Life in the Minors- Chapter 10: Coaching in the Minors

by Matt Rosenfeld
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WFUV Sports || Matt Rosenfeld -- SI Yankee Manager Justin Pope

Tending the Farm

For the thirteenth consecutive year, WFUV talks to the members of the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees in the Short Season Single-A Penn League about the trials and tribulations of being minor league ballplayers. The long bus rides, the low pay, 76 games in 80 days. This is a look into Life in the Minors: How the Other Half Lives.

This week, Matt Rosenfeld and Matt Moro talk examine what makes coaching in the minor leagues unique.

The Staten Island Yankees with Matt Rosenfeld:

Life in the Minors details many of the adjustments young professional ballplayers have to make when they first enter Class A baseball. There are on the field changes that go along with the pro game. There are personal lives that get thrown by the wayside to follow dreams. But one unique aspect rarely thought about is the coaching.

For the players, this is the first time their entirely lives has been baseball. Not only them, but everyone around them, including coaches are leading professional baseball lifestyles. The hours put in compared to college are astronomical. Just ask Staten Island Yankees outfielder Brandon Thomas. The biggest difference he’s noticed is the amount of time spent on the game from players and coaches alike.

For second baseman Derek Toadvine, the video available to him and coaches has made learning and improving his game much easier. It is just another way coaching changes from college to the pros.

Nobody is better to comment on coaching at the minor league level than the managers. Yankees manager Justin Pope, who played college ball and spent some time in the minors, realizes that in the professional game, it’s a lot more laid back. “In college, it’s so much small ball,” Pope said. “Whereas here, you’re basically letting the guys play.”

Another thing Pope has noticed about the minor leagues is that it’s not all about winning. As opposed to in college when it’s all about results, in the minor leagues, the ultimate goal is to groom these young players to become better at the game. This process sometimes takes precedent over winning games. Coaching certainly is different at the minor league level.

All season long we've talked about what the Mini Mets and Baby Bombers of the New York-Penn league have had to do to adjust to minor league baseball. But one subject of these players' lives we haven't touched yet is the coaching in the minor leagues. The managers and coaches of minor league ballplayers are the people who have the most influence over them during this unique time in their lives, as they help these young kids adjust to their new lives and new level of baseball.

The Brooklyn Cyclones with Matt Moro:
Catcher Colton Plaia of the Brooklyn Cyclones loves the knowledge his manager Rich Donnelly brings to the game. Plaia believes that Donnelly's relaxed style and experience allow Donnelly to continue teach the him and his teammates the game of baseball.
 
Second Baseman LJ Mazzilli also sings high praises of Donnelly. Mazzilli, son of former Met and Yankee Lee Mazzilli, loves the fact that Donnelly is an old school manager just like his dad was an old school player. 
 
Donnelly himself embraces the fact that his job is more about teaching than other levels of baseball. He knows that in short-season class A baseball, its as much about development as anything else. 
 
Fighting for a playoff spot, the Cyclones regular season is almost near its end. In a few short months, these guys have gone from a random group of ballplayers to a team that has learned to play together. A large part of that transition, and many other other transitions this Cyclones team has gone through can be attributed to the manager and coaches that have helped them along the way and prepared them for a career in baseball, possibly ending up at the big show.
 
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Life in the Minors- Chapter 10