Q: There's a lot of fun made of the minor leagues, right?
A: There's a lot of fun intended I guess.
Q: Is it justified?
A: Sure it's justified. Everybody -- when they look at a baseball player they think dollars and cents, the-million-dollar-a-year player. They think of the big leagues, the plane rides. But the most memorable situations and occasions (for me) were in the minor leagues, because there's so little that goes wrong in the major leagues, as far as your travel, eating in great restaurants.
People don't realize how you travel in the minor leagues. Twenty- five players had to get out and push our bus three miles up Interstate 85 outside Charlotte, N.C., to get it off the interstate because the engine block cracked down. I mean, you see 25 guys out pushing a bus, it's pretty ridiculous. I remember more times in my minor league career which ended 11 years ago, than I do from the major leagues which ended two years ago.
Q: What's the worst town you ever played in?
A: Probably have to be Monroe, N.C. It wasn't the worst, but it was the most memorable. Monroe had one of the smallest, roughest ballparks I've ever seen. That season our bus driver quit. Our manager had to drive the bus, and it was a matter of whether we won or lost as to what kind of ride we had home. If we lost, boy it was a nasty ride home because we took bad roads and he was taking the corners.
One time he hit a truck, knocked the mirror off the side of the bus and another time the brakes went out of the bus and he demolished a car that was sitting at this red light. Same bus that the engine block broke. Many things went wrong that year. The ball club still stuck it out. We all stuck together. They're rotten times, but they're the most memorable.
Q: Are the baseball stands full of a lot of a small-minded, pinch-minded people?
A: Oh yes. Definitely. So's the major leagues, only these people (in the majors) are dressed up in suits. That's the only difference.
Q: What kinds of things happen?
A: You get people hollering at you, obscenities, throwing paper, sodas, beer, whatever, on you. Trying to start a fight. Baseball has a tendency to bring the childness and the braveness out of everyone in the stands. They act very immature but they drink that beer. While there's a fence between you and them and a league rule that says you will get suspended indefinitely for climbing over that fence, they're very brave.
Q: Does that mean you climbed over the fence in your career?
A: I'd rather not talk about it. It happened in Memphis. Memphis, Tenn. I was still with Pittsburgh. I just got sent down from the major leagues. There was three young gentlemen maybe 19, 20 years old, sitting there and I went out the right field, started the game. They started getting all over me. That's fine, I can handle that. I can handle, "Hey, what about the three errors you made," and this and that. All the sudden, one of them said something about, "Your mother."
Well, if there's anything that ticks me off, it's someone to mention something about my mother. When he said it, he was on his way out of the seat to go down to the refreshment stand. But he didn't know that our clubhouse was underneath that refreshment stand and there was a gate right outside our dugout. He came out around that corner and when he did I took a right hook and decked him and then commenced to walk back in the dugout.
The next day he came up and apologized. But if anyone ever says anything about my mother, I get very offended. If you want to get on me, fine. But never mention my mother.
Q: After every opposing manager in the league reads this remark, they're going to start bringing up your mother across the -- .
A: There will be a few incidents that I won't be proud of this year if that happens. Definitely.
Q: So it's Ed Don't-Say-Anything- About-My-Mother Ott.
A: Right. Definitely.
Q: Can you have a bad temper and be a good manager?
A: It's definitely to your advantage to have a bad temper because you earn the respect of your ballplayers by sticking up for them. If I never argue or lose my temper toward an umpire or a fan throwing something at one of my ballplayers -- if I show that I don't respect or love my players to that point -- that would hurt me as a manager in the eyes of players. Once you lose that you can never get it back, no matter what you do. Now I have to control it. As sure as I'm sitting here, I'm going to get kicked out.
Q: It's also said that you like to give a free rein to your ballplayers off the field. Apparently this particular ballclub has a reputation of being a fun-loving group of guys.
A: Right. Last year in Prince William there were a few incidents where over the winter I had to go into restaurant owners and convince them that this year's team was not last year's team. Please let our players come back in.
Q: Do the players have groupies?
A: There are groupies in every minor-league and major-league ballpark you play in. You warn (the players) to stay away from them because they're more a pain in the butt than they're worth.
Q: Have you known managers to have groupies?
A: Yes, there always seemed to be someone waiting in the ballpark for a manager or a coach. It doesn't even have to be a specific person that she is waiting for. She'll just wait to wait, and she's just bound to pick up somebody. When I come out of the ballpark I want to get the hell away from it. I don't want to stand there and talk when I can go back and watch TV and rest and then go out and eat. Besides, most of them on a 10 scale are probably one.
Q: Well what do you do when youre on the road and you get lonely?
A: You're never alone in the minor leagues. Everybody sticks together. The major leagues you kind of go your separate ways. But in the minor-league systems, four or five always go to a restaurant together. They're always together because they don't have the luxury or the finances to go ahead and spread out throughout any town.
As far as me being lonely on the road, I'm not, because I have my TV and my soap operas.
Q: Do those players know in their heart of hearts that only a few of them are going to make it (to the majors)?
