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‘The guy’ for Nats
Stan Kasten first met Manny Acta on Oct. 24, when the Washington Nationals president (along with general manager Jim Bowden and assistant GMs Bob Boone and Mike Rizzo) sat down at a District restaurant for a lunch meeting that extended well into the afternoon.
Long before the check arrived, Kasten realized he was talking to his new manager.
“I knew in the first 30 minutes,” Kasten said. “From his presence, the ideas in his head, the way he articulates them … I knew right away this could really be the guy.”
Yesterday afternoon, Acta officially became “the guy,” formally introduced as Nationals manager during a lengthy, articulate and often amusing press conference at the Lerner family’s Washington Square office building.
Acta, who at 37 becomes the majors’ youngest manager, received a two-year contract with a pair of one-year team options that if picked up would keep him in town through 2010.
The way the Nationals and their new manager spoke yesterday underscored how all parties involved expect this team will be a winner by then.
“We have a very good plan in place here,” Acta said. “We’re going to do it the right way. … We are going to stick with it, and we are going to make Washington one of the most important baseball towns in the world like it deserves to be. We are going to bring a winner here sooner [rather] than later.”
The Nationals believe Acta is the man to take them there. After an exhaustive, six-week search for Frank Robinson’s replacement, Kasten and Bowden settled on this bright-eyed, commanding native of the Dominican Republic who spent the last 14 years working his way up the coaching ladder to reach this milestone in his life.
Acta was on Washington’s radar screen from the beginning, but he didn’t really come into focus until the former New York Mets third base coach came to town for his interview after his team was eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
To that point, Bowden and Kasten were considering as many as 10 candidates, some of them well-known names like Lou Piniella, Joe Girardi and Dusty Baker and others lesser-known men like Terry Pendleton, John Russell and Trent Jewett.
But once they spoke with Acta, who spent the entire day meeting with Bowden, Kasten, Rizzo, Boone, former assistant GM Tony Siegle and owners Ted and Mark Lerner, the entire focus of their search changed.
“He just blew us away,” Mark Lerner said.
Acta, who served as Robinson’s third base coach in Montreal from 2002 through 2004, wowed his new bosses with his knowledge of the Nationals’ roster, front office, farm system and ownership structure.
“He came in here probably more prepared than any candidate we had,” Kasten said. “Knowing our roster, knowing the holes we had in our roster, knowing what we might need, knowing the kids in our minor leagues. I really think that we have a manager who is … very, very much on board with our plan and in sync with how we all will build this thing together. That was very important to me.”
Even though Acta’s interview took place three weeks ago, the process still needed more time to play out. Bowden and Kasten met with several other candidates after that, and Acta (who also interviewed with the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers) left for Japan for nearly two weeks to coach a team of major league all-stars.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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