college. (Editor’s Note: John and Kelly, who were high school sweethearts, have been married 24 years.) We took the opportunity to take a vacation. We toured Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore — basically we took about a 12-day vacation out west, and had a blast. When we came back, I was refreshed and focused on my baseball school. As I said, I was semi-retired and wasn’t going to go back and manage. I guess I jinxed myself.

So, what about the T-Bones made it one of those jobs that you figured you’d jump?
JM: I’ve known about the organization’s reputation by talking with players and other managers. This is a small network. I know (former T-Bones manager) Andy McCauley really well, and I’d met John and Adam Ehlert a few years ago. Then you look at the fact that Chris Browne has been there since the beginning, which tells the strength of the organization. That’s stability. I’ve been through situations where we had three general managers in four years. That’s part of what left the taste in my mouth that, even though I love managing on the field, it had to be the right fit with the right people running it. Kansas City seems to be that fit.

How would you describe your overall managing philosophy?
JM: First, I’m a big believer in building chemistry with the team. I want to get 22 guys pulling in the same direction. In independent baseball, some guys want to get to the big leagues, and some have gone as far as they’re going to go, but they want to keep playing. So, you get guys who come in with different goals, but all 22 guys need to be pulling in the same direction for the club. That’s our early focus.

And after that, as far as the type of players you want?
JM: I like athletic players who are comfortable with the freedom I give them to make decisions. I don’t like to control guys. I like to create opportunities to score with aggressive base running. You also have to build a team that can win in all parts of the game. I don’t want to build guys around CommunityAmerica Ballpark; I want to go Gary or Wichita or Winnipeg — anywhere in our league — and score runs.
 
But I like athletic players. I like three athletic outfielders and infielders who can move around — three shortstops, if you will. On the pitching side, I like to build from the bullpen forward, with power arms for the back of the bullpen. I’ve had clubs lead the league in saves, but I don’t think I’ve had a single player lead the league in saves. When you play every day, you can’t rely on one guy six days in a row. So you need to build a bullpen with three or four, or even five or six, guys who are comfortable to save a game and who have the confidence of the defensive players behind them.

What’s your first order of business?

JM: The first thing I need to do is to meet the rest of our staff and get a feel for the players we have the rights to. After that we’ll get guys signed and start building toward another championship in Kansas City.

Again, John, congratulations on coming out of “semi-retirement.” We have some things planned with you for tbonesbaseball.com during the offseason, so we look forward to learning more about you during the offseason and then getting started in 2014.
JM: Thank you. I’m very excited and can’t wait to get started!