TDA Interview - Wendell Kim
Wendell is currently the manager of the Indianapolis Indians, the Milwaukee Brewers' AAA farm team.
1 - How about a little background, Wendell?
I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 9, 1950. My father Phillip Kim was a full-blooded Korean who learned to fight in the Boys School in Hawaii. When I was about 4 years old we moved from Honolulu to Long Beach. My father was a professional boxer, welterweight class. I only saw him fight two times on TV. He taught me how to fight when I was little. He was rough man who didn't have much education. He was murdered when I was 7 1/2 years old.
2 - How did you get started in pro ball?
My mother wanted my brother and me to play baseball but you had to be 8 years old to play Little League. So my brother had to wait a year. There were only 4 teams, so many kids who weren't very good didn't make a team. They had to sit at home or watch the other boys play. Well, I made the team and I have been in baseball since I was 8 years old. I played in all the Leagues through my school years. In college I did pretty good but scouts felt I was too small at 5' 4". They liked my hustle. I was a decent infielder and basically a line-drive hitter. I wasn't signed out of college for some reason, but my dream was to play professional baseball. I was determined to play pro ball so I called and wrote to many Major League organizations. Many of them didn't write me back and only a few really gave me hope.
The San Francisco Giants and the Cleveland Indians were basically the only teams that talked to me about a tryout. The Giants had their tryout camp earlier then the Indians so I traveled to Casa Grande, Arizona for a tryout. This was the Spring Training site of the Giants. The tryout was right after the major league club left to go to Phoenix to start the Spring Training games and before the Giants' minor league players would start their spring training. I was told by Jack Schwarz, Farm Director, to report to his office at 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday at the Francisco Grande Spring Training Camp. I didn't know where Casa Grande was in Arizona, so I left California real early and got into Francisco Grande about 10 PM. I slept in my car and woke up about 6 AM. Went to clean up at a gas station and was ready to meet with Mr. Schwarz at 8:00 A.M.
In the tryout camp the first day there were over 150 players from all over the country trying out for a job with the Giants. In the few days after the main tryout, the Giants kept only 3 players to work out with some of the minor league teams for a better look. I was one of them and ended up being the only one to sign a professional contract with the San Francisco Giants.
I give credit to my first manager, John Van Orum, and to Hank Sauer, the Giants' hitting coach.
3 - How about explaining how you went from player to coach?
I had a few good seasons in the minor leagues with the Giants' farm teams. In 1978 I hit .313 with the Triple A Giants. The next spring I was released from the San Francisco organization because of a player coming down from the major league club. It was the last day of Spring Training, 1979.
In August of 1979, after playing in the Inter-American League, I was working at a service station when I got a call from Tom Haller - (New Farm Director of the Giants). Tom had played for the Giants & Dodgers. He offered me a job at the Double A Level as a Coach for the 1980 season. That's where I started my coaching career.
4 - OK, so after your playing career, you started coaching in the Giants organization. What about the rest of your coaching and managing career?
In 1980 - Coach, Double A (Shreveport Captains). 1981-1988 Manager at A, AA - AAA. A=Clinton Giants in Clinton, Iowa & Fresno Giants in Fresno, Calif. AA=Shreveport Captains in Shreveport, La. AAA=Phoenix Firebirds in Phoenix, Arizona.
Major League Coach, 1989-1996 San Francisco Giants. 1997-2000 with the Boston Red Sox.
I worked in Korea for three years in the off-season with the Samsung Lions & the Pacific Dolphins. I worked at every aspect of the game with the players and Korean coaches.
In every League as you go from Rookie Ball to AAA and the Major Leagues, the main difference is quality of play. You have more experienced players as you go up the ladder in the minor leagues.
5 - What are your thoughts about becoming a big league manager?
My final goal in my baseball career is to become a Major League Manager here in the United States and also in Korea. I am happy that Asian players are playing here in the majors.
I don't think too much about my chances of becoming a manager in the major leagues. I just try to do the best job every day of every season. Remember, there are only 30 manager's jobs in the major leagues. I feel that if I work hard, my last goal will be fulfilled.
6 - You've been around professional baseball a long time now, Wendell. What are the best things about major league baseball?
Major League Baseball is the only place to play. That's where every player dreams of playing. The money and benefits are outstanding for the players. Travel is still fun for me. Seeing new cities and meeting new people are also still fun. Baseball people are also fun to be around day in and day out. I love to hear the stories told by some of the ex-players I see around the big league stadiums and cities. Baseball fans coming out to the games is another exciting part of our great game of baseball.
7 - Of course it hasn't an been a bed of roses in the majors as in anything else there are also some thorns What are the worst things about major league baseball?
Being away from my family. Some of the clubhouse food spreads are not very good. Late flights when you get in real early in the morning. Bad weather while flying. Rainouts and long rain delays.
Mahalo nui loa, Wendell - thank you very much Good luck in your dream to manage in the majors.
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