Fredi Gonzalez is one of three new Oriole coaches for 2020. His title is Major League Coach. Gonzalez is the only one of manager Brandon Hyde’s coaches who has major league managerial experience. He managed the Marlins from 2007-2010 and succeeded Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox as Atlanta Braves skipper from 2011-2016. He rejoined the Marlins in 2017 as a coach and spent the last three seasons there.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Question: How did the job with the Orioles come about?
Answer: “I know Brandon and I know [catching coordinator Tim Cossins] from my first go-round in Miami when I was managing; they were both in the minor leagues. When you work with people, young people, and you see the qualities and what these guys have, and you go, ‘Wow, these guys are going to be special,’ and sure enough, all three of us went different directions. We kept in touch.
“Last year, Brandon didn’t have that bench coach or that senior guy on the bench. I think he wanted that for this season, and so I was available, and we started talking early on in the offseason, probably the second week in October. I know I went down to speak with [general manager] Mike Elias and [assistant general manager/analytics Sig Mejdal] Halloween weekend. It took a while. They offered me a contract the first couple of days of December. I jumped on the opportunity.”
Q: When you first knew Brandon, what stood out about him?
A: I saw a guy that’s got passion for the game. He’s energetic. He knows how to communicate with the players. He’s willing to try new things. In talking with him here in the last few months, I see a guy who still has all those qualities. Now, I see a young man who’s been around arguably one of the best managers in baseball right now in Joe Maddon, so he’s got that influence. I see a guy that’s matured and gotten better. At the very beginning, I saw a guy who was detail-oriented, organized, knew how to communicate, unbelievable energy … still has all those qualities to this day.
Q: You learned from one of the great managers in Bobby Cox. Do you carry with you lessons you learned from Bobby that you’re going to try to pass on to Brandon?
A: “Absolutely. We spoke about that when we had our coaches’ retreat in Sarasota at the end of January … He asked me about Bobby, what I learned and tried to bring to this day. I said, ‘Brandon, if you were a baseball fan, and you were on Mars for the last three months, and they dropped you into Bobby Cox’s clubhouse or his office, you wouldn’t know if we had lost seven in a row or won seven in a row.’
“He was the model of consistency, the model of confidence. He would tell me, ‘This game is hard enough for the players to play. They don’t need a manager that’s going to be up and down.’ You don’t know which way [some] are going to be. When he wins, he’s good. When he loses, he’s bad.
“You don’t need that coming from his office … Every manager in the big leagues goes through those ups and downs. It’s hard to do. Going into it, you say you want to do it, but applying it, it’s a little bit harder. Bobby was the best at that and Brandon agreed. ‘That was Joe Maddon. You didn’t know if we’d lost 10 in a row or won 10 in a row or got walked off for the fourth day in a row.’… Almost a rock, and the players are looking for a rock, the players are looking for confidence that’s going to be there.”
Q: What are your duties going to be?
A: “My title is going to be Major League Coach, and I’m excited for it. In talking with Cossins, in talking with Brandon and talking with some of the other coaches that I’ve had some experience with like [batting coach] Donnie Long and [bullpen coach] Darren Holmes, I think I’m going to be doing a lot of different things.
“A sounding board for Brandon, of course. I’m going to be with Cossins with the catching. I’m going to be running a little bit of the running game or helping Brandon doing those things, so I’m going to be, not only helping those guys run a major league game and [Brandon] be a successful major league manager, I’m going to be helping myself, really, because I’m going to be involved with the analytics. I’m going to be involved in a lot of different parts that I haven’t been involved with.
“In these last couple of years, you’re coaching a position. I was the outfield/baserunning guy in Miami for a year, and then just the outfield coach, and that is fun, but if you haven’t done that for a long time, it takes a lot of work. If you’re the [manager[, you’re just kind of running everything, but you don’t teach anything. If you’re like me, you’re not looking over people’s shoulders when you hire them and you let them do their job, you kind of lose that, so I’m looking forward to dabbling into the pitching, the game-planning for the pitching, looking forward to what Donnie Long has set up for the hitting. I’m looking forward to what [Cossins] is doing with the catching.
“I’m looking forward to [helping] Brandon with game-planning, and also I’m looking forward to jumping in feet-first with Sig with the analytics. This guy brings a great reputation, and I’m looking forward to jumping in there and learn from him.”
Q: You’ve never been in the American League. How is it learning both a new team and a new league?
A: “Ever since interleague, you get to manage some American League games. The National League East was no powder-puff league by any means. The American League East, you get beat up there pretty good. There’s not [an easy] out anywhere in those lineups. The pitchers are not hitting. Going into playing Toronto, going into playing Tampa, going into playing the Yankees, playing Boston. There’s no breaks.
“The biggest thing for me is going to be the DH. I think the National League game is more fun to manage and watch because I think there’s a little bit more strategy with the pitcher being involved there. We may lose that in another three or four years, anyway.
“I am going to sit back and watch and learn … learn the league and the learn the players, learn our players. I’ve gotten reports. I’ve gotten into our analytical site, and I’ve kind of dabbled through the numbers. I’m looking forward to seeing what those numbers tell me and what my eyes tell me about our players.
“I’m really looking forward to spending a little time with Trey Mancini. I was going to the airport, and he was on the radio, MLB Radio. He was there for an hour, and he was unbelievable, the stuff that was coming out of his mouth, and the passion for the game. I’m like, ‘I can’t wait to spend the summer with this young man.’ This guy is a special person.”
Q: You’ve said that you wanted to make Opening Day a national holiday. Have you made any progress on that issue?
A: [Laughs] “Right now, we have enough problems in our government. I haven’t run that one through yet, but believe me before this is all said and done, you and I should [show our support for] that holiday up to the Capitol.”
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