Texas League All-Star Dean Anna poised to lift Padres’ Double-A San Antonio Missions to playoffs

Utility baseball player Dean Anna is the consummate leader.
A three-sport letterman in baseball, basketball and golf while attending Lincoln-Way East High School in Mokena, Illinois, he chose baseball at John A. Logan College in Carterville and was rewarded by being named All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference during his sophomore year after leading his team in home runs and breaking the school record for RBI. Dean Anna’s leadership continued as a junior transfer at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana–where he led the Cardinals in doubles, triples, walks and runs.

Missions’ Dean Anna
The Padres took notice and selected the versatile five-foot-eleven right-handed fielder/left-handed batter in the 26th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. Since then the Midwesterner has proven worthy in the Padres minor leagues by catapulting his teams to three championship titles in Fort Wayne (2009), Lake Elsinore (2011) and San Antonio (2011). Having played in three 2012 Padres Spring Training games before being sent back to San Antonio to defend the reigning Texas League Champion Missions, super utilityman Dean Anna is making a difference in the team’s nightly do-or-die must win scenario to make the playoffs since six of the Missions’ remaining handful of games are against second-half leader Corpus Christi Hooks, who are ahead of San Antonio by nine games.

After speaking with Missions’ Dean Anna, we found him to be one of the most humble players in the dugout. His work ethic is unparalleled and his ‘never say die’ approach to the game is commendable. With the Missions needing their clutch player to step up and lead the team to the post-season, Dean Anna is more than capable to take on the role as captain. Batting .282 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI, Anna’s on-base percentage of .392 is among leaders in the entire Texas League. The 25-year-old prospect is certainly exciting to watch, and we expect to see him play his best baseball yet in his quest to help his team repeat.

