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Q&A: Bell discusses Rocco, transition to dugout

Twins' new bench coach talks about how he came to Minnesota
February 27, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mike Bell hadn't been part of an on-field coaching staff in more than a decade before the Twins tabbed him as their new bench coach this offseason, replacing Derek Shelton, who left to become the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bell's last experience in a dugout

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mike Bell hadn't been part of an on-field coaching staff in more than a decade before the Twins tabbed him as their new bench coach this offseason, replacing Derek Shelton, who left to become the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bell's last experience in a dugout had been from 2007-09, when he managed Class A Short Season Yakima and Class A Advanced Visalia in the Diamondbacks' organization. He was moved into a player development role after that as Arizona’s Minor League field coordinator in 2010, worked as the team’s director of player development from 2011-16 and rose to vice president of player development from 2017-19 before he joined the Twins.

Not only does Bell bring that strong player development background to a coaching staff that also added former Minor League field coordinator Edgar Varela as a co-hitting coach, but he also brings a strong family pedigree and support system within the game. Bell's grandfather, Gus, played 15 seasons in the Majors, while his father, Buddy, is a vice president and senior advisor to the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and his brother, David, is manager of that club.

Bell met with the media after he managed the home half of Wednesday's split-squad matchups and answered some questions about his background, his transition back to the dugout and his relationship with manager Rocco Baldelli.

Q: You're only a week in and probably don't really have a sense of it yet, but do you have any guess of how interactions are going to work during the game with the division of responsibilities?

Bell: I do. Just the daily back-and-forth, planning for a game, I think that's going to be pretty natural. I'm in his office all the time. We ride to the games together. I think that will just continue to grow. Getting to know Rocco's personality more and more, he wants a lot of feedback and he wants ideas before the game, during the game, after the game. So for me, I want to be as prepared as I can for him and for the other coaches and the other players.

Q: How do you think Rocco and [chief baseball officer Derek Falvey] and [general manager Thad Levine] have leveraged your player development background from your recent past in your current role?

Bell: In random questions here and there -- sometimes, it's other guys. Getting to go out to dinner with some of the Minor League guys, I've had a chance to do that and that's something that's important to me. I do, in a lot of ways, feel like that's where I've grown up. I'm passionate about the Minor Leagues. I think, to be able to help that connection, that's what's important to me.

What they have here in the Minor League system, they have set up a very, very good system of Minor League coaches. I've been so impressed with the communication that I've had with them and that they've had with me. We just have a good relationship and it's something that I want to build. I think that's something that Derek and Thad and Rocco would like, fortunately. It's something I'm really comfortable with.

Q: Why now, and why here, to get back into the dugout?

Bell: When I came off the field, it was this crazy turn of events in Arizona for quite a while. I was managing, I was a field coordinator. It wasn't something I asked for, to come off the field. They asked if I would like to do it, and I told them I would do anything they felt like I could help with. They asked me, and I said, 'Yeah, let's do it.' At the time, I felt like I'd probably made my bed. That's what I was going to do. Until a year or two ago, that's just the way I thought.

Fortunately, I had a chance to talk to a couple of teams about getting back on the field again. It just really stirred my mind, my imagination, and the thought of being back in uniform and this close to the action was exciting. Even when that didn't happen, I was OK with where I was. This position -- again, it wasn't anything I was looking for. It was more about the people -- what I heard about the players. That's what's interesting to me. I'm just excited to have this opportunity.

Box score: Twins 3, Blue Jays 3

Q: As you've made this transition back, how much have you leaned on your brother and your father for advice?

Bell: A lot. A lot. As a farm director before, I was doing a similar job as my dad was doing for years. He knows our organizations did things differently, so sometimes, there wasn't a ton of back-and-forth when we talk about what each other are doing.

Since this has happened and since I've talked with other teams, there was a ton, because being in the office for so long and getting back into the detail and just every little detail of the game, my brother was doing that, so he could share those experiences with me -- what's important to him. And my dad. It's just kept us all so close. My younger brother's not in the game, still. We all talk and it's always been that way. But in this position more so than the previous one.

Q: How well did you know Rocco before this year?

Bell: I didn't. When he interviewed in Cincinnati, my dad was part of that interview process. So I remember my dad mentioning just how impressed he was with Rocco then. I watched -- for some reason, I gravitated towards some of the interviews he did last year, when he got the job, after games, occasionally. Sometimes they would be on Twitter. [Also] after he got manager of the year.

Did you guys interview him after he got the Most Handsome Manager Award? That should be a whole other press conference.

Q: That was at the Winter Meetings. It came up.

Bell: So that's how I got to know Rocco. I would have enjoyed getting to play for somebody like that. We had a chance to meet at the Winter Meetings and spend some time together. We went up to Rhode Island. I felt like I knew him for a while, but I didn't. Just people that have been around him, played with him, coached with him. That's it.

Q: You ride to road games together? Not at home, though, right?

Bell: No. No. We don't live right next to one another. The rides to and from the game, they're great. I really enjoy them. We talk plenty of baseball, players, different ideas, cultures, philosophies, Grateful Dead, Phish, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, any other good music.

Q: So, musical taste is key to cracking Rocco Baldelli's coaching staff?

Bell: I'm starting. It's a few hours in the car. Four hours? I'm starting to acquire a taste for Phish.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.