Stubby Clapp is headed back to the major leagues. Nearly 18 years after last donning the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals as a player, Clapp is taking over duties as first-base coach for the club. In two years as manager of the Memphis Redbirds, Clapp won a pair of Pacific Coast League championships (and the 2018 Triple-A National Championship) and was twice named the PCL's Manager of the Year. He's currently managing the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.
Your name came up in discussions about managerial vacancies in the big leagues. What can you share about the process that led you to taking the coaching job in St. Louis?
I went through three interviews with Texas and didn't get considered for other [big-league jobs] beyond my name being thrown around. St. Louis was up front and forward about wanting me to be on staff if things didn't work out on the managerial side. I feel blessed with the opportunity. To play for the Cardinals, and now bounce back and get to coach with the club . . . it's a special honor.
You aced the test in Memphis, with two championships in two seasons. And you were required to use more than 60 players each year. Was there a unifying quality to the 2017 and 2018 Redbirds that led to such success?
I've thought about this, and I've given a bunch of different answers depending on my mood or thought process. But the more I think about it, the more I think about my staff both years. We were together on things, had each others' backs to make sure we were doing things the right way. The first thought was always, "What's best for the player?" Winning came second. That positive attitude translated to the players, and they grabbed hold of it. It became a culture. When you have good culture and talent, good things come to fruition.
Positive energy has a stronghold over talent. If you're bitter and you've got talent, you're always looking at what you didn't do. I'm a big believer in a positive atmosphere and knowing that it's okay to fail in trying to be great.
Despite all the wins and trophies, it couldn't have been easy. Were there stumbles along the way?
There were struggles. Times we had to look ourselves in the mirror. Last year, there was more [roster] movement early on, especially on the pitching side of things. Guys stepped up and did great jobs. You just gotta believe that something [positive] is going to happen. And go for it.
What kind of relationship do you have with Cardinals manager Mike Shildt (another former Memphis skipper)?
We've developed a relationship over the last couple of years. I have a lot of respect for the way he's made his way in the game. It's unbelievable. He's worked hard. He's a great story. He's got a good idea of the way things should be run, and he's a very good communicator. I can't wait to help out in any way.
The World Series seemed to tilt on the managers' use of their bullpens, an area you handled well in Memphis. Any thoughts or secrets you can share on proper bullpen management?
I did it in a way that made sure the guys were ready to produce in the big leagues. I followed those parameters and used some creativity to make sure we had enough innings [covered] every day. Between my pitching coaches [Bryan Eversgerd in 2017, Dernier Orozco in ’18] and I, we made sure they were ready. It wasn't necessarily who we had to throw every day, but making sure the proper workloads were there, even on back-to-back days. There was constant communication. But we let the pitchers dictate what part of the game they were good at, whether it's middle relief or end of the game, one inning or ground-ball [specialist]. We let them dictate rather than demand something out of them. Then we let them excel in those situations.
It's been a long time since you've been in the big leagues. What kind of impact do you hope to make, starting in 2019?
Positive impact on day-do-day activities and game preparation. Any way they need me. Infield work, base-running … if they just need a pump-up session. Whatever Shildty needs me to do, I'll be there ready to roll and try to get some things accomplished.