Dean Anna led the Fort Wayne TinCaps to the 2009 Midwest League Championship.
Roberto: I understand you have played every position on the field but catcher, correct?
Dean Anna: The only catching I have done…caught a few bullpens. If the opportunity came, I think that I would have to catch. But I haven’t caught a pitch yet.
Roberto: Would you like to try pitching professionally?
Dean Anna: Yeah, I would love to actually. I have always wanted to try one inning or two just to see how it is out there. Make me feel like I was 10 again pitching.
Roberto: How does playing second base differ from playing shortstop in regards to turning the double play?
Dean Anna: Well, second baseman, there is three different turns, you know. Second base you got a drop step, you got a flip and then you got a side flip. So I mean you just really work on your craft, you know. At first it’s real difficult when you start at second base. Because I started at short(stop) all of my career, and I moved to second when I got to pro ball. And you know I thought it would be easy, but actually it was a little hard because of all the different type of turns for double plays from throwing it from shortstop. The drop step was different, the side flip was different and the underhand flip was different. And you use them in a different type of areas. So you really have to understand what area you’re in for what ball to throw, you know. So that was the big thing. Even to turn double plays when you’re on the bag…you know there’s a way of doing it that way. It seems to look easy but wherever the ball’s taking you–you have got to go to it. And you have got to be quick as possible and get out of there because that runner is getting on you fast. So that’s another thing you have got to have quick hands.
Roberto: When has a baserunner crossed the line to intentionally cause you harm?
Dean Anna: You know what? If a cleat hits you, you know they’re out of hand probably. But it’s hard to tell because you can’t see the runner sliding because you’re focusing on the ball thrown at you. So both of your eyes are following the ball. It’s impossible to look at the runner while the ball is in the air and catch it at the same time. So you’re just hoping, you know. You kind of have a clock in your head so you kind of know when the runner is coming to second base. So you know when to get out of there. But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes you forget the time of it and how fast the runner is getting on you.
San Antonio Missions’ infielder Dean Anna turns a double play.
Roberto: How difficult is it to remain engaged in the game when you play nine innings night after night? After all, isn’t baseball a game that can change instantly with one single pitch?
Dean Anna: Yeah, that’s how baseball is played. I mean every pitch matters, you know. There’s a situation on every different pitch. You have got to be on your toes. Sometimes if you are not ready for what that moment is going to bring to you it can cost your team a game, you know. So that’s a big part of baseball, just staying in the game the whole time and having that mental toughness–just knowing everything, what’s going on…
Roberto: As an infielder, do you communicate with your outfielders on the field?
Dean Anna: Yeah, you know, the right fielder and me (second baseman). We talk pretty much with every batter. We kind of know where we are going because I know if he is playing shallow or deep. Especially on guys, right-handed hitters, that maybe stay inside the ball well and hit the ball good to right field. We’ll know that he should be coming in a little shallow. So I kind of know that we’re not going to blow into each other, you know. The tough ones are when the ball is kind of sinks into center, like right center or left center. That means that you have all three players running at it. And that’s when it gets confusing, where the communication gets confusing. But with right field and second base, we’re okay out there. We kind of know where we’re staying.
Roberto: Were you hurt being selected as a late round draft instead of an early pick?
Dean Anna: No, you know, it didn’t bruise my ego at all. I was just happy to get the opportunity to play pro ball. That’s what I have always wanted to do. And you know I was going to give it my best, and I’m doing pretty good right now and stuff like that. I just wanted to have a chance, an opportunity that ‘s all you can ask for in life actually. So I’m just happy for that.
Roberto: Are you ready to be called up to Major League Baseball by the Padres?
Dean Anna: Yeah, I mean I’m definitely ready if they’re ready, you know. But I’m just playing ball and having fun. It’s day-by-day. I mean I have no control over any of that stuff. I wish I was a psychic. Yeah, that would be real nice. That’s fully out of my control. I just take it day-by-day. I play as hard as I can, and you know hopefully good things will happen.
Ex-Mission and current Padre reliever Miles Mikolas holds up his championship ring for the fans.
Roberto: Do you stay in touch with all of your teammates who have made it to MLB?
Dean Anna: Oh yeah, we definitely do. I talk to a couple guys like (Blake) Tekkote,
Miles (Mikolas), (James) Darnell. Those guys had a great time, they’re having fun up there. They said it’s an unbelievable experience, you know their first-time, their first game. Hopefully one day I can get the same feeling.
Roberto: Are you prepared for all of the rookie pranks that go along with being in MLB?
Dean Anna: Yeah, hey, if I can get to the big leagues they can prank me everyday (laughter). Yeah, I’ll be the prank guinea pig. I don’t care (laughter).
Roberto: Do you think being five-foot-eleven and 180 pounds puts you at a disadvantage?
Dean Anna: I mean the size for me…it doesn’t really matter. Honestly, I feel like it’s not like football or basketball where you have got to be 6’6”, you got to run a 4.2 forty. Baseball is such a mental game and if you can just read between the lines well. I mean a smart baseball player…that will make you look better. Just being a smart baseball player, I think plays a big role in all that.
Roberto: Don’t you think that being a left-handed hitter has its advantages?
Dean Anna: Yeah, that definitely helps a little bit for sure. Get down the line a little quicker.
