I recently had the opportunity to talk with Randy Whitaker who is entering his 4th season as General Manager of the Harrisburg Senators (AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals). Prior to joining the Senators he worked for nearly 20 years in the sales department for Central Pennsylvania’s ABC television Network.
Whitaker is a hardcore baseball fan and seems to have a genuine love for the game and the team that he is a general manager of. So much so that he and his wife actually celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary at the ballpark. Now that right there is an example of a family that enjoys their work.
With Randy being the nice guy that he is he was nice enough to take part in the following interview
You have been a GM now for a couple of seasons and have gotten to see a number of top Nat’s prospects play for the Senators including pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.
Now as a GM what is it like going through the whole Strasburg experience with the hype and the added fans and all? After all when a guy like Strasburg makes a stop in the minors it is not just like any other guy coming through right?
"“It was a unique experience. We’ve had some prospects come through here, but Strasburg was like having Tom Cruise show up at a dinner theatre.”"
It is not often that a team gets a player with the hype and build up that Strasburg had but the Nationals lucked out and in back to bask drafts landed two of the biggest prospects in Strasburg and Harper that are the biggest prospects in a very long time.
Do you think Harper will draw the same level of buzz and bring in the same number of fans in the minor leagues that Strasburg did?
"“I can’t see him reaching the levels of Strasburg, but we’ll have the benefit of having him as an everyday player rather than an every-fifth-day starter. We only had three dates that Strasburg actually played at home. But that helped the hype for Strasburg as well, as the anticipation was part of the excitement.”"
One of my favorite Nationals prospects spent a significant amount of time with the Senators last year and that player is Danny Espinosa. This is a kid that I’ve been saying has future all star and gold glove winner written all over him. I’m highly impressed with his range in the field and his potential as a hitter when it comes to his power at the plate and his speed along the base paths. I consider him to be a guy that could potentially be a rare find at second base or shortstop depending on what position he ends up playing in the long run.
So what is your opinion of Espinosa potential wise?
"“Espy is a guy that holds his potential in his own hands. He had the ability when he came to Harrisburg, but needed to develop the maturity to convert that potential into performance. About mid-season he had an epiphany and suddenly became a big leaguer. Now he needs to continue to develop on both sides (mental and physical) to complete the package. I have no doubt he has the physical tools. Pretty sure he will find the other side.”"
Now 2010 was a good year for the Senators having made the playoffs for the first time since 2002 plus a number of talented players stopped through and played for the Senators.
So do you feel that with the talent in the Nats organization at the minor league level and the field staff the Senators have in place that the fans should be expecting another playoff appearance?
"“I actually feel a lot better about what we project to be as a team this year than the one last year. Randy Knorr did a great job of keeping a kind of disjointed collection of players together as a team, especially after a pretty slow start. But the team we’ll have this season looks to be stocked with projected talent, and with proven winners, as several of them played for Potomac last season when they won the Carolina League Championship. I can see half a dozen of the players we’ll have in 2011 spending some significant time in the majors.”"
Ok so last question. Now for me minor league baseball has always meant an affordable and fun experience for the entire family. It really seems that Minor League teams put an emphasis on making just being at the ballpark a fun experience by itself.
So in your opinion what makes the Harrisburg Senators something special for the fans to come out and see?
"“We really work hard to make the entire entertainment experience a good value for a broad variety of people. Most fans who come to the game are not that interested in baseball to a great degree. I’ve always considered a minor league ballpark to be an amusement park with a baseball theme at the center. We try to give everyone their “favorite ride” somewhere in the park every night.”"
Again I want to thank you on behalf of myself and Teddy Never Wins for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions. I hope to get the chance to talk to you again as the year goes on.
For anyone interested in checking out a Senators game they play their home games at Metro Bank Park which is located at Championship Way, Harrisburg, PA 17101.
Much like what one can expect from a Minor League ballpark the prices are very reasonable, the special promotions and events are spectacular and they put a strong emphasis on creating a fun experience for everyone whether you are a hardcore fan, a casual fan or just a person looking for something to do with the family. So it doesn’t matter if you are 6 months old or a hundred year old checking out a Senators game is a blast for people of all ages.
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