Joe Torre on Managing Team USA: “The Players are Pumped for this. That to Me is What Makes Everything Worthwhile.”

February 20, 2013 – 8:30 am by Steven Cuce

Joe Torre is back and putting his manager’s uniform on to lead Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. The former Yankees manager is tasked with the daunting challenge of getting Team USA to take this competition very seriously.

The U.S. has not won, or even made it to the championship game, in the first two editions of the worldwide competition. Torre believes new pitching coach Greg Maddux will make a big difference for the team this time around.

Joe Torre joined KTAR in Phoenix with Doug and Wolf to discuss the difficulties in managing Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, his credibility as a manager who’s dealt with the World Baseball Classic, the reason why he accepted the managing position for Team USA and the team embracing the event.

How tough is it being the manager of Team USA for the World Baseball Classic? How difficult is it to recruit players and get the teams to agree?

“Well you mentioned I was with the Yankees when we started the World Baseball Classic back in 2006 and I remember it’s such a helpless feeling when you are losing your players in spring training. You are not sure what they are doing. You are hoping they are getting their work in and again in 2009 that was the issue. I tell you that’s the one thing that when they asked me to consider doing this that I wanted to make sure I do, and that’s just reassure the managers and general managers that we would take care of their players and return them in better shape than we got them. When I say in better shape I mean more at-bats as far as the players and they’ll have their innings taken care of as far as the pitchers and that’s the most important thing. My two pitching coaches — I have Marcel Lachemann who is going to be doing the bullpen work. He’s had experience in the WBC before, and the newcomer on the block is Greg Maddux. Maddux has really taken this thing and enjoyed the process so far, but every single pitcher … that we have, and by the time it is all said and done we’ll have 15 of them, Greg has talked to their pitching coaches and really got the thoughts of the pitching coaches on what they want to have these guys accomplish.”

How much does your credibility as a previous manager who’s dealt with the World Baseball Classic help right now?

“One thing about experience, you have age on your side. You have the players who respect your experience, and of course it doesn’t hurt that you were involved with a team that enabled you to win four World Series. I tell you all this stuff seems so late in life that it was such a treasure for me, but certainly the respect factor was important to me because I just feel like I like to conduct my life a certain way and felt it’s important for players to go about their business and play the game hard and play it right. And I think just from my experience as a manager, I’ve had players feel comfortable playing for me where they can trust me and I think that’s really important because trust is something that you basically have to earn. I feel good because I’ve talked to every single player … and not only gauging their interests, but gauging their excitement of being part of a team that is going to wear the uniform with USA across its chest.”

Why did you accept the job? Did you miss managing?

“That’s a trick question. People have asked me that before, but in a different way. I’ve said I don’t want to go back to managing. I don’t want to do that. As you know, because you played football and I know you may play once a week, but there’s so much more than that involved. I wouldn’t want to do this seven months a year. The fact that I am going to get these guys hopefully for three weeks — that would mean we would have gone to San Francisco and been a part of the final round. I’ve said it’s sort of like getting your grandchildren and telling them how good they are and all the things they can do and then give them back to their folks in a few weeks. You put your arm around them and tell them that you love them and then just hope for the best. It’s something that, with managing, there’s so much more involved with managing than just being involved with what you do. Media has just become such a huge part of all athletics and over a seven-month period it takes its toll, but it’s certainly exciting playing under a different concept for your country and having that kind of responsibility is going to be exciting for us.”

Do Team USA players embrace the World Baseball Classic or not enough?

“I think they have. Of course the first time, in 2006, I don’t think anybody knew what to expect, and I managed the Yankees where people put on their Sunday best and tried to beat you all the time, and there are a lot of similarities. I think the other countries want to beat us at their own game … It’s part of reality and there’s pressure involved, but you are right, you’ve witnessed soccer games and how the excitement is different in countries over rooting for their teams. The U.S. fans towards the end of the 2009 World Baseball Classic were really understanding of how important it is to support our team, and the most important thing is that the players are pumped for this. That to me is what makes everything worthwhile.”

Listen to Joe Torre on KTAR in Phoenix here

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