Roberto: Having only reached double digits in the stolen bases category early in your professional career, why don’t you steal more bases with the speed that you possess?
Dean Anna: You know…I’m not a big steal guy, but I have real good anticipation like when the ball is hit. I can tell if the ball is going to drop or not without looking. Like I just know that I can probably get (from) first to third with a line drive and know that the fielder is not going to catch the ball. I just got good instincts.
Roberto: Where did you pick up this talent? Did good coaching have anything to do with it?
Dean Anna: Yeah, definitely great coaching helps out…you know. After a while, you just get a feel. You know how the ball sounds off the bat. You know where the ball’s going. You just kind of get a feel for the game when you play for a while and start getting a rhythm. You just kind of know. Roberto: Who did you used to follow before becoming a part of the Padres organization?
Dean Anna: I’m a Midwest guy from the Chicago suburbs. My family is all diehard Cubbie fans. Yeah, it runs through our blood.
Roberto: Do you have your suitcase ready to go if you get called up next month?
Dean Anna: No, my bags are not packed. Honestly, I’m just taking it day-by-day. If that does comes…that opportunity…I would be so happy, you know. I’m just excited to see what happens.
Roberto: Excited to get pranked? What has happened to you so far in the minor leagues?
Dean Anna: When I was in High-A, everyone knows that I don’t like animals and stuff.
You know I’m kind of a city guy so I don’t like all the country stuff and all the fishing and stuff. One guy had a little snake and it was live. So he put it in my pocket in my locker,
right where my phone’s at. So I go to grab my phone, and this little snake pops out of my pocket. I did a back flip down on the floor. So then after that, I almost had a heart attack. And then I ‘m sitting, watching TV. I had my shirt tucked in and one of my teammates opens my shirt and puts the snake down my back. I went crazy! That was kind of funny…
Roberto: With your fear of snakes, did you cringe when you learned that former teammate Miles Mikolas ate a live lizard in the Arizona Fall League bullpen?
Dean Anna: I texted him that same day when I heard and asked him what he was thinking. He said it was funny and good protein intake.
Roberto: What is your biggest baseball taboo?
Dean Anna: I’m a big guy where I don’t want anyone to touch my baseball gloves. I don’t like anyone putting their hands in them.
Roberto: Do you have a pre-game routine that you follow?
Dean Anna: I like to really relax like for an hour. Get off my feet and just relax. Listen to my music. Calm down, you know, relax. Get mentally prepared for the game.
Roberto: What about your routine at-bat and in-between pitches?
Dean Anna: My ritual when I go up to bat…I always do my batting glove thing. Like every pitch I do this one batting glove, I tighten my left one up then my right one up. Then I touch the two outside corners of the home plate. Then I get ready to go. I feel like in baseball you’ve got to be consistent to move up. So everything I do I make sure to do the same way. Just because your brain works that way, you know. Your brain works like if you do the same thing it should trigger something.
Dean Anna celebrates with his teammates after a walk-off home run blast by Jason Hagerty.
Roberto: The golden sombrero is not a good thing in baseball. Have you ever struck out
four times in the same game?
Dean Anna: If I got the golden sombrero, I would change what I ate that day. Like if I had bad games, I make sure that whatever I ate that day…I wouldn’t eat it the next day. I make sure that I wouldn’t wear the same shoes to the field. Like I’m a superstitious guy a little bit. Just because this game makes you kind of like that.. But when I’m going good I’m eating the same food everyday. I’ll walk the same way. I’ll take the same path. Just because it’s just a mindset thing.
Roberto: What is your personal professional best hitting streak to date?
Dean Anna: I’ve recently had a nine-game hitting streak, and I just didn’t shave for nine days. So I was getting a little scruffy, and then it ended. I mean it didn’t get that bad, but
it was getting bad where people were asking ‘What are you doing?,’ you know. But I wish it could have gone a little longer.
Roberto: Are you happy to have been part of the San Diego farm system?
Dean Anna: The Padres organization is great, you know. I’m happy to be a part of them. Hopefully someday I can get up there and witness that. And have fun with that. It seems great. Everyone says it’s great. So it would be nice. I’ve been out there once when I was
in High-A Lake Elsinore. We actually went out for a game and everything was beautiful. Everything was so nice. Hopefully one day I can play there and get my chance.
Roberto: Did you enjoy your time playing in the Midwest as a member of the Single-A
Fort Wayne TinCaps?
Dean Anna: When I was at Fort Wayne, it was nice because I have family out there that way. So I saw my family a lot.
Roberto: Did the humidity and heat in Indiana prepare you for the weather you are now experiencing this summer in the Texas League?
Dean Anna: Nothing compares to San Antonio heat. Honestly, it’s very hot out here!
Roberto: Sometimes do you flash back to the good old days in California playing for the
Lake Elsinore Storm when it’s over 100 degrees outside at game time in San Antonio?
Dean Anna: Lake Elsinore was not bad at all. The thing that surprised me about Lake Elsinore is that it can get cold out there. I’ve never been out to California since I was in
the Cal League and that was last year. I couldn’t believe how cold is was in the beginning. Because I was like ‘California, is that place cold? Really?’
Roberto: Southern California weather is hard to beat. Wouldn’t you agree?
Dean Anna: Yeah, yeah…it was nice, very nice!
Roberto: How about the beautiful sights there? Now you truly understand what the
Beach Boys meant when they wrote ‘California Girls’?
Dean Anna: (Smiling) Yeah, it makes sense!
Roberto: Thanks for your time and sharing so much with us today.
Dean Anna: It was a great interview. It was fun. It was great—thank you!

