02/23/2016 9:51 AM
The general managers from the American Association, including T-Bones' vice-president and GM Chris Browne, gathered recently in St. Paul, Minn., for the annual General Managers' Meetings. We sat down for 7 Questions with Browne to talk about the meetings, as well as this offseason for Kansas City.
1. We assume these annual meetings are always a good time to get together with your fellow GMs to discuss the previous season and look ahead to the next one.
Chris Browne: It is a great opportunity to discuss the challenges facing each market and club. Share information and go over best business practices. Provides for a league update and allows the GMs time for “one off’ conversations on business and marketing, and some hot-stove baseball talk as well.
2. Obviously this can be a time of proposing big, league-wide changes. Anything major discussed this year?
CB: Team rosters have been expanded to 23, baseball wise, which will give our team some flexibility. You also might see some efforts league-wide to speed up pace of the game.
3. One hot topic throughout professional baseball right now is the backstop netting. The netting at CommunityAmerica Ballpark will be extended to the ends of each dugout, as announced earlier this offseason. Are other teams around the league looking at similar modifications?
CB: We were commended by the league for being proactive. A lot of teams will be following our project to see how and what we do. Fan safety is paramount for all. And I am glad we were out in front of this with our announcement on this subject last fall.
4. Wichita announced last week that Pete Rose Jr. will be their new manager, replacing Kevin Hooper, who has ties to nearby Lawrence. A couple of the Texas teams are combining to form one team this season. Personnel-wise, what are some of the changes we’ll see in 2016?
CB: Well, the hot stove was very active at the meetings. I know Pete’s name came up in the rumor mill. I can say that now, after the fact, right? (Haha…wink wink.) I think it will be great for our league and fun for the fans. It is tough to lose a pro like Kevin Hooper. He’s a proven winner and class act, but now he is moving up the career steps with the San Diego Padres organization. That’s part of the beauty of minor-league baseball. Winnipeg and Joplin hooked up on a mega trade that will see some star players go north. Gary is always active. Manager Ken Oberkfell retired in Lincoln. He was a long-time big-league player, and a great guy, so that’s a tough loss for the league. A veteran of our league, Bobby Brown, will take over the Saltdogs.
5. The T-Bones didn’t travel to St. Paul last season, and I know it’s tough under the conditions of the GM meetings, but what were your impressions of the Saints’ stadium, which opened last year?
CB: It is magnificent, with a great setting in downtown St. Paul. I love the look and color scheme. Derek Sharrer and his staff do a terrific job. I know our team will enjoy going there during our first road trip in May. Fun as it may be, I hope we win the series!
6. It’s hard to believe, but roughly three months from today (May 19), the T-Bones open their 14th season in Kansas City. What’s the toughest part of this time of the year?
CB: Steady nervousness? You know you are close but a lot more work has to be done. It’s full steam ahead!
7. We’ve talked about changes around the league. The T-Bones’ preseason roster is nearly complete, with a few new faces but the majority of the guys are back from last year’s club. You and manager John Massarelli are in constant contact throughout the offseason about the roster. Is it shaping up the way you guys envisioned it back in mid-September, shortly after the 2015 season?
CB: Mazz is on the phone every day, looking to improve our club. We talk several times a week to compare notes, share ideas, and see where we are. It’s definitely more enjoyable to be building right now and not re-building! It is fun to look at our club and lineup on paper in February, but we have a long way to go and things can change fast. There is more work to be done. You don’t play these games on paper.