(File photo by Matthew Hicks.)
In 2012, first-year manager Kenny Hook guided the T-Bones to one of their best-ever regular-season finishes. The club rewarded Hook by renewing his contract last week. Hook talked with Matt Fulks about the contract, looked back at 2012 and ahead to 2013.
Matt Fulks: First off, congratulations on the new contract.
Kenny Hook: Thanks, I really appreciate that. It’s very gratifying and humbling that John and Adam Ehlert and Chris Browne thought enough about the job we did in 2012 to decide so quickly that they think I’m their man in 2013. This is such a competitive field and business that it’s nice when your ownership and the organization feels comfortable and confident when they sign a manager that soon after the season. The timing of it means a lot to me. I feel like it’s a great fit and they are echoing some of the thoughts I feel.
MF: How much does that help heading into the offseason?
KH: The timing is important. For personal reasons, you don’t have to worry about the unknown of whether you’ll be back. For personal and family reasons, that job security helps. You can relax and have confidence. The other thing that’s important is the stability of what this shows to players. As far as building the team, I can start early and I can really be a little more selective in choosing the guys that fit my type of player. If you don’t have as much time, which we didn’t last year, you cannot be as selective. You have to move quickly and at the last minute. This way you can talk to guys more and see if their talents and personality are a good fit. This saves you in a lot of different ways.
MF: A lot of people don’t realize how you had to pull some things together quickly in the spring after Tim Doherty announced he was headed to Boston.
KH: Some players were in place, but I didn’t know a lot about some of the guys. They might’ve meshed well with Tim and what he was doing, but they didn’t necessarily fit with my personality and the type of team I wanted to put together. Now that we have more time, we can talk to guys and give them an idea of what’s expected, which helps them prepare during the offseason accordingly.
MF: All of that said, are you happy with the way things turned out?
KH: I’m happy that in my first season we were able to finish above .500. At the same time, being in a 14-team league, being that close to the playoffs, you have to capitalize. Obviously we didn’t, which is disappointing. Looking at the timeline, preparing in a month and finishing above .500, I’d take it. I’m thankful that things worked out pretty smooth in my first year. A lot of things were very positive. We were healthy all year. No major injuries. That’s a success. We had a gourp of guys who were easy to get along with and professional. We didn’t have many guys who were hard to deal with or didn’t represent us poorly, so that’s positive. Am I very movitaved to improve on all of that? Absolutley! Do I think we did all we could do to finish over .500? At the time, yes, but looking back, not necessarily. Ask anyone on our team, they’d say we are as good as or better than any team in the league. Moves wise and personnel wise, I think we did everything we could. That team overcame a lot of things from the get go. Guys retiring, trades that fell through. If you don’t have a good, strong core of both team and character, I don’t think you would’ve seen us have success through the changes we went through.
MF: As I learned, the manager’s job at this level is a lot different – with the addition of some administrative duties – than at most other levels. Since you had been bench coach in 2011, was it what you expected or was it a big learning process for you, too?
KH: There's a HUGE learning process. I had a feel for some of it from observing and communicating with Tim, but you’re not fully prepared until you’re THE guy. It’d be nice to be in this position and worry only about preparing for a team. That’s not the case at this level. You have to do so many things to get to the field. Different rules and roster regulations that you have to check on and know. On a personal level, you have to deal with guys who have personal lives and living situations. You have to manage that without showing signs of being overwhelmed by the job. As with any good leader, you still have to exude confidence and be a calming influence to the team. Knowing that helps, but there’s no way you can prepare for it until you’re thrown into the fire. With that in mind, though, when you talk to the guys on a personal level, you realize how awesome it is that you can make an impact in their lives.
MF: One addition to your staff in 2012 was Frank White. As someone who grew up watching Frank, what did it mean to you to be able to work with him on a daily basis?
KH: It was a thrill. It was like working with your childhood idol every day. The most gratifying thing to me was getting to know him on a personal level. You find out what type of person he is. I’m still amazed at how he handles himself in different situations. I learned more about being a good human being. The baseball side of things, I took the approach that working with a legend, I’m going to shut up and learn. At the same time, a lot of my beliefs about baseball, Frank White confirmed some of those to me. Not that I was unsure, but when you see he has similar philosophies, it helped me build confidence with how I approached the day-to-day job.
MF: What seemed to be the key to you for the run the club had in July and early August?
KH: We were on the road a lot in that stretch, which actually helps. It’s a sense of us vs. them. There are more distractions at home. We responded very well when that was the scenario. We competed harder. Plus, we had some pitchers step up, our defense improved and our hitting was clicking. In that stretch, every facet of the game was working. That's a huge credit to our players, of course, but it's also a testament to the great job Shippy (pitching coach Andy Shipman), (bench coach Bill) Sobbe and Frank were doing. I owe a huge thanks to all three of those guys for helping me throughout the season.
MF: With the contract behind you, when does preparation for 2013 begin?
KH: It already has. I’ve been communicating with some other managers in our league and different leagues to get a feel for who’s looking to move guys and see how we can improve our roster. I'm also evaluating how our current guys match up to what we’re trying to build for next year.
MF: Kenny, as always, I appreciate your time.
KH: Thanks, Matt. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens during the offseason and then getting back at it next spring.