Bobby Kinne had a pretty good seat as the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League Championship Series on Saturday night. He was inside the Rays’ replay room at Petco Park.
“Until [Manuel] Margot it in right, I was in the room,” Kinne said. “As soon as he caught it, you bust out and get out there and celebrate.”
Kinne, 25, works in advance scouting for the Rays and is the team’s replay coordinator. That’s why he was in San Diego as the Rays eliminated the Houston Astros, and advanced to the World Series.
“Until the last out, making sure that ball was caught and there were no issues there,” he said, “then you run out and enjoy it.”
Kinne, the son of Kevin and Cathleen Kinne, graduated from Monument Mountain High School and then Vassar College, where he was a member of the school’s baseball team. He has been working for the Rays since college, working his way up from intern status to his current position, which he took over in 2019.
The Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers will battle for the 2020 World Series Championship. Tampa Bay made it this far in 2008, but lost in the Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. Tampa Bay is seeking its first-ever World Series title. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are in the World Series for the third time in four years, but have not won the trophy since 1988. That was the year of Kirk Gibson’s legendary home run off of Dennis Eckersley.
“It’s hard to describe,” Kinne said, when asked about winning the ALCS. “None of it’s really sunk in, both in Game 5 against New York and in Game 7 [Saturday night]. The first thing I do is run to the other video room where a baseball lifer who has been with the Rays since we started, Chris Fernandez, who has been the best mentor and friend to me. I’ve been able to go and give him a big hug and see what it means to him. That’s truly been the most special. But to get out, run out of the dugout and give everyone a hug and be out on the field, it’s surreal. It’s so shocking that you can’t help thinking about all the backstories that led all these people here and how much it takes to get to a moment like that.
“It’s pretty overwhelming, honestly.”
Kinne is part of the Rays’ Major League Operations group, led by Jeremy Sowers.
“I do, with my boss Jeremy Sowers, kind of head up the advance scouting department. Writing the advance reports and kind of overseeing a lot of the game-day planning, and trying to provide players information to help in any way we can,” said Kinne, when reached at the Rays’ San Diego hotel. “When I first started, I was just a general intern. After graduating from Vassar, I was anything from being a data tracker during the games to getting lunch for the office. It’s changed a lot in where I work and in the lifestyle of traveling with the team.
“It hasn’t changed in the sense that it’s early in a career in baseball and I’m appreciative to have the perspective of learning from everybody in the clubhouse.”
Kinne said that in his roles in advance scouting and replay, he is looking ahead to the next series, while paying attention to the team the Rays are playing. The job includes helping prepare those game scouting sheets that manager Kevin Cash and his staff refer to during games. That also includes those cards that fans now see players peeking at during games, to determine where they should be playing defensively.
“The fun part is the early work with the guys,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to be shagging during BP and getting guys loose, being out there and thinking that you’re an athlete again is a lot of fun.”
Once a game starts, the video replay room is where Kinne sits. He watches the monitors, and helps determine whether plays need to be reviewed.
“I get the fun job of trying to help [manager] Kevin Cash out a little bit on those plays, and kind of go yes or no on challenges,” Kinne said. “After the game ends, we start game-planning for the next day, and finishing reports for the next series.”
In a 2019 article in the Tampa Bay Times, Cash had been critical of some umpiring decisions that did not go the Rays’ way. Cash said those appeals not going their way were unfortunate.
“The biggest thing is we’ve got a young guy in Bobby doing that. He’s done a really good job for us,” Cash said in the article. “He’s got one chance, probably one bullet to impact the game. And when he does, you want to see it go the right way, because he’s doing his job really, really well.’’
Like a majority of baseball fans who grew up in Berkshire County, Bobby Kinne grew up as a Red Sox fan. While his allegiance is now 100 percent with the Rays, he has Fenway Park in common with Cash. The Rays’ manager was a member of the 2007 World Series Champion Red Sox. And their mutual Red Sox past has turned into some good-natured ribbing.
“I do remember him as a Red Sox player,” Kinne said with a laugh. “I give him a hard time quite often about the day they had to fly [catcher Doug] Mirabelli and police escort him in because Cashie couldn’t catch the knuckleball from [Tim] Wakefield.”
Managers sometimes have long memories about things like that.
“Last year, in my first trip to Boston, I got into the clubhouse, and all over the clubhouse there were pictures of me growing up and [his brother John],” Kinne said, “and we were all in Red Sox gear. They roasted me pretty good then. They bring it up now. They say, how does it feel to be on the other side of a potential 3-0 meltdown jokingly. They know my Red Sox fan past, and I emphasize ‘past.’
“I do remember Kevin Cash as a Red Sox, but I like him better as the manager of the Rays.”
Bobby Kinne says he’s “fortunate to be in the position that I am in, getting to work with the brilliant minds of the front office and the culture they have created.”
When the former Monument Mountain Spartan and Vassar Brewer is asked about whether he wants to be the next Kevin Cash or the next Dan Duquette, he deftly deflects the question like he was turning a double play. Where does he want to take this career in Major League Baseball?
“Ideally, down the boat parade in Tampa in a week or so with a World Series trophy is about as far as my thoughts have gone,” he said. “I get the best of both worlds. I’m sitting on top of a fence between this incredible baseball operation and I get to watch both sides and learn. I don’t know which direction I would ever want to pursue.
“As long as I can continue to learn from both sides and they allow me to be in this position, I couldn’t be happier.”