Q and A with new Astros manager Bo Porter
The Astros on Thursday named Washington Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter as their 17th manager. Porter, 40, will remain with the Nationals until the playoffs are over and will then be charged with taking over an Astros team that will be coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons.
Porter held a question-and-answer session with the Houston media:
Q: Can you talk about what it means to get the job?
A: “I’m completely honored. It starts with Jim Crane at the top. He’s put together a great leadership team and am I just honored to be a part of that leadership team. When you look at the success in the organization, you have continuity from the top all the way down to the bottom. They did a thorough search and did a great job of doing their due diligence and going through the process, and I’m just honored that I’m the one they decided and were all in agreement I was the man for the job.”
Q: What excites you most about being a part of this team?
A: “What excites me the most is it’s a young group, but at the same time it’s a very talented group. Jeff Luhnow and his staff from the day in which he took over the organization, he has done a great job of surrounding himself with quality people off the field as well as on the field. The talent pool is very good and now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing you here in Houston?
A: “I think the biggest challenge would be basically getting everybody on board with the direction and the vision the leadership group has put together. Jim Crane has made it very clear his goal is to build an organization that will have sustained excellence, and in order to do that you have to build from within your organization and start with the core players. It’s getting everyone on the same wave length, and I think we are all in agreement that message has already started to be delivered and we will continue to deliver that message throughout the whole organization.”
Q: There’s only 30 of these jobs. When did it hit you that you’ve got one of them now, or has it hit you?
A: “It actually hit me yesterday [Wednesday]. I talked to my wife [Stacie] after I finished meeting with Jim, George [Postolos] and Jeff and this is very special for her because my wife is from Houston, she grew up on the southwest side of Houston, she’s a Westbury High School graduate. So it’s a little bit, I guess you could say, more of a chill down her spine. I get to come home, we get to be at home, and at the same time she understands the dynamics of baseball and all that comes with the job because she’s been on this journey with me the entire time. To hear her respond and the joy in her voice really hit home of just how exciting this time is.”
Q: What have you learned from the Nationals experience that translates to what you will be having to do with the Astros?
A: “I think the biggest thing is you look around the diamond at the team we put out there every night and you look at Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detweiler, Bryce Harper, you have Drew Storen in the bullpen and Craig Stammen – you look at that and you say to yourself, ‘All those guys are homegrown.’ If you are able to grow your own talent and they get to the big leagues and they become core players, they’re level of commitment to the overall excellence of the organization runs a little bit deeper than players that may come from the outside or they come here from different avenues into your organization. That’s the goal and the commitment of the organization from the top down, that’s one of the things that driven me to this job. When I sat around and talked with the leadership group, our vision and our plan was dead on. We were on the same page.”
Q: What then will constitute success for you? Ia it wins, losses, or is it a measure of improvement within the organization?
A: “I think the biggest thing is when you start talking about the number of games you’re going to win and you’re going to lose, I tend to focus more on the process, and if you take care of the process, the desired results, you’ll get it much more often. When I speak to the team and we’re talking about… Everybody wants to win a game, so at the end of the day if you take care of the process you will [get there]. From the standpoint from the offseason program, leading into spring Training, all of our conversations from the team, from the players, is let’s worry about the things we can control. And we can control the process.”
Q: What have you learned from other managers with whom you worked, or if you could go back to Hayden Fry at Iowa [former football coach]?
A: “I’ve been blessed to be around some tremendous leaders. You speak about Hayden Fry. He is one of the people that had a huge impact on my life. Early on, I was 17 years old and coming out of high school, and had the fortune of playing baseball and football at the University of Iowa. Coach Fry, when it comes to attention to detail, he takes it to the Nth degree. That is something that I learned at the University of Iowa and has stayed with me throughout my playing days and definitely through my coaching days. Our job as a coach or as a leader is basically put our players in a position to be successful, to help them play to their potential. In order to do that you have to be prepared and you have to be able to give them the information that arms them to play at a fast speed and to have an opportunity to be success. The time I’ve spent with all the managers I’ve been around, from Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson… Riggleman runs a great ballgame, and I had the fortune to spend some time with him as a player. He was my manager in Chicago and got some time to spend with him as the third base coach in Washington when he was the manager. Davey Johnson has done a great job here and the way he communicates with players, it’s something that they could be linked to, the players feeling a connection you have to have to a player that allows a player to play at a high level. I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of good people. It would be a long list if I sat here and had to name everyone, but I’m one of those people that try to learn from every situation, good or bad, so I would say from the good ones I learned a lot of what to do, and if I found myself in a situation where it was something I didn’t think I would do, you learn from that situation as well.”
Q: How weird is thing going to be for you having this job and still working for the Nationals and trying to win a World Series with them?
A: “One of the great things about this whole process is that everybody was going forward with the overall objective here. We’re trying to be as courteous as possible and ask as any many questions and speak to as many people as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to lose sight of a major goal of this organization that I’m currently working with, the Washington Nationals. We set out in Spring Training and that goal we feel is attainable. We have a chance and out of respect to what our team is doing here, I am going to take as many questions as I can today, but after today when I get to the ballpark, my immediate focus goes back to the job at hand, and that is to do everything I can to be the last team standing to win a World Series championship.”
Q: Some people say you bring a football mentality to baseball? Do you agree with that, and what does that mean?
A: “Well, I think people that know my style, I guess intensity is a word that we use. I’m a passionate person. I’m passionate about going about my work in the right way, and I think that would be a reflection of our ballclub. When you want to do so something and you want to do it well, you need to do it with enthusiasm. And that’s something I’ve always believed in. I think enthusiasm is contagious. I think when you have those kinds of players on your ballclub, a player that may not project the same level of enthusiasm as the next person, that’s something as a team when you see an effort that your fellow teammates are putting out, it kind of makes you go to another level. When they look at me, I want them to see that energy, that intensity , that passion. It gives them a sense of this is how the game is supposed to be played and this is how we’re going to play it.”
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge in the move to the American League?
A: “I think the biggest thing is whenever you change leagues, just like for a player, there is a get-to-know-you phase where you’re trying to get to know the league and the league is trying to get to know you, but at the end of the day it’s baseball. Just like when you have Interleague games. The only thing that changes is when an American League team goes to a National League ballpark is that the pitcher has to hit. So my experience in baseball, being in the National League, I got to coach for many years, playing in the American League as a player, it’s baseball and you have to play the game regardless of whether you’re in the National League or the American League.”