Interview conducted by Adam Dodge – Angelswin.com Senior Writer
November 20th, 2008
Angels third base coach Dino Ebel took time out of his busy off-season to answer questions exclusively for the Angelswin.com online community.
Angelswin.com: During the regular season we hear so often from (Manager) Mike Scioscia, after a tough loss, things like “we need to turn the page.” You can’t really do that after a post-season loss. How long does a loss in the post-season stick with you into the off-season? Or is it something you get away from pretty quickly?
Dino Ebel: He’s right. In the regular season you turn the page and look forward to the next day. It was tough losing to Boston especially there late in the game. For me personally, it stuck with me for a while. When the second round finished and the World Series began I started watching the games and getting over it. What he says about turning the page I absolutely agree with. It was just a little bit tougher for myself and I know for the team they had to be thinking the same way. It had to stick a little longer than just a normal regular season game where you can turn the page and look forward to the next day because we didn’t have a next day. The season was over.
Angelswin.com: Would you accredit that to the fact that it was Boston again? Or, maybe because of the high expectations for this particular Angels club, which won 100 games for the first time in franchise history?
Dino Ebel: I think that with the season we had and the accomplishments this team went through – the hundred wins, Frankie’s 62 saves, we were expecting to compete in the playoffs. It wasn’t a matter for me who we were playing, whether it was Boston, or Tampa, or the White Sox. Not getting out of the first round was a little disappointing because we felt we had the team to go deeper into the playoffs.
Angelswin.com: And I’m sure there was a lot of confidence in the team going into game four after the tough win in game three.
Dino Ebel: Definitely. The guys were fired up in the clubhouse afterwards…winning the first game in Boston in extra innings. We felt good going into it and it just didn’t happen for us.
Angelswin.com: We typically know what’s going on with managers in the off-season and certainly with the front office. What’s an off-season like for a third base coach baseball-wise?
Dino Ebel: Like any other winter for me from when I managed in the minor leagues and coached in the minor leagues. You take time off mentally and physically. A month has already gone by for me and I’m already biting at the bit and starting to get anxious because the general managers meetings…there’s always something going on in the winter time. There’s trades. There are free agents. I like that kind of stuff.
I like to look back at our scouting reports. I keep track of all the outfielders and where they played against us. What their arms were like. So, I kind of just do a little bit of homework here and there. I’m a baseball man. I look forward to reading the paper and looking at the internet. Then, after the New Year, I start to get mentally and physically prepared to go into spring training.
Angelswin.com: Speaking of spring training, what’s a typical spring training day like for you? What do you do during camp to prepare for the regular season?
Dino Ebel: Well I get there very early in the morning. The staff gets there very early. The bench coach does the scheduling. I help Ron (Roenicke) with the scheduling early in the morning.
Then we get out on the field, and do some defense, some base running, or some fundamentals. Sometimes I’ll be with Ron on the big field to do some things with our players. Sometimes I’ll go with Alfredo Griffin. Sometimes I’ll go down to the minor league field.
So, a typical day for me – I’m there about six in the morning to help with scheduling. Then we hit the field. If there’s a game at 1:00pm, we’ll have a meeting before. Then Mike (Scioscia) will meet with the staff after games.
Angelswin.com: Moving into the regular season and speaking about preparation, as a third base coach do you prepare on a game by game basis or a series by series basis? If, for example, you’re facing a team outside the AL West, is there a bit more that goes into preparing since you don’t see that opponent as often?
Dino Ebel: Series by series. It doesn’t matter for us whether we’re playing in the AL West or a National League team in interleague, the staff meets about 2:30 in the afternoon with every player offensively. At the beginning of a series we go over strengths or scouting reports. For myself, I watch a lot of tape…try to see if they (opponent) play shallow or deep…if they have minus arms or plus arms.
Angelswin.com: Let’s say you’re playing the Royals who have Jose Guillen, who has a strong arm out in right field. Do you get a little pumped for those games? Are you looking to challenge him? How do you treat those situations?
Dino Ebel: If I got a Jose Guillen, Ichiro Suzuki or BJ Upton…guy’s we know have plus arms…depending on the situation of the game – what inning we’re in we’ll be a little more aggressive. For me it’s how hard the ball is hit, whether an outfielder has to go left or right, whether he catches the ball in the air, or is flat-footed. Those are the things I pick up. That’s why when you see me I’m really down the line a lot.
Dino Ebel: It gives me more time to see the play develop. He (the outfielder) might get a bad hop. The ball might snake on him. He might pick it up flat-footed and depending on who our runner is and if it’s early in the game and we have a two or three run lead I might be more aggressive. If it’s the eighth inning and we’re down a run…it depends on who the runner is. If they have below or average speed… and for me, how they receive the ball, especially an Ichiro. If he’s coming in I might play it a little safe.
