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OC Register: Perry Minasian’s path to Angels’ GM office provides a unique perspective on the game

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Like any front office executive who has been in the game for as long as he has, Perry Minasian has seen a lot of baseball.

He’s also seen a lot of baseball players.

The distinction is significant, at least in the eyes of Minasian and the laundry list of former colleagues who sing his praises as a unique figure in the community of major league general managers.

In an era when players sometimes grumble that executives see them as numbers or assets, Minasian brings a different perspective.

The Angels’ new GM, as you have certainly heard by now, grew up working in major league clubhouses. His father, Zack, worked for the Texas Rangers, first as the visiting clubhouse manager and then the home clubhouse manager.

From the time that Minasian (pronounced min-AH-see-an) was 8 until he was 26, he spent countless days living among major-league players and coaches, at first cleaning toilets and eventually advancing to a role as a coaching assistant under Buck Showalter.

John Hart was the Rangers’ general manager when Minasian crossed the line, from dealing with equipment and the clubhouse to contributing to the on-field product.

Years later, with the Atlanta Braves, Hart hired Minasian, seeking to add “the human element” to a front office that was full of analytically bent executives.

“Perry understands the value of analytics,” Hart said. “Certainly there is enormous value in what the numbers tell you, but I think there is more to the game than scribbling numbers. Perry can play the numbers game with anybody, but there are other pieces to it as well. … The numbers aren’t the end-all and be-all. This is still a game being played by human beings.”

Showalter managed the Rangers for four years with Minasian as his coaching assistant, when one of Minasian’s jobs was taking the advance scouting reports and boiling them down into actionable instructions to deliver to the players.

“Perry knew his way around a meeting,” Showalter said. “He knew his way around a locker room. He knows players aren’t robotic. He knows their makeup and everything that goes into making an evaluation. He’s seen people who had great skills but weren’t great players. It’s very easy to make a statistical evaluation, but to make really good decisions on players, you’ve got to bring in all factors.”

Minasian’s eye for people was evident quickly to Alex Anthopoulos, who first met Minasian when the two were interns with the Montreal Expos. Minasian would later spend nine years working with Anthopoulos, in Toronto and Atlanta.

In Toronto, Minasian’s title was pro scouting director, but Anthopoulos, the GM, quickly gave him far more responsibility than simply rating other teams’ prospects.

Last week Anthopoulos said that one of the elements of Minasian’s experience that made him so vital to the club’s decision-making process is the way he grew up.

“It’s a difference-making perspective that is a competitive advantage,” Anthopoulos said. “Most people don’t have the perspective on players and coaches that he has.”

It is no surprise, then, that Minasian’s youngest brother also got into player evaluation. Zack Minasian Jr. has spent 10 years in big league front offices, including the last three as the San Francisco Giants’ pro scouting director.

Perry and Zack Jr. used to spend endless hours challenging each other to draft fantasy teams. One time they might only pick players from the American League West. Or another time they’d assign payroll restrictions.

Their father watched and expected them to end up working in a front office.

“You talk about experience and player evaluation and that kind of thing, you don’t realize what this kid has done,” Zack Sr. said of Perry. “Every day for 81 games, for 10 years or so, he sat down the line and watched every inning of every ballgame. If he didn’t do it from there, he did it from the dugout. He has a lot of experience, with all due respect to the GM’s from the Ivy League, that they haven’t had.

“I think it will make a difference. I really do.”

Perry Minasian, 40, doesn’t much care for the distinction between executives who come from the field or the Ivy League. He is more interested in including everyone.

“All of us are baseball people who work in this game,” Minasian said. “If you dedicate the hours that it takes, day in and day out, to do what we do from a front-office standpoint, from an on-field standpoint, you’re a baseball person.”

His path toward becoming a “baseball person” was blazed long before he was born.

Minasian’s grandfather was a close friend of Tommy Lasorda, who in the 1960s was moving up the Dodgers’ managerial chain in the minor leagues. Lasorda told his friend that he needed a kid to help run the clubhouse for the Dodgers’ affiliate in Ogden, Utah, in 1966.

Zack, who was 13 at the time, got the job. Zack said he did everything to run the clubhouse all by himself, for three summers. He moved up and worked at the clubhouse at Dodger Stadium in 1969 and 1970.

After that, Zack met his wife and they started a family in Chicago, taking a detour from a life in baseball. He was selling sporting goods and raising their four boys when the Rangers called. Bobby Valentine, who had gotten to know Zack with the Dodgers, said the Rangers needed a visiting clubhouse manager, so the Minasian family headed for Texas.

