Interview: Angels’ bench coach Dino Ebel

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Dino Ebel has served as a coach for the Angel organization since 2005 after a career of playing, coaching, and managing in the Dodger organization since 1988.  Originally drafted by the Phillies in the 27th round of the ’86 draft as an infielder, Ebel’s career has been remarkably consistent as the 2017 season will mark 30 years in professional baseball spent with just 2 organizations.  It’s clear that he has proven himself to be a valuable asset.  He is respected for a high baseball acumen, a love for the game, and an ability to develop positive relationships with players and coaches.  One day, we should expect to see Dino Ebel at the helm of a Major League team, which has occurred with other coaches under Mike Scioscia‘s leadership, including Joe Maddon, Bud Black, and Ron Roenicke.

Before I share my interview with Dino, let me explain how it is I came to meet him.  Over the past few years, I have encountered him at various locations in the Inland Empire (an area east of Los Angeles that includes San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ontario), but I have always left him alone.  During a recent visit to Costco, I noticed him walking around in different sections of the store.  Immediately after I completed my purchase, he sat down at the snack bar, so I decided to introduce myself and ask him for an interview.  I told him about a youth baseball camp I attended with my nephew and how he was the speaker for our group.  He was very patient with the kids as they asked the same question about 13 times (they wanted to know how aggressive he would be about sending runners home as the third base coach).  Before we parted company, he shared his contact info with me.  After some time, I ran into him again, at Costco, and reminded him of who I was.  He told me he would call later that day and here is the interview that took place:

Jake White:  You reached AAA in 1991 and had a hit in your lone plate appearance, but there are no stats listed for you in 1992, what happened that year?

Dino Ebel: In 1992, I became a player-coach, that’s when the Dodgers wanted me to be active when they needed me through A-ball, AA, or AAA, an up and down guy.

JW:  I attended a baseball camp with my nephew about 7-8 years ago and you were asked about managing, is that still your goal today?

DE: Oh yes, you know that’s always been a goal of mine.  I’m blessed to be in the big leagues and be a part of the Angel organization.  I started my first year (with the Angels) in 2005 as the AAA manager for Salt Lake.  Setting goals is part of who I am and I have always said that once I reached the big leagues as a third base coach, which I have, the next step was being a bench coach, which I am doing now and the third step is managing someday.  Hopefully I get that opportunity, but if not, I tell my family that I’m blessed truly to do what I do.  I love what I do and if (managing) never happens, that’s ok.  I still love being a bench coach.  If I am a coach for a long time, I’m never going to complain about it.

JW:  At the camp, you stressed the importance of fundamentals, do you ever encounter players who resist putting in the work on fundamentals today?

DE:  Oh no, not at all.  Every level of the minor leagues, high school, college, even at the major leagues that’s all we do in spring training.  We go over our fundamentals; bunt plays; first to thirds; cut-offs and relays.  Usually that’s handled at the minor league level, starting in rookie ball when a player signs their first pro contract.  Always learn in this game as much fundamentally, I believe to this day as a coach and manager that a team is fundamentally sound and plays the game right, will develop players better.   Players who are developed win more often because they make less mistakes.

JW: I appreciated how patient you were with the kids as they asked you over and over again about sending runners home.

DE: Yeah, no problem.

JW:  What does the off-season look like for you?  Do you have baseball-related activities to do or is it all about family and relaxation?

DE: Always spending time at home just being with my family.  I have a daughter, two boys, and two grandchildren.  My wife and I, for the 3 1/2-4 months that I’m home, we do everything with our kids.  I miss a lot of that time during the season.  It’s better for me now that I live closer to Anaheim.  I used to live in Las Vegas when I first came up in the big leagues, so when school was out my family would come.  Now I get to see them when I get home from road trips and be with them more often and take them to school.

JW:  Do you ever have your family go on the road with you?

DE: Yeah, there is a time they came up to Seattle, they went with me 2 years ago to the All-Star derby, the Homerun derby, when I threw to Albert Pujols.  Albert took my whole family to Cincinnati.  (Dino also threw to Vladimir Guerrero in the 2007 HR derby in San Francisco, which Guerrero won.)

JW:  What does an average day look like for you during the season, what time do you arrive at the park and what are you working on before the game?

