Alfonzo Builds Winners
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Friday, June 20, 2008
BROOKLYN, NY - For most minor leaguers, Single-A ball is a place to hone your skills and ready yourself for a potential date with destiny. Winning, while being considered important, is more of an added bonus to development.
In the New York Mets organization, winning is something that is taken very seriously at all levels. Nevertheless, there aren’t any other organizations in professional baseball today that pride themselves in winning at the Single-A level nearly as much as the Metropolitans do. In Brooklyn for instance, winning is taken so seriously that the team will often make roster moves if they start to falter over the course of the season. It’s something that may catch other minor league baseball fans off guard, but in Brooklyn, there’s nothing wrong with seeing five or six players shipped out in favor of another batch after a bad week.
However, despite the rationale in Brooklyn, not many moves of that nature have needed to be made over the past two years. That is in part to the managerial style of Edgar Alfonzo, the team’s most successful coach, who not only adheres to the organization’s ideology of success with development, but ingrains it in every one of his players.
“It’s a matter of balance. If you establish good fundamentals at this level and put it in these players’ minds the importance of going out and trying to win every day,” said Alfonzo. “You’ll develop winners. Winners can play good fundamental baseball.”
Unlike managers of old in Brooklyn who have seen half of their team move throughout the organization in the span of a season, Alfonzo gets more out of his players by asking them to leave everything on the field on a nightly basis.
Coaching the likes of Angel Pagan and Mike Jacobs in 2001, Alfonzo’s tough-love and methodical approach to coaching may not be responsible for getting the duo to the big leagues, but it’s definitely something that left an impression on them. While Alfonzo was reluctant to give himself the least amount of credit for their development, he did say he gets emotional seeing them play in the big leagues and living their dream.
“It’s a good feeling because you know you work hard with those guys when they are here,” he said. “From here to the big leagues is a long way, but when they make it to the big leagues and you see them on TV, it’s a good feeling. When they play here they are babies, so it feels good to see them get to the big leagues.”
With a winning formula and proven results, you’d expect the Cyclones skipper to be stuck in his coaching ways of sorts. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that Fonzie has a winner take all approach to the game. Known more as a small-ball type manager, the former Minor League All-Star also preaches fundamentals to all of his players and closely manages the pitch counts on all of his pitchers.
This hybrid coaching style has proven successful for the 42-year old manager, but he still sees himself growing every day he’s able to coach.
“My job is also to be a little bit of a psychologist,” Alfonzo said. “I have to always try and make sure I know where everyone is mentally. It’s not easy to play your first year in professional baseball in Brooklyn. I have experience here and it’s my job to get them as ready as I can.”