Coney Island - Justin Pope is just months removed from being a hitting coach for the Double-A Trenton Thunder. And a bench coach. And a stand-in manager.
He might have worn a few hats in his wild 2011 debut on the Thunder coaching staff, but 2012 marks his first full season as the manager of his own team. The Staten Island Yankees of the New York Penn League are under his watch and he spoke before the season opener against the Brooklyn Cyclones at MCU Park, home of the Cyclones.
On opening day jitters: A little nervousness, a little anxious. I think more anxious than anything. To see if I'm ready and what it's going to be like once the game starts. Extended is over. It counts now, you know? The decisions I make have to be right. Are they all going to be right? I don't know. But I'm just anxious to get going.
On (very) young roster: I'm going to try and help them slow the game down. When you're young you have a tendency to try and speed everything up. They think faster is better, but that's not necessarily the case. A lot of times you take a step and see going slower is better. When you're going faster, that's when mistakes start happening. So at a young age, you're just trying to minimize the mistakes. Learning how to be consistent every night. And teaching the guys how to come to the ballpark everyday and have a plan of what to do and what to work at.
On his own youth: I'd like to think [it helps me relate to them better]. It's not too long ago I was playing. So I try to remind myself that it's a hard game and so when these kids mess up, they might mess up something easy, but I've got to remind myself that these are nineteen-year old kids. The game is going 100 miles per hour for them. And instead of jumping on them and being impatient, have patience and show that. Because mistakes are going to happen. They've just got to learn from them.
On what he learned from Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin: Let the guys play. As a manager don't try to make the outcome of the game, because those guys on the field are going to decide the game. Just try to make the right decisions and let them play.
On what kind of temparement he might have: [laughs] I hope I'm pretty even keel. Take the good with the bad...I don't know, you know, when I first started coaching, [being around] guys like Tony Dungy are what I want to be like. I don't want to be yelling and screaming and throwing curse words out there. For me, when you start doing that you lose the team. There's a certain way to talk to them. If something does happen that I am mad, hopefully I can talk to them the next day when I'm calm.
On the responsibility the Yankees have given him: Oh my gosh, there's so much for me to learn. So much. Everyday it's something new coming up. Managing in extended was good because something happened everyday that I didn't know could happen. It opens your eyes and prepares you for the season and for the future. These guys are going through a process and I'm going through a process as well.
Look for a full story on the SI Yankees and Cyclones for Gotham Baseball later this week. Coverage of both teams will run all season here & for Gotham.