Q: Last season you led the Saltdogs to their first Division Championship since 2014. What was that moment like when you clinched the Division?
A: It was pure joy, but I was just really happy for the players, organization, and the fans. There are so many fans I see every day and I was happy we could get to the playoffs for them.
Q: You were honored with the league’s Manager of the Year award last season. What did receiving that honor mean to you?
A: It was humbling. Charlie (Meyer, Saltdogs President/GM) and Jim (Abel, Owner) provide us with the tools. My coaches are the top two assistant coaches in the league and great players are always behind the Manager of the Year in any league.
Q: You have retained the same coaching staff for your whole tenure in Lincoln. How much has keeping the same staff helped you as a manager?
A: I trust those two guys 100 percent. I’m very blessed to have Carc (Hitting Coach Tom Carcione) and Reich (Pitching Coach Dan Reichert).
Q: What is most different between the 2018 roster and what fans saw last year?
A: We have a little more righty/lefty balance in the lineup and in the bullpen. Overall we have similar character to last year’s squad.
Q: You retain a handful of key players from last season including the team’s ‘Ace’ for much of the year in Derek Gordon. What do you expect from Derek this season?
A: Derek is the most mentally tough pitcher I’ve ever coached. He will be our Opening Day starter and he’s earned it.
Q: Curt Smith has a chance to continue to climb up the franchise record charts in 2018. How valuable is it to have such a talented, veteran presence like Smith in the clubhouse?
A: Curt is like a coach on and off the field… and oh by the way, he’s still the best hitter in the league.
Q: The 2017 Saltdogs set the league record for fielding percentage with an outstanding .982 mark. With the bulk of the infield returning, do you expect another solid defensive group to take the field in 2018?
A: Yeah, those guys are fun to watch. We emphasize pitching. If you emphasize pitching you have to emphasize defense.
Q: Why should fans be excited to come to Haymarket Park and cheer on the Saltdogs?
A: Our guys love playing baseball and we stay within the moment, we don’t look back and we don’t look too far ahead. These guys will make first-time fans want to come back again and again.