DE:  Well, I’m usually at the ballpark by 12:30 everyday for a home game (that starts at 7pm).  I’m setting up, doing my pregame stuff with the lineup that Mike (Scioscia) and I do.  Mike gets in usually at 12:30/1:00 everyday too.  Mike and I sit down, he gives me the lineup, then I go ahead and do it on the computer and post it.  I get the other team the lineup card, pregame batting practice, any early work that is part of my duties, making sure the players know what is going on for the day.

JW: That’s a pretty full day.

DE: Oh yeah.  It goes by fast.  When you love doing something there’s never the ‘oh man, I’ve been here too long’.  That never crosses my mind.  When the day is over, I’m on my way home at 11 or 11:30.  I get to bed and get to take my boys to school and then it all starts the next day.

JW:  A few years ago, after a weekend day game, I saw you with your family at Baker’s (a local fast food franchise), but I didn’t say anything to you so you could enjoy time with them.

DE: (laughs) My boys love that place.  I’m eating more healthy now, to tell you the truth, coming from Barstow, born and raised in Barstow, Del Taco is where it all started.  Bakers for me is probably the closest to Del Taco with the burritos and tacos, they remind me of Del Taco.

JW:  You appear to keep yourself in excellent shape, do you work out regularly?

DE:  Every day since 1992 when I became a player-coach I was introduced to running, long distance, by one of our coaches in A ball, Glenn “Goose” Gregson, who works for the Boston Red Sox, told me ‘come on, let’s go run a mile today’.  And I said, ‘are you kidding me?  I hate running.’  As a player, you have to do all your sprints, base-running, and all that.  I said, ‘no way would I ever get into running.’  He took me out for a mile run and since then I’ve been running 4-6-10-15 miles every day of my life, 7 days a week.  I fell in love with running.  I run every day now, but I’ve calmed it down.  I run 4-4 1/2 miles per day.  It’s the first thing I do every morning, get up and run, always in the gym on the treadmill.  It’s been good for my back and knees, no injuries.

JW:  Perhaps you could run a marathon someday?

DE:  I’ve always wanted to do that, but the time and I am always busy, so I haven’t had the chance to do it.

Just like a baseball season, Dino’s career is like a marathon.  Focusing on each day, game, and season while setting an ultimate goal is how Dino approaches life.  His next goal is in sight, he just has to keep running.

I promised Dino that my interview would be less than 10 minutes, so I ended the conversation by thanking him for his time and wishing him well for the upcoming season.  After ending the call, I saw that it lasted just shy of 9 minutes, so I kept to my word.  I have a new appreciation for Dino Ebel and other coaches who invest a lot of time and energy into helping their teams succeed.  I also enjoyed seeing the human side of someone in baseball.  Dino appears to excel at doing both, he is committed to the Angel organization and devoted to his family.


Epilogue:

Ranger manager Jeff Banister had one hit in his lone plate appearance in the majors in 1991.  That same year, Dino Ebel had his lone plate appearance at the highest level he reached, AAA, and was hit by a pitch.  He later scored and may someday follow in Banister’s footsteps by becoming a MLB manager after a successful career as a coach and reaching base once in a single plate appearance at the highest level attained.

It is interesting to discover commonalities with people when you do a little digging.  First, Dino and I both love to shop at Costco, especially when it isn’t busy, although he probably hopes to avoid me there.  We both enjoy the classic Del Taco in Barstow, which is a popular stop for travelers between Las Vegas and Southern California.  Dino was part of the Dodger organization during the two seasons I was employed with the team, albeit in totally different capacities.  His birthday is the day before mine.  He is family man with 3 kids and loves the game of baseball, just as I do.  Now if I could only acquire the love of running and healthy eating.

Author: Jake White

I am a child of the 1980’s who became engrossed in baseball after attending my first Angel game in 1982. As we headed to the Big A, I was told great tales of a man named Reggie. Sitting down the first base line, I watched the lineup announcement with great anticipation, but discovered that Reggie wasn’t in the lineup. It didn’t matter, the experience was magical, my grandma bought me my first Angel cap, and I fell asleep in the car on the way home. As the next decade emerged, I started a 25-year run in fantasy baseball, which ended with the 2014 season. I have been working in education since 2002 and also spent 2 seasons working for the LA Dodgers. Now, I am having fun observing baseball rather than obsessing over every box score that included one of my fantasy players.

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