"I just follow my instincts"
Published by root 20 November, 2008
In one month at the head of the Leones, Kremblas has proven to be unconventional.
It didn’t take too long for Gregorio Petit see that Frank Kremblas, the new manager of the Leones de Caracas, was capable of doing anything to score a run. With two outs and the bases loaded during the second inning of the second game of the season, against the Caribes in Puerto La Cruz, the shortstop was standing on third base while rookie Adolfo Gonzalez walked toward home plate to bat.
It was at that moment when the third base coach, Matt Quatraro, came to make a suggestion. "He said, Pay attention, because if the pitcher goes into the windup you have a chance to steal home," recalled the baserunner Petit the next day, still stunned by the move.
"On the first pitch, I had the chance to go, but I won’t lie, I was scared," admitted the basestealer. "But then he told me to go. 'I'm going,' I thought, 'if they’re sending me I can’t say no'. I took off and thank God things went well. "
The first steal of home for Caracas since 1993 and it is the most eccentric of the plays that the manager of the first-placed Lions has ordered in the first month of this season, but not the only one.
In this period, the catcher Carlos Maldonado, one of the slowest runners in the league, has stolen two bases, including third, during the last game against the Magallanes Navigators. Matt Laporta, who nobody would confuse with a gazelle, has also stolen bases. And it even has been seen that the Leones have run despite having two runners on base and losing by three.
"Instinct, nothing else," responds Kremblas, 42, when he was asked where he learned to manage like that. "I try to stay with the first thought that comes to mind in a certain moment, because it probably is the most appropriate for that situation. Sometimes it doesn’t work for me, although in most cases, if you listen to your instincts, you're going to do the right thing. "
Certainly, no one can question the methods of a manager whose team won 18 of their first 25 games and is escaping at the top of the standings.
And while Caracas has the best offensive and best pitching in the league, Kremblas has shown good to keep their pitchers moving and keep all their players involved. However, that does not take away the Kremblas "method" that has left more than an open-mouthed viewer…even their own players.
"I was surprised when I saw the sign," explained Maldonado, who weighs 110 kilos (242lbs.), on the steal of the third against Magellanes. "I have never in my life run as much as this year. But I like that style. I believe that Flores was also surprised. "
Jesus Flores’ throw, the catcher at the time and a regular of the Washington Nationals, went over the head of the third baseman and allowed Maldonado to score the Leones second run comfortably in a game that they would eventually win 8-2.
"I sent the steal sign thinking they were going to throw a curve. Les Walrond (left-handed pitcher from Magallanes) was pitching and there were two strikes. So I thought they were going to throw a ball in the dirt, "explained Kremblas.”But they threw a fastball. My instincts told me that a curve was coming, so I decided to send him to see what would happen. "
Ordering these kinds of plays requires fundamental condition. "You can not be afraid to fail," he says sitting on a couch in the basement of the University, where he sat down to talk for almost half an hour Friday afternoon. "You try to surprise them and I believe that Mr. Flores was surprised because they didn’t make a good throw."
Kremblas has emphasized since the first day of the season on the importance of being aggressive on the bases. "The only message," he says of his philosophy, "is that if they are not going to pay attention to the bases, we will steal them.”
And it has always been this way for the fast-thinking American. Brendan Katina, the player of the Aguilas del Zulia who has already hit 10 home runs, played for Kremblas in Nashville, the Milwaukee Brewers AAA club that now Leones manager managed between 2005 and 2008.
"He loves to be aggressive," said Katina. "Shortly after working with him, nothing surprises you. Not your typical conventional manager. "
Do you need more proof? His favorite pastime is playing RockBand, the famous interactive video game in which each player becomes a singer, guitarist and drummer of a band. "I am a big fan of the game," said Kremblas without wavering. There is no doubt: he isn’t just any manager.