Monday, March 6, 2006
Hands on because he wants to be
Castellini a man in love with his job
BY PAUL DAUGHERTY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
TAMPA - He's pleased. How pleased? "Very pleased," he says.
He is sitting in the first row of seats on the third base side at Legends Field, spring home of the New York Yankees. The Reds are in for a game. He is at the end of the row, in the seat closest to the dugout, in case someone needs to speak to him. He won't bother Jerry Narron or the players. They're good people. He trusts them. That's why they're here.
Bob Castellini won't interfere.
He's here, he's there. He's in the Dominican Republic, checking out the Reds facilities. He's in Sarasota, meeting players. He greets them all by name, not just the stars. He's in Tallahassee, urging the Florida legislature to build the Reds a new spring home, or at least refurbish the existing ballpark.
He is hands on. Hands on? He's arms and legs on. He's neck deep. Reviving a ballclub isn't a job for slackers.
He goes down the list of what has been achieved to now, of whom his club has assembled for the season ahead. Castellini talks with his sleeves rolled up. His mind seems a series of checklists, punctuated by bottomless optimism.
"Wayne is astute, workmanlike and knows talent," Castellini says of general manager Wayne Krivsky.
"Jerry is comfortable in his own skin, now that he's got a full year here," Castellini says of manager Jerry Narron.
"The addition of the Reds icons has been fantastic," Castellini says. He lists the former Reds who are helping in camp this month. "Tom Browning, Mario Soto. Eric Davis, (Davey) Concepcion. Don't let me forget anyone," he says. He doesn't forget anyone.
He is wearing a black and red No. 15 George Foster ballcap and a blue polo shirt with the Reds logo on the breast. His spring training identification card hangs from his neck. STAFF, it says. "Bob Castellini." Not Robert Castellini, Majority Owner, Cincinnati Reds. Not Bob Castellini, Owner. Not BOSS. Certainly not that.
The more you talk to him, the more you see he doesn't like talking about himself. Who he is and what he's done - and what he intends to do with the Reds - he would hope would be reflected in the people he hires to do the work. It's their show. The day-to-day performances belong to them. All he does is wind them up and give them what they need.
That doesn't mean he doesn't know what's going on, or won't hold ultimate sway. That doesn't mean he isn't paying attention. Hardly. This is his baby.
"I have the opportunity to be a catalyst, a catalystic enabler for the Cincinnati Reds," he says. "The Reds have always been my passion. I have a passion to bring the winning back."
Every few minutes, someone appears to shake his hand. Narron appears. Adam Dunn. They know him, if only because Castellini has made knowing him a priority. Players are wowed that the brand-new owner of the club would take the time to know who they are.
"You watch this pitching staff," he says. Here comes another checklist.
"Take a look at (Eric) Milton," he says, referring to the much-maligned starting pitcher from a year ago. "He had a bad knee problem. He couldn't accelerate off the mound. He's in great shape, he'll be better.
"(Aaron) Harang and (Brandon) Claussen were better at the end of last year. There's no reason they shouldn't be better than that this year. Paul Wilson's been working his butt off. What'd he win last year, one game?"
"Yeah. He was one and five," Castellini says.
The enthusiasm is almost physical with him. It's like another arm. He doesn't try to slick you or phony you. He doesn't condescend or avoid. He knows what he knows. He'd like you to know it, too, but not in a way that makes him seem overbearing. He seems truly, deeply in love.
"It's off the charts, the professionalism that our organization down there has," he says, talking about the Reds' operation in the Dominican. "The Reds are probably the most well-thought-of team down there. The players, these kids, 16 to 20 years old, they wear Reds uniforms. They're proud to be Cincinnati Reds."
He has been to Sarasota twice. He flies over from his place on the Georgia coast. He's going to Tallahassee today, to argue his case with the Florida legislature. He's having the time of his life, which is saying something, given the life he has had.
And it's only beginning.
"Write about Gene Bennett and Larry Barton Jr.," he says. Bennett and Barton are veteran scouts. How many owners know the names of scouts? "Gene's been with the Reds more than 50 years. Larry for 35."
"I mean it," Castellini says. "Those guys are invaluable."
The ballgame with the Yankees is beginning. Castellini's reign is just getting warmed up.