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Trout, Harper, Brown, Jennings, Revere, Fuentes…

Although half of MLB.com Jonathan Mayo’s 2011 Top 10 Outfield Prospects have made their splash into Major League Baseball, the remaining five prospects–including former Boston Red Sox 2009 first-round draft pick and current Padres AA-affiliate San Antonio Missions leadoff hitter Reymond Fuentes–have yet to make their grandiose MLB debut despite possessing the five-tools necessary to become successful in the big leagues.

Reymond Fuentes was the Boston Red Sox 2009 first-round draft pick who was traded with Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Eric Patterson to the San Diego Padres organization
in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez.
Considered the “other” prospect San Diego received packaged with right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and a player to be named later (Eric Patterson) in exchange for trading Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in December 2010, the speedy 21-year-old Reymond Fuentes has the genetic makeup to break into the Bigs. Just ask his cousin, seven-time MLB All-Star/Puerto Rican philanthropist and baseball advocate Carlos Beltran. “I’m very proud of him,” Beltran said. “I believe he’s going to make it to the big leagues. I told him, ‘As hard as you’ve worked so far, you’re going to have to work double to get where you want to go.'” Upon hearing the news of Reymond being shipped out west, Beltran was concerned about his cousin’s reaction and called him immediately. He said, “Sometimes when you’re young and a team trades you, they think they don’t like him. So I told him, ‘Man, the best thing that happened to you was being able to get traded to San Diego because that organization is an organization that doesn’t have players on long-term deals. And if you put up a good year, you play hard, you can play in the big leagues as soon as possible.’”
Reymond Fuentes scored twice in Puerto Rico’s 8-4 victory over U.S.A in the 2011 World Cup.

Chosen to represent San Diego as a member of the World Team at the 2011 All-Star Futures Game as well as lead off for the Puerto Rican national team in the 2011 World Cup and Pan American Games, six-foot Reymond Fuentes is looked up to by many aspiring Caribbean ballplayers with the same dream. Having built the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in his native Puerto Rico to educate and nurture young athletes, cousin Carlos Beltran in the spirit of legend Roberto Clemente gives back generously to his people–especially when it comes to family. Carlos said, “I’m going to do everything I can to help him out. I work out with him in Puerto Rico, and I invite him to my house, and he’s there way early–so he’s hungry. For being so young, that really impressed me the most–more than his talent. Hopefully he lives up to that, and I can watch him play in the big leagues and maybe play against him one day.”
Puerto Rico’s Reymond Fuentes steals a bag in the 2011 Juegos Panamericanos against Cuba.
Fuentes at the 2011 Futures Game
Part of Team World’s outfield with current MLB players Dayan Viciedo (Chicago White Sox) and Starling Marte (Pittsburgh Pirates) in the 2011 All-Star Futures Game, Reymond Fuentes was one of two prospects selected from the San Diego Padres organization. Named the Friar’s #13 prospect by MLB.com and rated the franchise’s best baserunner by Baseball America following a successful 2011 at Single-A Advanced Lake Elsinore with 41 stolen bases, Fuentes has been the spark plug for the 2012 AA San Antonio Missions.

We caught up with Fuentes recently in San Antonio at Wolff Stadium after the post-game fireworks, which the youthful Reymond kindly requested to watch before conducting the interview.
Roberto: You look good having put on 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason for additional power without compromising your lightning speed. With teammate Dean Anna having a great 2012 season and sometimes leading off, Missions’ manager John Gibbons has switched up the line-up and placed you in different slots. Do you care where you are placed in the line-up?
Fuentes’ speed on the bases and in the outfield led Lake Elsinore to a 2011 Cal League Championship.

Reymond Fuentes: Anything that
can help with the team win–I will just
do it. Just follow orders from my manager and just play the game that I love and know how to do.
Roberto: As the Missions’ team leader for stolen bases on par for 30-plus in 2012, do you enjoy making the opposing pitcher worry about you when you are on the base paths?
Reymond Fuentes: Why not?
I mean I do my role then they have
to do their role.

Roberto: Having an eagle eye vantage point of all the action on the field, do you like playing center field?
Reymond Fuentes: Center field is awesome. My speed and my range help me a lot. It’s fun just to run down balls and get those hits off the other team. And get them angry a little bit…you know what I mean. It’s a lot of fun tracking balls and making those diving catches is the best! So I love center field, and I wouldn’t change it for anything else.

