Baseball coaches and managers have come and gone over the years. Managers have lasting names but coaches for the most part, are forgotten. That’s too bad because they are the glue that keeps a ball club together on and off the field. They are with the players every day. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave the ballpark and are baseball lifers to the core.
Coaches bring their life experiences to the clubhouse, where they will share their unique stories and important advice with the young players of a team. It goes beyond all the instructions and tweaks to a swing or a pitch. They are so important to the development and cohesiveness of a team. Whether it is advice on learning how to approach an at bat or how to deal with the press, they know it all because they’ve experienced the good and bad of what could happen in the career of a professional ball player.
They will take the bullet for an organization when the lineups stop hitting or the bullpens break down. They will get fired like managers because you can’t fire the roster. They will find another job in some other organization eventually and probably repeat the cycle many times in their coaching career. It was nice to see the Mets hire New York native Tony Tarasco as their new first-base coach recently. I like it when GM’s recognize the talent of these dedicated baseball men.
I love to watch them on the field pre game with their players. The love and passion they have for the game is a beautiful thing to see. One of my favorites is Ron Washington, third base coach and infield guru for the Atlanta Braves. To watch and listen to his interaction with the young and veteran infielders of the Braves is not only interesting to watch but fun to listen to as he tirelessly works with them before each and every game of the year.
If you can get to a game early enough to watch these coaches around the batting cage, hitting grounders or in the outfield, which is where you will see Tarasco pre game, you will see another aspect of the game that is not talked about that much. They are always teaching and making corrections to their players as they try to make them better. It is always fascinating to see them working with all the other coaches from their organization in spring training, where ninety percent of that organization’s coaches are roaming the back fields of those complexes.
This game is not easy. Get a hit 30% of the time and you may get to the Hall of Fame. Get a 30% on your drivers test and you will be riding the bus. Therefore, veterans are always trying to improve as well as the young ones. They need constant coaching from someone who is watching for little things that can help them get better. Coaches see things that most players don’t. A player may view a video of himself and see one or two things, but his coach will see three or four things.
Most of the hirings of coaches on the major league level are reported by local news outlets. Usually a short piece is written about a bench coach or like in the case of Tarasco, a first base coach who will be seen on the field at every game. I understand them getting little recognition. After all, no one goes to a game to watch the coaches. But just remember this, he is not there to collect the batter’s elbow pads and give him his sliding gloves or to toss a foul ball into the stands. Next time you watch a first base coach with a stop watch in his hand, it is because one of his duties will be to time the pitchers delivery to the plate to see if he can get an edge for his runner. They study the arms of opponents and will know who they can and can not run on. The coach goes unnoticed by the fans but not by the players.
The majority of coaches are not well known and will bounce from team to team. The well known ex-major leaguers will get the big jobs as managers of clubs the majority of the time but do they really know the game any better than these obscure coaches who make the managers look good?
I just think it is time to recognize these low profile, intricate pieces of an organization. They are the last remnant of “boots on the ground baseball men” on the field. Coaches do use analytics to help them do their job but they can never be replaced by numbers jockeys who don’t have the years of experience in uniform either as players or coaches. Baseball coaches make a difference.