This season, the Oakland A’s welcomed back former draft pick David Newhan to the organization. Newhan, the former big leaguer, joined the A’s as the manager of their short-season Vermont Lake Monsters’ squad. Newhan previously served as the High-A hitting coach in the San Diego Padres’ organization.
In his first season at the helm of the Lake Monsters, Newhan’s squad went 33-43 overall. However, they played well during the final month of the season, and several players showed significant growth and progress with their development during the course of the year.
Newhan was a 17th-round pick of the A’s in 1995 out of Pepperdine. The Southern California native never played in the big leagues for Oakland, but he logged eight seasons as a member of the Padres, Phillies, Orioles, Mets and Astros. In 413 big league games, Newhan hit .253/.312/.380 with 23 homers. He was a versatile defender, playing second base, first base, third base and all three outfield positions at various points during his career.
Donald Moore spoke with Newhan during the final week of his inaugural season as a manager.
Donald Moore: Overall, Coach, how do you feel this team has performed this season?
David Newhan: You know, we got off to a decent start and then kind of struggled in the end of June. And July was a tough month, but they have really bounced back and August has been a really good month, and it kind of a telltale sign what kind of club they are. They persevered and this level is really not about the wins and losses, per say, but about them putting the work in and developing and becoming big league players. So I think that is something we accomplished and I think that it's starting to come to fruition with the way they have been playing down the stretch and they are showing a lot the way they are finishing. So I am proud of them and I think it has been a good year.
DM: What expectations did you have for the team this year?
DN: You know, it's kind of a hard question. Obviously I expect that they are going to work hard and that they are going to come out of the year knowing what it's like being a professional, what it is like playing for the Oakland organization .The expectations of what Oakland wants out of them and the fundamentals that they want, the way they set up their routine. The way a professional comes in and gets their work done, so those are some of the expectations I have for them. Obviously, when I think you look into history, John Wooden really didn't talk about wins and losses, but if you go about your business the right way, the wins and losses will show up. My expectations are more along those lines where they just develop as men and players, better players, better people, and figure out what it is like to playing professionally day in and day out.
DM: What were your team's biggest strengths this year?
DN: I think along that same lines, their work ethic and these guys love to work and they love to show up early and just keep on getting better, so I thought that was like a real strength for them.
DM: What was your biggest challenge as a first time manager?
DN: I think just continuing to learn about myself, learn how to manage a group of people and how you interact on a daily basis with that responsibility and that chore, but just learning about myself and how I'm perceived as well. Not just how I think I am perceived, but just the actual perception of others in a leadership role, so I think I have learned a lot about I interact with people, and also just dealing with staff as well as the players. I think that responsibility was fun, but also I learned a lot about how I am viewed and it was a good year.
DM: What do you feel this team achieved as a whole this year?
DN: I think talking kind of about what my expectations were and I think they achieved those in a lot of ways. Guys got better, like I said. They keep working and keep developing and a lot of these guys are on their way in a couple more weeks to go to instructional league and that indoctrination of playing A's baseball and playing professional ball and learning what it's like. With some of them, it is mechanical adjustments, but this game is always going to have a mechanical approach, and emotions and it can be difficult with both of those aspects of the game, and learning that side of things on a daily basis when the game keeps coming at you, and when you fail seven out of ten times, and you are one of the best hitters in baseball.
So in a game of failure, handling your emotions and your approach on a daily basis is extremely necessary and becomes evident on how they need to do that. I think the guys have learned a lot about that and they are on their way to furthering their careers and hopefully a lot of these guys will make it to the big leagues, because that is a fun play to play.
DM: Any particular standouts this season?
DN: I was really happy with all of them. Obviously, there were some guys that came in from the draft, Daniel Gossett and Brett Graves, and nice to see Dillon Overton getting back on the mound with just some nice, lights-out stuff. Koby Gauna coming in and getting double digit saves, a kid like Yairo Munoz coming over where he maybe not quite makes the team but, because of the need of the draft being later and the season being earlier, he comes with us and just fits right in and probably is the most exciting player in the league for me. It was fun to see and they have done a great job just developing and I think they all have gotten better.
DM: You are a former major league player. What was it like the first time you got up in that batter's box?
DN: It was a little nerve racking to say the least. You're walking on air and trying to feel your body, but it was pretty cool when I came up. I came up with the A's, I was drafted by the A's. Traded over to the Padres, after my Double-A season, and I came up with the Padres and we were playing the A's. I had gotten into a game actually previously in inter-league, pinch ran, but my first at-bat was against Oakland in inter-league. So it was against a lot of the guys I'd played with before coming up through the A's system. It was cool and I was facing a guy that I had faced before, so I felt a little familiar with that. Some of you might have known him: Tim Hudson. He got me with two strikes and I just didn't want to strike out. Fortunately, I worked it into a three, two count and just somehow placed the barrel on it and went for a double, so it was a good night. I think I went three for four, three for five night, and that was one for the memories.
DM: Any off-season plans?
DN: Probably heading into instructional league, so another month out there in Arizona. We got to close down old Papago, for us it's been a nice home for the last 20 years and it will be fun to get out there and get another month with these kids and get with the great Oakland staff that we have here. I'm looking forward to that and I do some lessons. I work with kids back home doing some hitting lessons, some speed work and work-out stuff like that. Hang with the family, enjoy the kids and get ready for next season.
DM: Thank you so much for your time and it was a pleasure meeting you, and the best luck to you, as well.
DN: Thank you and take care.