Roberto: After being involved in the trade that allowed Boston to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego, was there any love lost when you had to say goodbye to Fenway?
Reymond Fuentes: You know it
was really tough not to see my old teammates from Boston, but I mean being traded for Adrian is a huge step for me. I mean Adrian is an All-Star. He’s a great player. I think it’s a real honor to get traded for him and just join this team, play the game with the same attitude and effort in Boston here.

Roberto: Please tell me about your deep family connections to Major League Baseball.
Reymond Fuentes: Carlos Beltran is my mom’s cousin. We work out in the offseason everyday–hitting, fielding, throwing, catching. He’s a great guy. He taught me a lot on the field and off the field. He’s taught me a lot of stuff about life so I have to thank him. My dad used to play too. He’s been there since I was four years old. He was the first one who gave a bat to me and saw me swing. So I have to thank my dad for staying with me all this time and help me get where I am right now.


Roberto: How influential was the legendary Roberto Clemente growing up in Puerto Rico?
Reymond Fuentes: Roberto Clemente, God rest his soul, was a terrific, all-time I don’t even know how to describe…he was a great player! A lot of little kids including me looked up to him because the way he played ball, the love he had for the game. It was unexplainable. I love to read his articles because I didn’t get to see him play. But everything I read about him is awesome, and he’s the best of Puerto Rico right now. I used to wear (Clemente’s) number 21 when I was a little kid. Then I couldn’t use it because of some rules in Puerto Rico when they retired his number. So I just decided to go with (number) 15 that Carlos used to wear. So I’m staying right there and just keeping everything within family, you know.

Roberto: With reggaeton blowing up in Puerto Rico, I was surprised that you have a different genre represented in your walk-up song.
Reymond Fuentes: Reggaeton is big in Puerto Rico, but right now I have a salsa—that’s old school music in Puerto Rico. I got this walk-up song from my dad. It’s my dad’s favorite song, and I’m using it right now. I think I’m going back to reggaeton because I mean it makes me move walking up to the plate and just makes me happy.
Roberto: It be long before you make your MLB debut for the SD Padres.
Reymond Fuentes: Thank you. That would be awesome. I’m looking forward to that every single day.

Roberto: Would you like to be called up to MLB next month when the roster expands to 40?
Reymond Fuentes: I would love that. I mean that’s my dream ever since I was a little kid.
I just can’t do anything else, but play my best ball here and just wait for that call.
Roberto: Are you looking forward to facing cousin Carlos Beltran and the St. Louis Cardinals?
Reymond Fuentes: You know what? If I face Carlos, I just want to rob two hits out of him with diving catches in center field. I would just call him the next day and say ‘Hey, you can’t hit it over there.’
Roberto: Thanks for taking time out for us today. Let’s chat again at PETCO in San Diego.
Reymond Fuentes: Absolutely, I mean. It’s a great pleasure to speak with MLBforLife.com and I’ll do it anytime when I can.

Ex-Jays skipper John Gibbons reflects on MLB while managing future stars in Texas League

Ex-Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons now enjoys coaching in San Antonio.
Ex-Blue Jays manager John Gibbons or “Gibby”,
as he is affectionately known as by his players and coaches, lives up to the Urban Dictionary’s slang definition of “being an incredibly awesome person”. The 50-year-old former big league catcher was a first-round selection by the New York Mets in 1980 from MacArthur High School in San Antonio, Texas. Born in Great Falls, Montana and the son of a military veteran who was stationed at Brooks Air Force Base for 13 years, Gibby moved to San Antonio as a third grader and never looked back. As a youth baseball standout noticed by local fans and scouts alike, Gibbons and his father would attend Missions games at V.J. Keefe Stadium to watch Dodger minor leaguers Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Scioscia and Steve Sax. Currently home to the Double-A affiliate for the San Diego Padres and also MiLB’s Minor League Team of the Year in 2011 after winning 94 regular-season games and ultimatelycapturing the Texas League title–the San Antonio Missions now play at Wolff Stadium under first-year manager John Gibbons, who enjoys knowing his middle school son is nearby. Having spent the last three seasons as the Kansas City Royals’ bench coach, Gibbons has interviewed for recent managerial vacancies with the Mariners, Mets and Pirates but in the end remained close to home as the Missions’ skipper. For the one-time MLB manager, a well-traveled baseball mind for more than three decades, the move represented a decision as much about self as sacrifice goes since the San Antonio native and dedicated father need not give up quality family time.