Angelswin.com: It has been pretty noticeable that you have gotten a lot more comfortable coaching third base in the Angels’ system in the time you’ve been here – from the first April you were here until now. You had been a manager in the minor leagues prior to joining the big club. How long had it been since you had coached third base? It seems like a position that requires a lot of experience and reps in order to grow into.
Dino Ebel: Absolutely. In the eight and half years I managed in the minor leagues I coached third base. So coming into it I had eight and half years under my belt. Now here, I have three more and you’re right it’s just getting out there…the experience…being in the playoffs in back to back seasons…been doing it now for eleven and a half years straight.
Angelswin.com: Was there ever a point when you were managing in the minor leagues, and hadn’t gotten the call to coach with the big club that you thought about putting baseball behind you and maybe look to do something else?
Dino Ebel: Never one day did I think to take the uniform off and do something else. I absolutely love putting on the uniform and just knew in my heart that if I worked hard and kept battling every day and developing players in the minor leagues – I knew that someday I’d get the opportunity to get to the big leagues. I was fortunate enough in 2005 that Joe Maddon left and Mike called me up in 2006. If I never would have gotten the call I think still today I’d be in the minor leagues and say “hey, work hard and one day I might get the call.”
Angelswin.com: Is managing in the Major Leagues the ultimate aspiration for you?
Dino Ebel: Absolutely. That is the goal that I set a long time ago. I’ve always felt as though my first goal was to get to the big leagues as a third base coach. Second, I would like to be a bench coach someday and the ultimate goal is to manage in the major leagues.
Angelswin.com: And do you feel like the Angels present that situation for you? We’ve seen Bud Black and Joe Maddon leave to become successful managers in their own right. You seem to be in a system that is producing managers right now. I’m sure Roenicke is next on the list.
Dino Ebel: Absolutely. I’m sure one day Ron’s going to get his shot and I’m blessed to be in the Angel organization and be with a baseball man like Mike Scioscia. I’ve been around Buddy Black and Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke, Hatcher and Alfredo Griffin. No doubt, I feel like the opportunity is there someday for me.
Angelswin.com: I’d like to talk a little bit about signs. One of your duties as a third base coach is to relay the signs from the bench to the hitters at the plate. We know that other teams, trying to get any advantage that they can, will try to steal your signs. How often do you change signs during a game?
Dino Ebel: I’ve got maybe four different sets of signs for five different players. So if someone is really trying to watch me, it is going to be very difficult because I’ve got certain signs for Figgy, certain signs for Aybar…certain signs for other players. If I feel like something isn’t right…maybe they pitched out or maybe something didn’t work out right I might change those signs. But, like I said I’ve got lots of sets of signs for different players so they’re pretty complicated.
Angelswin.com: And on the other side of the coin, as the third base coach, between innings, when you’re on the bench, are you one of the guys trying to pick off signs from the opponent?
Dino Ebel: Yeah, yeah. I’ve always done that. I watch other third base coaches. If it’s something that helps your ball club…I know there are teams that watch me, and I watch them.
Angelswin.com: Do you look at video to critique yourself and make sure you’re not giving anything away? Do you try to find patterns with opposing third base coaches?
Dino Ebel: No. I’ve never watched video on coaches or myself. It happens so fast and things change.
Angelswin.com: You’re definitely one of the quicker guys at getting them out there.
Dino Ebel: I spend a lot of time – almost every day in spring training and in the regular season going over signs. Just being in the outfield, I’ll go up to Erick Aybar and give him signs and he’ll give them back to me. That’s one of things I take pride in. With a manager like Mike Scoiscia…I get the signs and give them to the player. One of my goals is to never put the blame on the player for a missed sign.
Angelswin.com: Is there a guy on the roster, who in the time you’ve been here has not missed one sign?
Dino Ebel: The guys know the signs. We spend so much time on them. That’s one of the things Mike Scioscia emphasizes. In spring training he’ll have me stand up in the clubhouse just trying to trick guys. You know, because it’s important for our ball club. If we got a hit and run and a guy gets thrown out and we lose by a run I feel like that’s my fault.
Angelswin.com: I assume if that happens there is some sort of fine in kangaroo court…are you saying that you pay the fine if that happens?
Dino Ebel: (Laughs)…Mike calls those guys into the office and, um, I don’t know what goes on there.
Angelswin.com: How would you compare the feeling you had as a player to the feeling you have as a coach in the big moments of games? Is it similar?
Dino Ebel: Yeah. Being on the bases, you’re in the game. You’re making decisions. You’re scoring guys. You see my style…if there’s going to be a play at third base I’m on the ground. I feel like I’m in that game. When I managed in the minor leagues from the bench, you’re watching the game from the dugout. I feel like for me, there’s definitely a different feeling when you’re out at third base. It feels like you’re part of this game. You’re part of this action. The heart’s beating. There are goose bumps. The crowd’s on their feet. Because you’re out there. You’re on the grass. When you send a guy and there’s a play at the plate and he’s safe, the crowd goes crazy. You feel like a player again.
