It’s an outburst, sure. He’s upset, sure. But it’s not supposed to be this way.
“I protect my players,” he said in a recent phone interview, “and sometimes I don’t have a plan when things happen.”
Hobson claims a baseball pedigree unique in the ranks of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, where he manages the Chicago Dogs. (Yes, the team is named for hot dogs.) He played college football for Bear Bryant. He had an eight-year career in the majors. He managed the Boston Red Sox for three seasons, from 1992-1994.
He is a ballplayer of the era of Earl Weaver and Don Zimmer, pillars of the game that made getting tossed by an umpire part of the sport rather than bad pool. When Hobson began managing in the 1980s, he says developing that reputation as a rowdy skipper felt like part of the job.
And now, in an era when managers are more suited to sabermetrics than on-field outbursts, Hobson can at times look exotic and wind up a viral sensation. That clip of him rounding the empty bases has more than 479,000 views on Twitter.
And, no, he insists, “None of this is about me. It’s about my team.”
Confrontations happen and are then forgotten, often without the player or manager deeply explaining what their conversation with an umpire was like.
“I’ve never really been asked how to explain how your emotions work,” Hobson said.
So, the game ends, and Hobson shows up at the park the next night with a clean slate and renewed patience.
“I’m going to be at home plate and I’m going to shake your hand no matter what,” he said. “Being a competitor, when my guys cross the white line, I’m like I was when I was a player. I give 110 percent.”
But there will be a close play, or a call he’s certain an umpire got wrong, and, well, Hobson will want to talk about it.
“Most of those are when I’m absolutely sure about that call,” he said. “In my opinion, I didn’t get an intelligent answer about that call, so I’m going to take this base. When I take this base, I think a fan deserves it. I gave it to a little kid and he and his buddies were high-fiving. I got a kick out of that.
“I love this game. I would never do anything to disgrace this game, or the players, or the fans. Bottom line, every player that has ever played for me knows I’m going to fight for them and I’m going to protect them. It’s a spur of the moment thing that happens.”
Independent league baseball exists on the periphery of the professional reaches of the sport. There are only so many MLB-affiliated minor league-clubs, and there are more players chasing a big league future than those can employ. So they play for teams like the Dogs — for poor pay in suboptimal conditions — and hope to get noticed.
It’s Hobson’s job to help them, he said, and missed calls aren’t doing them any favors.
“I feel like in many situations that I’m not only battling [for] the players on my team,” he said, “but I’m battling for players on the other team.”
It’s just that Hobson, the one who leaves his dugout to protest the injustice of it all, is the one who suffers the immediate consequences. Even though, he vows, it’s not about him.
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