Pitcher Brian Tallet warms up while John Gibbons looks on during during 2008 Jays Spring Training.
Gibby assumed patriarch duties for possibly the best pitching rotations in Toronto history with Roy Halladay,
A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch, while juggling a starting line-up which included the likes of Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Scott Rolen, Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay and Shannon Stewart. The native Texan led Toronto for four-and-a-half seasons and is credited for putting together the third-highest win total in team history (behind Cito Gaston and Bobby Cox) compiling a 305-305 career record–including an 87-75 campaign in 2006 and a second-place finish in the AL East.

John Gibbons calls out for a lefty
in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen.
Gibbons spent seven seasons with the Blue Jays, serving as their bullpen catcher (2002), first-base coach (2002-04), interim manager (2004) and manager (2005-08). Gibby began his coaching career in 1991 as a roving minor league instructor for the New York Mets and spent a total of 12 seasons in the Mets organization (1991-2001) as an instructor, coach and manager. In his first managerial role in 1995, he guided the Kingsport Mets to the Appalachian League Championship with a 48-18 record and as a result was named 1995 Appalachian League Manager of the Year. Having led his teams to the playoffs four times and winning two championships in 1995 and 1996 with the Florida State League’s St. Lucie Mets, the accolades mounted during his seven-year managerial tenure in the Mets system. He was named the Eastern League Manager of the Year and the winner of the Casey Stengel Award as the Mets’ Minor League Manager of the Year in 1998 with Double-A Binghamton.
Despite being labeled as a controversial manager and sometimes being misunderstood for his zany antics with players and umpires in Toronto, native Texan and new San Antonio Missions Manager John Gibbons coaches with a deep passion and respect for the game of competitive baseball.

Recently named one of the 15 most controversial managers in MLB history, San Diego Padres Vice President of Player Development and International Operations Randy Smith believes hiring Gibbons as the San Antonio Missions Manager was “a no-brainer.” Smith said, “Everyone we talked to gave nothing put positive reviews,”–including positive feedback from one of the players Gibbons scuffled with while in Toronto. Smith declined to provide a name, but said the player “was very complimentary” of Gibbons. Smith commented, “A little fire and passion is not a bad thing. We think we got the right man for the job. It doesn’t hurt that he’s from San Antonio, either. That’s a real plus for the organization, to get someone with his experience. I think that we’re real fortunate to get John to lead that staff.”

John Gibbons takes his experience as a MLB player and manager to the Padres AA San Antonio Missions.

San Diego Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes echoed the sentiment calling Gibbons “a great addition to our organization.” Byrnes said, “You get someone with his resume…it’s a shot in the arm for us. His knowledge, calmness and competitiveness have all proven to be standout qualities. We are lucky to have him.” If anyone could vouch for Gibbons’ temperament, it would have to be his long-time friend J.P. Ricciardi, who roomed with him when both were prospects in the New York Mets system during the early 80’s. After throwing in the towel of his professional baseball playing days, Ricciardi transitioned to the front office.

Mets’ J.P. Ricciardi and Billy Beane
Working as A’s General Manager Billy Beane’s special assistant when Oakland began to implement the “Moneyball” system of using statistical data to unearth hidden gems, Ricciardi was able to parlay his A’s Director of Player Personnel position under Beane into becoming the 2001 Toronto Blue Jays General Manager. He handed over the reigns of the Jays’ managerial job off to John Gibbons midseason in 2004 after Carlos Tosca was fired. Having built quite the reputation as a bulldog manager for his heated confrontations with players and umpires alike, the veteran MLB player and coach has received a bad rap for his aggressive passion for the game. Ricciardi adamantly denied suggestions that Gibbons has rage issues. “Is he a hot-head? No, not at all,” he said. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth.” Currently serving as special assistant to New York Mets General Manager (and former A’s boss pre-Billy Beane) Sandy Alderson–J.P. Ricciardi remains Gibby’s close friend.

