While interviewing Rocco Baldelli for the Twins managerial job that officially became his on Thursday, General Manager Thad Levine said one of the most curious — but interesting — answers emerged from a basic question: What do you do in your spare time?
Baldelli told his soon-to-be Twins bosses he likes to travel extensively to see live performances by Phish, a rock band known for an improvisational style.
“I think it just speaks to how down to earth he is and how relatable he is — that he has interests outside of baseball,” Levine said. “We weren’t looking for someone who was so consumed by the game. He’s not giving his life to the game of baseball. He’s giving a healthy portion of his life to baseball, and he has genuine other interests.”
That sentiment might not fit the profile of a traditional manager, but tradition isn’t what the Twins were seeking when they hired Baldelli, 37, as the youngest current manager in Major League Baseball.
In a sports market filled with thirtysomethings in positions of power — Twins executive Derek Falvey is 35, Lindsay Whalen and Richard Pitino are 36 while P.J. Fleck is 37 — Baldelli blends in. But even within that mix, he stands out.
Dare we say the Twins just hired a Renaissance man — or perhaps the first hipster manager in MLB history?
“I think that’s an appropriate description,” Baldelli’s brother, Nick, said with a laugh. “He has the style of clothing. He has the hipster beard going on. The sandals.”
Baldelli’s parents, Dan and Michelle, were at Thursday’s introductory news conference at Target Field on Thursday, along with brothers Nick and Dante; Rocco’s longtime girlfriend Allie Genoa; and his best friend Minh Pham, who he considers a brother.
The family is clearly tight-knit, which comes through in expressions of love and gentle teasing.
When asked about Phish, Nick said: “We were really lucky for Rocco to drag us to a Phish concert in Worcester one time. It was a good experience that I’ll probably never experience again. To each their own.”
Allie and Rocco have been together for eight years, and she has been to enough Phish shows that she now counts herself among the band’s fans.
At a Halloween concert in 2014, they dressed up as characters from the TV show “True Detective” — providing a picture that’s among the highlights of the @roccodbaldelli archive on Twitter along with plenty of pictures of his dog and pop culture references.
“He’s really unique. People can really be themselves around him,” Allie said. “He’s going to be more down to earth, but at the same time he’s motivated and passionate about the game. You’ll learn that really quickly being around him. He really values relationships with people.”
The Twins are banking on Baldelli’s ability to make genuine connections with players — something Baldelli said will take time but will also come about organically.
“I like to know what makes these guys tick,” he said.
Part of that curiosity comes from embracing what makes him tick. In a way, then, there is a connection between the Baldelli who loves attending Phish shows and the man who will embrace analytics and instincts in leading the Twins.
“I didn’t grow up in high school as a big [Phish] fan, but truthfully I enjoy improvisation and improvisational music and things like that,” Baldelli said. “When there’s a lot going on, it’s always nice to put on some music that you enjoy, and maybe it helps you relax a little bit.”