A: They have to realize it but you cannot dwell on it. It's like a bad situation. You know it's there but if you dwell on it, it even gets worse. If you start looking over your back right out of the chute, your horse is going to lose ground.
Q: When you stand out on the third base line opening day, brand new uniforms, flag rippling in the breeze, the Star Spangled Banner comes over a scratchy record, what's going through your mind?
A: I'm gonna have goose bumps for sure and my stomach's gonna turn just like it's turned on every opening day and just about every National Anthem I've ever heard. That adrenalin starts flowing -- uncontrollable to the point where you get super nervous. Even when I played I had butterflies so I can just imagine what it's gonna be now that I'm the manager. Before I just performed. Now I've gotta call the shots for them to perform.
Q: Are there any perks at all that a minor league manager has?
A: Perks? I don't think so.
Q: How much does a minor league manager make?
A: Anywhere between $15,000 and $25,000.
Q: At $600, $800-a-month (for players) it's likely you're gonna stop at a fast food place for lunch.
A: All the time. A lot of McDonald's. A player has to take the initiative on his own to make sure that he does get the right food supplements, vitamins, whatever have you. He has to go out to a drug store and buy his vitamin E, B, C, D, whatever. We don't give out any of that. This is exactly what they mean by the minor leagues.
Q: Now, what's a grown man like yourself doing subjecting yourself to this kind of abuse?
A: I love it. This is my 16th professional year in it. I signed right out of high school. I was born and raised 12 miles outside of Williamsport, Pa., where the Little League World Series is held -- baseball territory. My father was an avid baseball fan. I'll stay in baseball for as long as I can because it's my whole life. I figure in the last 15 years the knowledge I've consumed over that time I can pass on to help develop players to the point where someday they will be major-league prospects. That's what I want to do.
Q: A manager's success is usually based on the won-and-lost record. (Yet) you're likely to wave good-bye to your best players during a season, right?
A: Right. Through the eyes of a fan, a manager is picked by the win- loss record, but that's not true through organizational eyes. What they look for is how well you're developing your ball players. Take John Doe. He hit .200 one year and made 45 errors. I take him into my ball club and I work on his hitting and I work with his glove, his defense and all of a sudden, he hits .280 and commits 12 errors. This goes on my record. Not that we lost the ballgames that John Doe made those 12 errors in. I've helped this player become a major league prospect. That's what the Pittsburgh Pirates organization is looking for from me.
Q: Let's say you've got a crucial series coming up. You're tied for first place. A couple hours before game time the parent organization, the Pirates, come up and they say they want to bring up Aurelio to Pittsburgh. Do you say, "We need him for the series"?
A: You can't say that. Never. I would never deny a kid on a ballclub the move upward. If they call and want to try to send a kid up, I'll fight for him. I would love to hear that phone call 20 times this year.
Q: When you sit up in the middle of the night and imagine your worst situation as a manager, what is it?
A: I had one incident this spring where one of our ballplayers got hit in the face with a baseball the first inning and we took him to the hospital. In the next inning his wife walked in and I had the solo honors to go up and tell her that her husband just went to the hospital with a broken cheek. I don't get paid enough to go tell a wife that her husband got hit in the face and went to the hospital.
It's even more difficult when I have to go in and tell a ballplayer that he's been released. That he's no longer the property of Pittsburgh or anyone else. I know the feelings that went through my mind when I was a player and someone got called into the office for their release. I was feeling for them. So for me to all of a sudden drop that guillotine on one of my ballplayers is going to be very difficult.
Q: Do you think that time will ever come for you again?
A: That I will be in the guillotine? Oh yeah. All managers are expendable. It's just a matter of time until it catches up to me somewhere along the line. It may still happen because sometimes different players you just cannot relate to. Like they always say, it's easier to replace one than it is 25. So the manager's always the one that's the first one to go.
Q: Why should a baseball fan of Washington come out to see the Prince William Pirates play?
A: When I was growing up in a town of 2,800 people, they were with me every day of the season, coming up through the minor leagues and into the major leagues. It was the biggest thrill for basically over half of those people as well as Ed Ott's family to see Ed Ott make it to the major leagues.
If you come out you get into the point where you start fighting for these ballplayers. "Damn! I hope he makes it to the major leagues because he's got the talent, he's got the ability, if he can just get his act together." All of a sudden he gets up into the major leagues and two, three, four, five six, years from now and I can say I had the opportunity to watch that guy, to say that he was my favorite ballplayer in Prince William. That's a great feeling. These are the kids that turn in $600, $700, $800 a month. These are the kids that are eatin' those hamburgers just like they are around the corner. These are the kids you can associate with and once they do get successful you have pride in them.
Q: What is it that gets (a player) up in the morning and you out to that park?
A: Their number one thought when they get up in the morning is not, "Geez I've made another $9,000 today and I haven't been to the ballpark yet." You don't think of it that way. Because it's not work. It's not a job to us. It's still a game. It's like going out and shooting a game of pool at a bar with your friends.
You might take it a little bit more serious, where you do know that the money situation is there. But not to the point that that's all you're working for. You're working for the fun of the ballgame. And it's a game. Our birth certificates are the only thing that's grown up on us.