Ebel raring to go in new role as bench coach
Vet of Angels staff known for speaking his mind, strong relationships with players
ANAHEIM -- Dino Ebel is elated about his new role as the Angels' bench coach. It's a promotion, a step closer to his goal of managing in the big leagues and an opportunity to be Mike Scioscia's right-hand man.
But he will miss directing traffic at the hot corner.
"It just makes you feel like part of the game," the longtime third-base coach said in a phone conversation. "You feel like you're a player, still. Your heart's pumping, because you know you have to make a decision when the ball is hit, and whether guys are scoring and not scoring. I'm going to miss that."
Ebel's role changed on Tuesday, when the Angels announced -- while confirming that Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto would return for 2014 -- the dismissal of bench coach Rob Picciolo and hitting coach Jim Eppard.
The changes, Dipoto said, were about "injecting a different personality" into the coaching staff. But a big part of it also had to do with giving more influence to a current coach.
"It's very clear to me," Scioscia said, "that Dino Ebel is a guy that is ready for the dugout."
The Angels want to "implement the same on-field excellence that the Angels experienced from 2002 to 2009," Dipoto said. The makeup of the roster is completely different -- they've gone from pitching and defense to star power and the long ball -- but the dynamic of the coaching staff doesn't have to be. They want to get back to the days of guys like Joe Maddon, Bud Black and Ron Roenicke, forward-thinkers who weren't afraid to speak their minds, which in turn made the Angels one of the most progressive franchises in baseball.
Making Ebel the No. 2 man, the Angels feel, is a step in that direction.
Ebel is an out-of-the-box thinker who is an ideal liaison between the coaches and players. He's seen in many circles as a future manager, has a good rapport with everyone in the organization -- from the front office to the players to Scioscia -- and isn't afraid to speak his mind.
"I've always been a baseball guy that just always felt the more you talk, the more you communicate, the more you express ideas and express your opinions, you can only get better," Ebel said. "That's who I am. Right or wrong, it's your opinion. And in meetings, even with players, I tell them how I feel.
"Ultimately, Mike is going to make a decision, Jerry is going to make a decision, and that's how it goes. But I've never been afraid to express how I feel and what the situation is and just give my opinion."
Ebel, 47, grew up in Southern California, attended San Bernardino Valley College and Florida Southern College, and then spent six years as a shortstop in the Dodgers' system, hanging it up at age 28 without ever playing in the Majors.
He served as a player/coach his last couple of years in the Minors, though, and was able to begin coaching full-time by 1996. Ebel spent the next nine years as a Minor League manager -- the first eight with the Dodgers and the last one with the Angels' Triple-A affiliate -- compiling a 531-496 record from 1997 to 2005.
In November 2005, after Maddon left, he became the Angels' third-base coach. In '11, Ebel also started coaching the outfielders.
And on Tuesday, he got an important phone call from Dipoto.
"It's something that I've always wanted to do, and I'm excited for the opportunity," Ebel said of his promotion, which will still include coaching the outfielders.
"I'm not going to change. I'm still the same guy, but the title. I'm in charge of being beside Mike. Other than that, it's going to be fun and challenging, so I'm looking forward to it."
Ebel is in the Dominican Republic now, managing the Estrellas Orientales of San Pedro de Macoris for the first time since 2003. Back in the States, as the playoffs roll on, the Angels are poring through candidates to fill several coaching vacancies. They need a new hitting coach, they'll likely hire an assistant hitting coach, and depending on whether the latter suits up for games, they're thinking of adding a seventh coach to the fold.
Ebel's old job may be the trickiest to fill.
There are a couple of in-house candidates for third-base coach -- including Triple-A manager Keith Johnson and Double-A manager Tim Bogar -- and there will be several others interviewed throughout baseball (perhaps guys like Eddie Rodriguez, Daren Brown, Matt Williams, etc).
The Angels would like the new third-base coach to be as aggressive as Ebel, but that requires a unique feel and plenty of experience in the role.
Coaching third base in the big leagues is not something you can do on a whim.
"I think you need the experience," Ebel said. "If you haven't coached third base, especially at our level, at the Major League level, it's a tough job, because you have to know each one of your players' speed, the situation in the game, when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive. For me, if you're a third-base coach, you definitely had to have done it one or two years in the Minor Leagues to adjust to it."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.