Cooper settling into new routine
Astros' new skipper adapting to life holding the reins
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Cecil Cooper has done just about everything in professional baseball -- farm director, scout, agent, Minor League manager, Major League coach and now, 40 years after his first professional game in Jamestown, N.Y., he's a big league manager.
Cooper, who played 17 years with the Red Sox and Brewers and is considered by many of his players as a borderline Hall of Famer, admitted that he was nervous on the first day of Spring Training this year, especially when it was time to address a roomful of pitchers and catchers for the first time.
But the confident and personable skipper has settled in to his Spring Training routine and appears to be adapting quickly to his prominent role as the leader of the 2008 Astros. He's already being lauded by players for his outstanding communication skills, and the players -- those who are both new to the team and returning veterans -- are responding favorably to their new boss.
Cooper recently sat down with MLB.com to talk about his new job, his responsibilities as manager and his expectations for this year's team.
MLB.com: You managed the Astros for 31 games last season, but this year, you'll experience your first Opening Day as the club's full-time skipper. Have you thought about that day? Are you nervous?
Cooper: It's going to be a little strange. I'm sure I'll have some butterflies. It's going to be exciting to actually do it, but it's going to be a strange feeling to be the guy who goes out there and shakes all the guys' hands. It's going to be special, but at the same time, a little nerve-wracking, I'm sure.
MLB.com: How has Spring Training different for you this year, as opposed to past years, when you were the bench coach? Your mind probably has to be in a lot of different places.
Cooper: Yes, a little bit more so than last year. Last year, you were really hands on with the schedule, you know exactly what's going on. You're the guy who put it together, so you know everything going on. Now, all of a sudden, I have to ask who's here, who's there. That kind of stuff. And I have to follow the schedule just like everybody else does. It's a little hectic for me.
Then I have to make sure everything's happening on the field the right way, I've got to run to watch the bullpen throw, watch a hitter hit, so it's kind of crammed a little bit. It's not only that part of it, but the before and the after.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
Last year, I just had to focus on what I had to do for my schedule, for the next day. I didn't have to worry about all of the extra curricular things. It's a little hectic, but in a good way. Everything is new and fun and keeps you charged up. Now I can kind of realize what kept my friend [Phil Garner] going. You get charged up every day. It's good.
MLB.com: It's probably a requirement to be an optimist in your job.
Cooper: You have to be. And I think, for the most part, I am. I'm always pretty upbeat, pretty positive. Very rarely do you see me down in the dumps. I have a good outlook on life. Even when things start to crop up, I don't worry about it. I sleep pretty well at night, for the most part.
MLB.com: You have 52 players in camp, which means 27 have to go before the end of Spring Training. How hard is it to make cuts?
Cooper: When I was a farm director in Milwaukee back in the late '90s, that's something I didn't look forward to. You never look forward to that. I've thought about it, what I'm going to say, how I am going to say it, who's going to be in the room. It's not something that I'm looking forward to.
But it's part of the business. You've got to do it. For the most part, guys realize it, but it's still kind of difficult to do, even though you've gone through it a little bit. I'm not looking forward to it, but hey, you've got to face the music at some point. I'm sure I'll sweat a lot the night before, probably like I did the first day when everybody reported to Spring Training. I was kind of worn out a little bit.
MLB.com: Spring Training breeds optimism for all teams. What do you think of your team this year?
Cooper: First and foremost, I think we can be real good. I think it can be one of the years for us that could be real special. But you always have a little reservation, because everything's got to work right in order for that to happen. We have the pieces to do that, but it still has to work. You think about that and you go, well, maybe, maybe not. You've got to always be eternally optimistic. Every day, you just have to go and face it. I like the players we have, and I believe we will win.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.