Robinson Congratulates His Protege, Replacement
Thursday, November 16, 2006
When Manny Acta was en route to RFK Stadium on Tuesday morning -- the day he would be introduced as the Washington Nationals' new manager -- the man serving as his chauffer, Rob McDonald, the team's traveling secretary, received a call on his cellphone from Frank Robinson, the man Acta is replacing. McDonald told Robinson that Acta, who served on Robinson's staff in Montreal from 2002 to '04, wanted to talk to him.
"We had a very nice conversation," Robinson said yesterday. "It wasn't awkward at all. I told him absolutely, anytime, anywhere, if he feels like he needs to talk or ask me something, feel free to call."
Acta, now 37, reached the majors when Robinson was assembling his first staff with the Montreal Expos, the Nationals' predecessors, in 2002. Tom McCraw, one of Robinson's closest friends and the Expos' hitting coach, had solid recommendations on Acta, who had spent his entire career in the minor league system of the Houston Astros, where McCraw had served as hitting coach.
"Tommy told me about him, and he sounded really good," Robinson said. "I had resistance from above in trying to hire him, but I fought for him. I've always been willing, ever since I've been in the game, to give first-timers an opportunity at the major league level. I was looking for a third base coach, someone who was a young guy, and I heard about him. I said: 'Why not? I don't think I could get anybody better anyplace else.' "
In the three years Acta served on Robinson's staff in Montreal, Robinson said he became impressed with Acta as a "very solid baseball man." The two never really talked about running a pitching staff or the mechanics of hitting, Robinson said, but the Hall of Famer said Acta did his job well.
"He really knows the game," Robinson said. "He's an excellent infield instructor, is good at all the positions. He's very patient, and he's a hard worker."
When Robinson managed the last game of his career on Oct. 1 -- at RFK Stadium against the New York Mets, for whom Acta served as the third base coach -- Robinson spoke with him after the game and said, "You will get your chance this winter."
Little did Robinson know that Acta's chance would be replacing him.
"It didn't surprise me, because his name had been out there, and he'd had interviews in other years," Robinson said. "I thought he was close to getting a job, and I'm happy for him."
The Nationals and Bonneville International Corp. formally announced a one-year deal to continue broadcasting the team's games on Washington Post Radio-WTWP, which can be heard at 1500 AM and 107.7 FM, for the 2007 season.
The broadcast team from the 2006 season, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler, will return, according to Joel Oxley, senior vice president of Bonneville Radio, D.C. The station plans longer pregame and postgame shows, as well as more analysis.
Seeking a Veteran Staff
Acta's first day on the job included flying to Naples, Fla., with General Manager Jim Bowden for the remainder of the general managers meetings, which conclude today. The most pressing task: hiring a coaching staff. Bowden said Tuesday the club would make sure Acta, the youngest manager in the majors, had a veteran bench coach. Potential candidates include Pat Corrales, who served in that capacity with the Atlanta Braves, and Cookie Rojas, a former major league scout and manager who has served as a broadcaster in recent years. The team also needs first and third base coaches, a bullpen coach and a hitting coach. . . .
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will hold his first charity golf tournament Friday in his home town of Virginia Beach to benefit multiple sclerosis research.