- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Coaching power varies from team to team in the major leagues. On some clubs, for example, the pitching coach may be the top lieutenant. In the Nationals’ case, however, bench coach Pat Corrales wields the most power on the staff after manager Manny Acta.

Acta is a rookie manager, so the Nats wanted an experienced baseball man on the bench. Enter the 65-year-old Corrales. Ken Wright caught up with Corrales and talked with the lifelong baseball man.

Q: You had a pretty good situation with the Atlanta Braves, 17 years on Bobby Cox’s staff. Why are you here in Washington?

A: It was my option. I left, and it’s a personal thing. It had nothing to do with [GM] John Schuerholz. It had nothing to do with Bobby Cox. I just decided to leave. I discussed it with my wife, and I left.

Q: Did the Nationals offer you a job?

A: No. I didn’t have a job. When I told Bobby in July of last year - I was going to tell him in June, but we only won four games in June and the timing wasn’t good. I did tell him in July. I told Mr. Schuerholz in August. Both men, I spent 17 years working with. I really enjoyed it.

Q: Do you know Nationals president Stan Kasten from your days with the Braves?

A: He was the president being in charge of the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Braves. Yes.

Q: How’s your relationship with Stan? Are you guys tight friends?

A: I don’t know about tight. I know Stan and have a lot of respect for the man. He’ll do a good job. He’ll do a great job for the Nationals.

Q: What is your role? I know you’re the bench coach, but what are your specific responsibilities?

A: Mechanically, on the field, I work with the catchers. You see me out there and I’m limping a little bit. I have a bum knee, and I’m working with the catchers and see if we can improve on the people we have.

I know Brian Schneider is a fine receiver and, to me, one of the better throwers in the National League. The cast - [Robert] Fick, [Jesus] Flores, [Juan] Brito and [Brandon] Harper - they’re fine, young talent. We had three out today, and we’ll have three out tomorrow. So, we try and work everybody and see if we can get a little improvement out of everybody.

Q: What did you do to your knee? Is it from your playing days or is it recent?

A: It’s just something that happened, an operation a couple of years ago that didn’t go right. It’s been done three times so …

Q: You were catcher as a player. Just how physically demanding is playing that position? Is it tough on your knees?

A: It’s tough, but I think the new gadgets that those catchers wear today, the guards behind their calves, I think that’s a great help. It really takes the strain off the knee. The equipment is better than when we played.

I enjoyed when I played even though I didn’t get to play much. When you play behind a Hall of Famer like Johnny Bench, you’re not going to play much. You have to be realistic and look in the mirror and say, “Hey, the man is better than me. If I was on a different ballclub, I might have played more, but I wasn’t. At the time, there was no free agency, no arbitration, so I spent a lot of years behind him.

Q: How long are you going to stay in baseball?

A: Not too much longer, just see if I can help young kids right now. I would really like to see this team turn around, I really would. I saw the Atlanta Braves do it, and I would really enjoy seeing them do it here.

Q: How old are you now?

A: Sixty-five.

Q: Then, you should have enough time to see it, right?

A: Oh, yeah. I can see it and there’s some fine talent here, young players. I think it’s going to happen. When? I don’t know.

Q: Do you miss managing? You were a big-league manager for nine seasons with Texas, Philadelphia and Cleveland.

A: To be truthful, no. I really don’t. It’s a stressful job. I enjoyed what I was doing with the Braves. I think I’m going to enjoy working with Manny. He’s a fine, young manager and going to be a good one. I’m going to enjoy what I’m doing.

Q: What’s the toughest part of managing? Are you the ultimate

fall guy for everything that goes wrong?

A: I don’t look at it that way. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and let the cards fall where they may. You have certain responsibilities and you have to live up to them.

Q: Is winning and losing the bottom line?

A: That’s it. It’s never a player. If the players win, they did it. If the club loses, it’s the manager and the coaches that pay for it. But, that’s the way the game is and that’s the way it’s designed. I’m not going to be the one that changes it.

Q: What was your biggest managerial highlight?

A: Probably the first game I managed in the big leagues. It was really a thrilling moment. That was in Seattle in 1978. The last day of the season and I was named manager and that was quite thrilling. Moments in baseball? Probably 1990 when we finished last and 1991 we won the National League and went to the World Series. That was against the Minnesota Twins, and they beat us in the seventh game of the World Series.

Q: Do you think this path that the team is taking is the right one? In other markets, teams will spend to get what they need, and the Nationals are building each level of their minor league and scouting systems to be a consistent winner.

A: There’s a couple ways that they do this. If you want to look around, look at the Minnesota Twins, look at the Oakland A’s. Their budgets have gone up a little bit, but they’re relatively small-market teams. And it can be done.

Yes, I think they’re going in the right direction. They’re looking at the farm system. They’re trying to fill gaps by bringing in players, free agents and five-year free agents, and that’s a start until their young players are ready. Definitely, they’re going in the

right direction.

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