Angelswin.com: Is there a team out there that plays an aggressive style that the staff watches and really respects?
Dino Ebel: One team comes to mind. It’s the Minnesota Twins. They’ve got some guys on that team that can run. Just looking through those sorts of stats around the league you see us and the Tampa Bay Rays but no one ever mentions the Minnesota Twins. They really do a good job of putting pressure on our outfielders. You see them…when the ball’s hit their secondary leads are like ours. You know they’ve got one thing on their mind and that’s to make it to third base. They don’t get the recognition that the Angels get.
Angelswin.com: Is there another third base coach in the league that you really admire and pay attention to?
Dino Ebel: I watch them all. I watch their styles. If they do things I like I’ll watch them and try to do it. I think most importantly for a third base coach is positioning yourself so that that player knows where you’re going to be at all times. So if a ball is hit to the gap or down the line he can look to a spot and know you’re going to be there.
I know I really admired Joe Amalfitano when I was with the Dodgers. Jimmy Williams is another guy. Coming up in the minor leagues I always took pride watching those two guys coach third base. Joe Amalfitano especially, coming up with the Dodgers. Every spring training, he’d spend 30-40 minutes with the minor league coaches and managers just going over how to coach third base.
Angelswin.com: As a third base coach you really get a bird’s eye view of the left side of the infield of your opponents. Who’s the best defensive third baseman is the best in your opinion? Is it Adrian Beltre? Scott Rolen, perhaps?
Dino Ebel: For me it’s Adrian Beltre. All the major league third basemen do a tremendous job, but for me Adrian Beltre is probably the best. This guy is really in the game. You notice every time I do signs with a runner on third base this guy is on the bag trying to listen to what I’m telling our players. If we’re going contact…if we’re going squeeze…or whatever play it might be, he’s in your ear. A lot of third basemen will just hang out a couple feet from the base. They might give you a look and try to pick up your signs. But if you watch Adrian Beltre over there just doing the job day in and day out…what a great set of hands and a gold glove to go with a cannon arm. Here’s a guy that takes tremendous pride in trying to be the best third baseman he can be.
Angelswin.com: Who’s the third baseman that’s maybe the best guy, who will chat it up with you…that you look forward to playing that team just for the entertainment value?
Dino Ebel: For me, every one of them are great. They’ll all say “hi.” But, for me this year was Evan Longoria. For whatever reason he and I just started talking. It was pretty cool. As a rookie he came up and in the games we played he came over and said a little more to me than just “hi, Dino.” He asked questions that were pretty cool about the game and about the players around the league. He and I have a good relationship.
Angelswin.com: Talk a little bit about the grind of the season.
Dino Ebel: It’s a grind. East Coast to West Coast for us…it takes a day to get back in a groove. You lose those three hours. As for family, you always miss your family. This is my 22nd year in the game. My wife does a great job with the kids at home. I call home 3-4 times per day and talk to them. Getting into a city early – at four or five in the morning, then playing that night. It’s kind of tough. After that, your body gets adjusted.
Angelswin.com: Do the kids watch dad on the TV every night?
Dino Ebel: Yeah. My daughter does. She’s sixteen. And I’ve got two little ones. A fifteen month and a six week-old. My wife and daughter don’t miss a game whether we’re at home or on the road.
Angelswin.com: Okay, last question for you. When you got the sign for the squeeze in game four vs. Boston, what was going through your mind? Did your heart rate jump up? Were you excited about it? Was it something where you thought “are you kidding me? Right now?”
Dino Ebel: Not at all. I thought one hundred percent when Mike put it on…that’s one thing when I’m at third base – I don’t think as a manager. My job is getting the signs from Mike. My job is to make sure those players get the sign. After I put the sign on I thought “absolutely. Aybar’s gonna get a good pitch here and put it down. You know, he missed it. But, not for one second did I think it would turn out the way it did. And you know for me I’m just thinking “I hope Aybar gets the sign.” And, I knew he would.
Angelswin.com: And, was Willits safe at third? Because, I saw the rule and I’m paraphrasing here, but it states that a defensive player must voluntarily release the ball after applying a tag, which Varitek definitely did not do.
Dino Ebel: That’s why I thought for a second…I don’t know how he explained it to Mike because when Mike got out there I backed off. Welke was the third base umpire that night and he had just started to tell me that Varitek had the ball long enough when Mike got out there and I backed off.
Angelswin.com: Dino, thank you very much for your time and we’ll see you in Tempe.
Dino Ebel: Thank you.
This concludes our interview with third base coach, Dino Ebel.