When people ask about my role as a third-base coach, I tell them I am a traffic cop. I direct traffic on the bases. Scoring runs is obviously the big part of this game. When our players get on base, their main objective is to touch home plate. I try
When people ask about my role as a third-base coach, I tell them I am a traffic cop. I direct traffic on the bases. Scoring runs is obviously the big part of this game. When our players get on base, their main objective is to touch home plate. I try to help get them there.
It happens very fast for the players and myself. There's a lot of different things we think about, and we try to think through everything before it happens. The score of the game dictates what you might do. How many outs? We're going to try to be as aggressive as we can, depending on the score of the game. If it is late and we're down by a run, we've got to score that run.
If there's a runner on second, will I send him home on a hard-hit single to the outfield? Speed really comes into play. There are other factors. Who's on deck? Who is in the hole? Who is struggling at the plate? I think about that before the action even starts. Let's say [Jose] Abreu is hitting well, and he's on deck. We don't want to take the bat out of his hand by making the last out of the inning on the bases.
I watch film of outfielders. When an outfielder comes in on a ball, does he catch the ball flat-footed? Where is his momentum going? What kind of arm does the guy have? We have to know all that.
We want to put pressure on the defense any chance we get: stolen bases, going [from] first to third, scoring from first on a double. If we have speed on the basepaths, we're going to test people. And we have some guys who can run.
A good baserunner is one who makes good decisions, knows his capabilities. A good baserunner can help you win a lot of games. On the other side, you could lose a lot of games on the bases if you're reckless. We try to be aggressive without being reckless.
The emotions of a third-base coach work both ways. You never want to get anybody thrown out at the plate. You want to make good decisions. Sometimes, you make the right decision and there's other times when you don't. Hopefully, nine out of 10 times we're making the right decision.
If you fail, you've got to have thick skin in this game. You go back, watch the film, and say, "What could I have done to make it better?"
There's a lot of communications going on out there. Actually, our signs are pretty simple. We don't use a lot of signs. We try to keep it as simple and as basic as we can without everyone else in the ballpark knowing what we're doing.
We know the other team is trying to pick up on our signs. It's part of the game, and that's why we change from time to time. You're always looking for the edge. Any advantage you have over the opponents is something that comes into play. If you know what they're doing, it just adds to that edge. Hopefully, it will help win you a ballgame.
I managed for 10 years in the Minors, where I got plenty of experience being the third-base coach. Then I spent five seasons as the White Sox director of player development, from 2012-16. It was a great job, and I learned a lot.
I became the White Sox third-base coach in 2017. I love being on the field. That's my personality. I've been in this game for 40 years, and the majority has been on the field. That's where the action is. I want to do whatever I can to help these guys win a game.
-- As told to Ed Sherman
Nick Capra is the third-base coach for the Chicago White Sox.