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Rays Digest: Shortly after that (being manager of the Mobile Bay Bears in 2010) you were promoted to the Director of Player Development (with the Diamondbacks), but then you resigned a few weeks later. What was your reasoning for that?
Rico Brogna: Well there are definitely some aspects of that that I’m going to keep personal. It was my decision. If there was anyone to blame during that time period about decision making, it would have been me. Like I said there are some things there that I am going to keep personal and private. I think I was ready for it. It wasn’t that. I was very much in tune with everything that needed to be done with the job. But without getting into stuff that I’d rather not get into, I’ll just say that it was me more than anything or anybody.
Rays Digest: Were there any players that you worked with on the Mobile Bay Bears or as a scout that were part of that Division winning team last year? Can you tell me a little about any of those guys?
Rico Brogna: Yeah there were some players that were back on that team. When I was on that team we made the Playoffs, but we lost in the first round. They won it this past year. There were some players that were on both of those team's that were really great players and really great guys.
One was Jarrod Parker, who was recently traded to Oakland. There were quite a few. I think the organization did a great job with some drafts in recent years. I was fortunate enough to work with some of those top prospects when they were coming through. A guy like Jarrod Parker has a very high ceiling obviously. He’s a terrific pitcher. He had Tommy John surgery, but he’s bounced back. He would be a guy that stands out, especially as a former first round pick.
Rays Digest: You said you were still getting acquainted with the Rays’ system. Have you had a chance in the past to scout any current Rays’ players? If you have, is there anybody currently in the system that kind of stands out in your mind?
Rico Brogna: I didn’t have the Rays when I was scouting, but we did play Montgomery the year I managed in Mobile. They had (Alex) Torres pitching. (Alex) Cobb was there. Both a couple of outstanding pitchers. We had to face good pitching when we faced Montgomery. Mobile had a terrific team when I was there, but we really struggled when we had to face Torres and Cobb.
The first baseman from Cuba too – Leslie Anderson – the second half of that season he was really a middle-of-the-order bat at that time for that level. He was very mature and could really do some damage. They had some good pitchers and some good prospects.
Rays Digest: I know you have been on medication for Ankylosing spondylitis since early in your playing career. How has the medication been working for you recently? Does the disease affect your ability to work at all or is it still being managed well through medication?
Rico Brogna: It’s being managed through medication. I’ve changed medicines quite a few times since I’ve been diagnosed. I seem to be doing very well with the current medicine that I’m on and it does help me tremendously.
But there are some limitations for sure – physically – that are challenging. The best way to say it is “challenging”, because I still try to do things sometimes thinking I can recover. Whether it be going for a jog, long walks, or doing physical activities, that stuff can be really tough on my body. There are day-to-day challenges. There is occasionally some physical pain that I have to endure. It’s just part of my daily grind with having AS. But then there are days when I just feel a lot better. It’s really inconsistent. The medicine really does help a lot. Without the medication it would be completely crippling. So the medicine is definitely a blessing.
Scouting is something that fits very well with having Ankylosing spondylitis. It is something that allows me to do some exercise, but I don’t have to go overboard where it sets my body back physically. So scouting is a good fit.
Rays Digest: Going back to your playing days. I don’t know if you’ll be able to answer this question or not. You were on the medication throughout most of your career - and you had a nice one - you were a career .269 hitter. You had some really nice years in the mid-to-late nineties with the Mets and the Phillies. Did you ever think that your disease – even though it was being managed with medication – prohibited you from becoming the complete ballplayer that you wanted to be? Or do you still think you reached your full potential as a ballplayer?
Rico Brogna: It’s a great question - and I don’t mean to waffle - but there is a part of me that thinks that because I had the disease I was able to learn how to really work and prepare physically, because I had to do it longer and harder than I ever had to do it before, and that that really helped my performance.
Then there is a part of me that knows that I went out there some nights for games – more than some, quite often actually – and was competing out there knowing that I was definitely prohibited from doing things that I knew or thought I could do better. So it’s kind of both.
