CLEVELAND -- Stephen Vogt stepped away from the podium on Friday at Progressive Field, retreating to his seat between Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff.
A few Guardians employees in attendance started clapping after he concluded his speech in which he expressed his gratitude as he begins his new role as Cleveland’s manager, but it was an awkward couple of claps, as others tried to determine if they should join in.
This was when Vogt’s true personality shined.
Like a hype man in a college football crowd, Vogt instinctively threw an arm up in the air, trying to get the round of applause even louder, abolishing any uneasiness in the room and immediately bringing everyone together with laughter.
This was why Vogt stood out from the rest, prompting him to be named the 45th manager in franchise history this week. And on Friday, he was able to don his No. 12 Guardians uniform for the first time, as he fielded questions about why he best exemplifies the three attributes the organization was looking for in its next manager.
The Guardians wanted someone who was exceptional at connecting with people. Their interview process was thorough, involving multiple follow-ups, hours on Zoom and an in-person questioning. But when Antonetti and Chernoff reached out to more than a dozen references on Vogt, everyone raved about how well he bonds with each person he interacts with. And each reference made it clear he was destined for a managerial role.
“I love people,” Vogt said. “I took the Myers-Briggs [personality test], I was 100% extrovert. I love talking, I love being around people, I get my energy from being around people and I don’t ever want to change who I am. Yeah, it might look a little different because I am the manager, but I want guys to view me as that. I’m not your peer, but we are teammates. I’m no better than anybody else. That’s something I vow to hold true.”
Cleveland’s roster consists of veterans, rookies, gritty utility guys, award winners and some who are still trying to adjust to the Majors. Vogt is hoping that he’s able to connect with them all.
“I’ve been released, I’ve been traded, I’ve been the worst player in baseball, I’ve been one of the best players in baseball, I’ve been a prospect, I’ve been a nobody. You name it,” Vogt said. “So no matter who walks through the doors of that clubhouse, I feel like I know where they’re at.”
The Guardians wanted to find someone who shares their same core beliefs but can also provide a new perspective. They believe Vogt does just that. Drawing on his recent playing career, Vogt has an understanding of what it’s like to play in this era of baseball and is hopeful that he can especially help young players make a successful transition to the Majors.
“It’s how do we get everybody to believe they belong in the big leagues, because once players know they belong in the big leagues, that’s when they get dangerous and when their careers take off,” Vogt said. “That’s my job and [what] the job of our staff is, to instill that in our guys and get them to realize that they belong here and how we can just absolutely propel their careers.”
The rest of the X’s and O’s will show themselves as Vogt gets on the field. He understands the importance of bullpen management as a skipper and should be able to provide a fresh perspective on analytics used in today’s game. As much as he has similar personality characteristics to former manager Terry Francona, there’s no doubt that Vogt will have his own opinions to bring to the table.
Experience always helps with confidence, but Vogt is already trying to prove that it’s far from a necessity.
From his time as a catcher over a 10-year Major League career, along with one season of experience as Seattle’s bullpen coach in 2023, Vogt has strong belief in his ability to make this transition.
“He’s got a unique blend of self-confidence and humility,” Antonetti said.
From the outside, there’s no question that lack of experience is the biggest question mark heading for Vogt into the 2024 season, but with the Guardians returning most of their coaching staff (aside from third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, replay coordinator Mike Barnett and bullpen coach Rigo Beltrán), they think that Vogt’s confidence can be multiplied once he’s surrounded by an experienced staff.
“(A) He sees the game really well and I think he’s equipped to manage games,” Chernoff said. “(B) He has the leadership skills that he’s been building throughout his career, whether managing or with players to do really well. And (C) We have a great veteran staff around him. We have like over 150 years of coaching experience around with some of our veteran staff members that I think can really help support him early on in his job.”