When Preston Mattingly was hired away from the San Diego Padres to be the Phillies director of minor league operations, he came in with a new approach that had not been seen in the organization. Now that the minor league season is underway, fans can see some of the changes on the field, while others are of the type that are going on behind the scenes. The changes took place almost immediately after Mattingly arrived on the scene.
Starting with the more subtle of the changes, was somewhat of a youth movement among the minor league coaching staffs. The biggest of the new hires came at Triple-A where veteran Gary Jones was out and Anthony Contreras, 38, was brought in from the Padres minor league system. Contreras is the youngest manager the IronPigs have had in their 14 seasons and Mattingly didn’t stop there. He went through the organization’s minor league personnel and kept the best and brightest – and youngest – that he saw. That led to filling out the Lehigh Valley staff with pitching coach Cesar Ramos (37), bench coach Greg Brodzinski (30) and hitting coach Joe Thurston (42). All three of the assistant coaches played for Lehigh Valley at one point or another in their minor league careers.
“He (Mattingly) was going to put his flavor on things and he revamped the minor league system the way he wanted to do it,” noted Contreras. “You take the consensus of everybody that has been in the Phillies organization and there were big smiles in camp, all around the complex. Everybody appreciated how things were formulating and how things were working on the field and off the field and that relationships were being built.”
Mattingly’s changes came not from a position of insisting everything was done his way only, but from double-checking that everything was done the right way and consistently throughout the organization.
Another 38-year-old manager is on the job at Double-A Reading where Shawn Williams enters his second season leading the Fightins. Again, complimenting Williams is a young staff with bench coach Mycal Jones, 34, hitting coach Tyler Henson, 34, and pitching coach Matt Hockenberry, 30. Continue through the organization and you find much the same type of ages.
Brodzinski has been around the organization for a few years and likes the new atmosphere and philosophy around the player development department.
“The biggest difference I have seen is that we are all doing this together, so it’s a united front. All the messaging is the same from the big leagues to the Dominican Summer League, so if we continue to do that, it’s going to make a big difference,” said Brodzinski.
Tomorrow in part two, we will look at the new approach on the field that is being stressed at all levels of the minor league system.