From 1988 to 1994, Zack ran the visitors clubhouse, with his boys all getting ample time helping him out. Along with Rudy, the oldest, and Calvin, who is between Perry and Zack Jr., each of the boys had a specific responsibility. Perry’s job was to clean the bathrooms.

The boys also got to put on a uniform and take the field, working as bat boys.

In between the work, they had the chance to horse around with everyone in the American League. Perry has frequently told stories about wrestling with Bo Jackson. Zack Jr. recalled playing baseball with balls of tape with Ken Griffey Jr.

In 1995, the Minasians were switched to the home clubhouse, allowing them to grow up alongside guys like Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Will Clark. During those years the Rangers’ owner, incidentally, was George W. Bush, passing through on his way to the governor’s mansion and the White House.

After Perry finished high school he attended the University of Texas-Arlington but continued to work with the Rangers, evolving into a baseball operations role.

Hart entrusted him with a spot on Showalter’s staff starting in 2003, when Minasian was 23. What does a “coaching assistant” do? Whatever the manager wants.

“I said ‘If we need a stack of pencils from Office Depot, you’re going to get them,” Showalter recalled. “He said ‘Do you want No. 1, 2 or 3?’ ‘If we ask you about a guy from Seattle, you’re going to find out. If we want to know a stat, you’re going to find it.’”

Showalter, now an analyst for MLB Network, said Minasian quickly established himself for his work ethic and the reams of information he had stored in his head.

“He’s like the Energizer Bunny,” Showalter said. “I used to call him Peter Gammons on steroids. I’d bring up some obscure player from rookie ball from another organization and he’d rattle off everything there was to know about him.”

Minasian worked as a Rangers advance scout in 2007 and 2008, and then he got his first job in another organization when the Blue Jays hired him as a scout. Minasian was reunited with Anthopoulos, who at the time was the assistant GM under J.P. Ricciardi. When Anthopoulos became the GM, Minasian was included in even more of the organization’s decisions.

Anthopoulos said Minasian was “an integral piece in everything we’ve done.” The Blue Jays advanced to the American League Championship Series twice during Minasian’s six years in Toronto.

Hart then brought Minasian to Atlanta in September of 2017. A few months after Minasian arrived, the Braves were embroiled in an international signing scandal that cost both Hart and GM John Coppolella their jobs. The Braves then hired Anthopoulos, and he moved Minasian into the organization’s No. 2 spot.

In all three seasons that Minasian was in Atlanta, the Braves won the division title. They advanced to the National League Championship Series, losing to the Dodgers in seven games, just last month.

Around then is when the Angels called, inviting Minasian to interview for a GM spot for the first time.

During a few hours of Zoom calls and face-to-face meetings, Minasian apparently impressed the Angels enough that they picked him out of a crowded field that included executives with multiple World Series rings and impressive résumés.

Although his hiring came as a surprise to many, it wasn’t to the people who have known Minasian.

“They had some great candidates, and they did an outstanding job,” Showalter said. “He’s such a likable guy. He’s got great energy and great people skills. The Angels made a great hire.”

Longtime executive Omar Minaya, who was the Montreal Expos’ GM when Minasian was an intern there, said Minasian’s ability to work with everyone will serve him well with the Angels.

“I think he’ll do very well,” Minaya said. “He’s going to work well with the manager. He’s going to engage with the manager. You have to also manage north. You have to report to the owner.”

Working under Arte Moreno means working with an owner who likes to be involved in decisions, which could be more of a challenge for Minasian than a hands-off owner who simply signs the checks.

Although it remains to be seen how Minasian and Moreno will work together, Moreno obviously feels a strong connection with him now.

“I met with Perry last week, and we were probably going to spend an hour and we ended up spending three and a half hours, talking about his experience and what we’re looking for and how the fit was,” Moreno said.

The true test, of course, will be measured on the field. The Angels have suffered five consecutive losing seasons, which is a source of embarrassment considering they employ Mike Trout, who many consider the best player in the majors.

They will look to Minasian to help identify the players – starting with pitchers – who can get them back on the right side of .500 and into the playoffs.

“This is not a 100-loss team,” Minasian said. “This is not a five-, seven-, 10-year rebuild. This is going to be a competitive club. I think it’s an outstanding mix of veteran players with some youth on the horizon.”

Minasian said he’s ready to accept the challenge, one he’s been working toward since before he even realized he was working toward it.

“I’ve dreamed about this moment for a long time,” Minasian said. “I was 13 or 14 years old, I was behind home plate, Randy Johnson was warming up. That’s the day I realized I’d never be a big-league player. And then you go through different stages of your life, wanting to work in the front office. I had an extreme appetite to work and to learn the game.”

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