Gibbons recently sat down and answered some questions prior to the All-Star break, at which time his San Antonio Missions were struggling and ended the first-half in the cellar of the Texas League South Standings. Since then, the Missions have regained last year’s championship form and are currently second in the division in the second-half.
Roberto: How are you doing as the new manager for the San Antonio Missions?
John Gibbons: Doing good. you know. We haven’t been playing particularly well, but everyday is a new day, and I always enjoy this group of kinds I have here. When you get a chance to come to the ballpark, make a living doing it, things aren’t all bad.
Roberto: As a catcher, you were the New York Mets first-round selection of the June 1980 First-Year Player Draft after playing at San Antonio’s MacArthur High School and earning All-City and All-District honors. You played in 18 major league games between 1984-86 for the Mets and hit .220 (11-for-50) with four doubles, one home run, two RBI and five runs scored. Having Major League Baseball experience, do you believe that your minor league team benefits from your perspective both as manager and former player?
John Gibbons: Well, what it does is you can relate to what these guys are going through.
I got drafted high, it wasn’t an easy career, it didn’t last forever. You know, I got there but I spent many years down in the minor leagues so I have been through everything these guys are going to go through. I always told myself that when I got into coaching to not forget how tough it was. It’s easy for me to relate to these guys. That 1980 year that I was drafted, the Mets had three first round drafts that year. Darryl Strawberry was number one, Billy Beane, the G.M. for the A’s was 23, and I was 24. So one went on to be a good player, the other went on to be a G.M. and the other one is a coach. So you never know where you are going to end up.Roberto: Playing home in Toronto as the manager of the Blue Jays, you were fortunate enough to stand twice as long in other ballparks for the playing of both national anthems.
John Gibbons: Every night you would hear two. I enjoyed that, but it got to be a little bit long to be honest with you. You know, I loved my time in Toronto. Good people, it’s a lot like an American city, big city. They treated me very well, a majority of them… Some of the them thought, “Here’s a dumb Texan.” At the time, George Bush was in office. Up there a lot of them just liked him, so they tied the two of them together—it seemed like. But it was a lot of fun. I got a chance to manage in the major leagues, and it lasted for almost four years. It’s a thrill I will never forget.
Roberto: Did you and your players have to undergo intensive questioning crossing borders?
John Gibbons: One thing about it, if you’re involved in Major League Baseball, they know pretty much everything about you–just to get there. Even though you hear stories, people say that customs might be a nightmare. But it wasn’t that bad. We’d go through our own little building. They’d get us through customs pretty quick, and we’d just hop on our plane. So you know it could be a hassle sometimes. So I think one or two times we had to ever go through the major terminal like everyone else. And I remember it happened when we had to play the Baltimore Orioles, and maybe it was because we were flying so close to DC might have been the reason. But other than that, Toronto is a beautiful city and they really treated their people good.
Roberto: With young MLB players like Ryan Dempster, Joey Votto and Brett Lawrie along with hot prospects James Paxton and Ryan Kellogg hailing from north of the border, are Canadians making an impact on baseball?
John Gibbons: Oh yeah, one thing about those Canadian players that get into baseball—they are really good players! You look at guys like Larry Walker, Justin Morneau, you know what I mean….guys that make it..Jeff Francis, back years ago with Colorado. They’re pretty dog gone good, you know. It’s definitely a proud country. They’re hockey crazed up there… There’s no doubt about it, but they love their Blue Jays. They’re the only team left. They got one team representing the whole country. They’ve been starved for a winner for a while. They’re waiting for another one to come back.Roberto: How have you adapted your managerial style moving from the American to the National League?
John Gibbons: It’s a totally different game. I got so used to it in the American League over there (in Toronto). You know, in the American League with the DH all you’re really worried about is handling the pitching staff. The game, the offense is what it is, you know. In the National League, a lot of things change, and the pitchers need to hit. It’s a different style of game. In the National League the game kind of dictates and forces you to make moves too…depending on the score, whether you have to get this guy out or pinch hit for him or what have you. So it’s definitely a different breed of baseball. I was fortunate enough to be in the American League East, which arguably and probably was the strongest division in baseball with some powerhouses, Yankees and Red Sox. So I have seen some pretty good line-ups.
I know one thing about this business, you know, pitching and defense win but you also have to be able to slug a little bit too. So it makes good fun.
Roberto: As a young baseball player, did you ever imagine managing in MLB?
John Gibbons: No, one thing I thought regardless of how my career was going to turn out I wanted to get into coaching some day–whether it be at the high school level, professional level. But at the beginning I never thought that I would set my sights on a major league managing job. Then I got a chance to go back to my original organization, the Mets, as a coach and was in their minor-leagues for a few years as a catching instructor. Then I got a chance to manage and really enjoyed it. Had some success with it and one thing led to another. An old roommate, teammate of mine, J.P. Ricciardi ended up getting the general manager job up there in Toronto, you know. He brought me on board. I was a roving coach there for a few years and then he made a few changes and he gave me a shot at managing. So it’s funny how things work out sometimes even things you don’t expect.Roberto: During the first-half of the Missions’ season many of your best prospects have been called up because of excellent play and the San Diego Padres’ MLB-leading disabled list. Do you think this may have cost your team the first-half?
John Gibbons: You know, that’s the name of the game: to get these guys to the Big Leagues. Winning’s one thing, but also a lot of these guys are so young that we can’t lose sight of developing. The ultimate goal is to harness their skills so when they get to the big leagues they’re good all-around solid players. So we got to keep that in perspective.
A number of guys have moved up from this ball club this year, and by that happening it has taken it toll on the team here. But the bottom line is our goal of getting these guys out of here up to the next level and eventually on to the big league team.
Roberto: Your reputation of shuffling line-ups in Toronto has followed you in San Antonio. Why have you switched around your leadoff hitters throughout the season?
John Gibbons: Originally we started out the season with Jaff Decker as the leadoff guy because the big league team up in San Diego wanted to see him in that role because they pictured him maybe in the near future fitting that role. So we started that. He was little bit banged up, and he was struggling a little bit so we jumped Reymond Fuentes up there. He did a pretty solid job there, Ideally that’s what type of player he needs to become and eventually we think he will become. But with Dino (Dean) Anna now…Dino, he’s having a heck of year. He’s like second in the league in on-base percentage. He’s hitting over .300, and he’s really one of the tougher outs in the league. So we bumped him up there in that role to set the table for us. By doing that we just move Rey down to the nine spot, and it’s kind of like we have two leadoff hitters. He’s just further away down there at the bottom, but they both can fill that role for us very nicely. Right now Anna is playing so well, and he’s one of the better players in the league so he earns that spot.

