Monday, July 13, 2009

Catching Up With Carlos Tosca, Part II

Carlos Tosca, currently a bench coach with the Florida Marlins, epitomizes the American dream. A native of Cuba, Tosca graduated from Brandon High and played baseball for both Florida College and the University of South Florida. He served as a pitching coach at King High in Tampa before starting a career that would include over 900 wins as a minor league manager and two-plus seasons as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Valrico resident recently sat down to reflect on his career and unlikely rise through the ranks of his profession. The following is the second of a two-part interview with Tosca.

Q. In 2002, you're coaching third base for the Toronto Blue Jays when their manager, Buck Martinez, is fired. You then became just the seventh major league manager ever without professional playing experience. Did you ever think you'd see that day?

A. This country is known for people being able to fulfill their dreams. I was okay as a player, but not good enough to play in the big leagues. I was always interested though in managers, NFL head coaches, and that was my dream: to be a major league manager.

Q. Did all the years in the minors prepare you for the pressure of managing in the majors?

A. I think that I was prepared to do that. I'd managed at every level in the minor leagues. I had been a coach on a major league team for a very good manager. I felt that I was prepared for the position. I wasn't going to be surprised by any situation that came up in a game.

Q. How about what goes on behind the scenes?

A. Your job as a major league manager is also to manager the player’s personalities, the front office personalities, and in the media. I had someone describe it to me once this way. There used to be a guy on The Ed Sullivan Show that would put plates on a stick and spin them. You've kind of got to keep those plates spinning. When one starts to get wobbly, you've got to go back and spin the other one. That's the best way to describe it.
The difference between a major league player and a minor league player is that they don't readily open up to you like a minor league kid does. The minor league kid is homesick, struggling, and right away they're looking for answers. Major leaguers are a little more guarded. You have to make a connection and gain their trust. You're dealing with the best players in the game, and you're dealing with some egos, too.

Q. Did you have any allies in the clubhouse that made things easier for you?

A. Carlos Delgado. I called each individual player in after I took over and had meetings with them. Carlos really took the bull by the horns and would kind of keep me abreast on things. He was the biggest star we had on the team and he was very helpful.

Q. You finished third in the American League East in 2003, but struggled mightily the next season.

A. Well, in my first full year we really swung the bats. There were hardly any games that we felt we were out of. We hit home runs, we hit doubles, we played pretty good defense. The next year, we just got hit with a rash of injuries. I guess in about a month and a half time we lost Frank Catalanotto, Vernon Wells, Delgado, Greg Myers, so those were our 3-4-5 hitters, and then Roy Halladay. They had made some acquisitions to try and shore up the bullpen and those guys didn't pan out. We didn't hit, came out of the gate slow, then the injuries, and we had real issues in our bullpen, and so, that's how it goes. You get paid to win games.

Q. What is your relationship like in your current role as bench coach for Marlin's manager Fredi Gonzalez?

A. Fredi and I have a unique relationship because I was Fredi's first manager when he played in rookie ball. Then he was with me for two more years in Class-A ball. So we've known each other for a long time, and had worked together in the minors for a few years. I’ll prepare and put together advance reports and stats, and have them available for him during the course of the game. He's a very easy-going guy and can run a game as good as anyone I've ever been around. The technical stuff during the game, he doesn't need any help from me. I know from sitting in that chair that you need someone to bounce things off of. Certain issues may come up, and I feel that with my experience and my relationship with him that I am able to help him in those ways.

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