Because I had to learn how to really work, strengthen my body, get flexibility, do treatments and that allowed me to get to another level, because I learned to increase my work ethic a million times more than what it had been. But I also know that there were many at bats when I was standing in the box and really only had one leg to operate on or one shoulder, or one hip. And I was facing big league pitching, and trying to have range defensively when I knew I couldn’t move to the right – or left – or whatever the case may have been – and I was definitely behind the eight ball some nights.
But it really helped me learn how to focus, get tough, play through pain, and really get the most out of what I had that night. I really didn’t know until I woke up the next day. There was some years when I played like 155 games and I look back after those seasons and it was a blessing because I really don’t know how I was able to make it. I’m a Christian and I believe that I was blessed. There was really no reason in the world that I should have been out there for that many games. I can’t believe that it actually happened looking back on it.
Rays Digest: That leads me to my next question. What were some of your fondest memories from your Major League Baseball career? You had some really good years with the Mets and Phillies. You were kind of legend in New York after your rookie season. What are some of your fondest memories from that time?
Rico Brogna: There is a lot. I cherished every day. My big league career – every day – I didn’t take any of it for granted. I’m very thankful for every minute of it. There are some moments that really stood out.
Honestly there is nothing quite like the first day you get called up to the big leagues. I was called up in 1992 with the Tigers and I got the start that night, August 8th 1992 I believe it was. Your first big league game, your first big league at bat, that’s just an amazing moment. There’s nothing quite like that. That’s the only time that it can ever happen to you – your first – so that was very special.
There were a couple of moments individually throughout my career that I look back on. My one real regret is that I was never able to get a ring and be part of a World Championship team. I’m wired to be team-first. There were a lot of individual moments that I’m really proud of – that were really exciting – but a lot of the moments were team moments.
Hitting – it’s kind of ironic because it was against the Rays – a Grand Slam to win the game and being a Red Sox fan and growing up in New England, that was an amazing moment. The Rays had intentionally walked two players to get to me to load the bases. It was an amazing moment. That definitely gets your blood flowing when they walk two guys to get to you, so there was some personal satisfaction in that.
Rays Digest: When you were a player obviously the internet wasn’t as big and you didn’t have a Twitter account and all that. I was just curious what your opinions are on social media and the way that players are able to market themselves and interact with the fans through Twitter and FaceBook. There are a few Rays’ players I follow on Twitter that are really good at interacting with fans and it was obviously a lot different when you were playing, so I was just curious what your opnions are on social media.
Rico Brogna: Like a lot of things it can be used for a lot of good and postive things and there can also be some things that can turn out not so good. I think it’s up to how people choose to use it. It’s a great way – as you mentioned – for players or people in the game to interact with the fans. It’s very important to be in tune and in touch with the fans of the game. Especially for players I think it is a good medium and bridge to be able to interact with the fans when it is done with respect and in the right way.
It opens some doors to be intruded upon. The people using it have to be smart. So it can be used for some great things absolutely. It’s really a choice. I don’t think it’s bad. I think it is smart to accept and embrace where technology has taken us within the game, and there is no doubt that it can be used for a lot of good things.
That being said – being a scout now with the Rays – there are a lot of privacy factors. I had a Twitter account when I was coaching football to really connect with the school, and the fans and alumni and it was terrific. But now with scouting I have closed it down, because – and that was my choice, the Rays didn’t tell me to do it or anything like that - I know and appreciate how scouting works. Scouting is different. That’s private information. Most everything in our job we have to keep private and in between the scout and the club. We can talk about players or situations in general of course, but that to me really isn’t the realm for that. It’s not at all for scouts to be involved with really.
So for players it’s great. Managers too. Joe Maddon has a great Twitter account. I’ve seen his tweets and they’re super and spectacular. Again like anything else it can be used for a lot of good. There are pros and cons. But I do think it is something that should be embraced. If used properly it can be a tremendous tool. For fans, players, the game in general, it can all be good.
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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