Texas League All-Star Nate Freiman leads the San Antonio Missions with 23 home runs in 2012.
Roberto: Your six-foot-seven first baseman Nate Freiman is a power-hitting giant en route to a 30-plus home run season. What does the future hold for this young promising prospect?
John Gibbons: I tell you what…this kid he keeps getting better and better and he’s got some kind of power. You know he’s the gentle giant (laughter), if you really want to term him correctly. Nate’s a special guy, and he’s having a tremendous year coming off a big year in (Single) A ball for us last year. It’s kind of refreshing, the kind of the individual he really is. He’s very respectful to individuals, the game. He’s always one of the guys who always does the right thing, you know. I hate to think where we would be right now without him. You know, we see him…he’s just going to get better, better and better. When you got that kind of ability with the bat, there’s no telling how far he’s going to go.
Roberto: Recent Texas League All-Star and Home Run Derby Winner Nate Freiman is an octopus defensively who can handle just about anything hit or thrown in the infield. Have you any idea how many errors he has prevented while playing first base?
John Gibbons: You know, it’s funny…as big as he is and that wingspan he’s got. We tell these infielders all the time: “Don’t bounce the ball over there. Hell, throw it as high as you want…he’s going to catch it. You’re getting your errors by bouncing them,” (laughter) which isn’t very smart—right? No, he really has done a tremendous job for us, you know. One thing about Nate, he shows up to work. He shows up to play everyday, and he’s definitely one of our leaders.
Roberto: Any words of advice for those interested in career as a player or coach in MLB?
John Gibbons: Well one thing you know to get on top of this business you have got to work hard. You have got to outwork the other guy. You got to hope for a break, There’s no doubt about it. It’s a tough road so you have got to be dedicated, and you have got to be willing to put in some years. You know, if you want it bad enough, go for it! As far as the coaching end of it, just do what an organization expects. Always try to do the right thing.
Be fair to your guys. The bottom line is we get the most out of these guys and then if you’re at the right place at the right time you might get a shot to manage in the major leagues. You never know…
San Antonio Missions GM Dave Gasaway introduces John Gibbons as new manager.