One of the most respected minor league instructors in baseball, Juan Navarette has played an important role in the development of countless Oakland A's prospects for more than 20 years. The former Mexican League star who collected more than 2,000 hits between the Mexican Summer League and affiliated minor league baseball has served as a coach in the A's system since 1995. For the past decade, Navarette has had a specific focus: helping A's minor league position players improve defensively. Navarette spends his time during the regular season traveling from A's affiliate to A's affiliate working with minor leaguers on defense.
Donald Moore spoke with Navarette when he was visiting the Vermont squad earlier this year.
Donald Moore: Hi Juan, what is your official title for the A's organization?
Juan Navarette: My official title is minor league roving instructor.
DM: How many years have been coaching and instructing players?
JN: Well, my last year as a player was 1990. Since then I have been coaching, managing, instructing and doing all kinds of duties to help players.
DM: You're down here visiting the Lake Monsters today. Would you mind telling me what exactly are you doing besides talking with the the manager and the coaching staff of the Lake Monsters, to see how the team is performing?
JN: Our minor league director [Keith Lieppman], he makes a schedule and he talks to all of us roving instructors. The hitting roving instructor, the pitching roving instructor and myself, so we kind of set the schedule before their season. We try to accommodate and be able to supervise and watch these young players. As you know, some of them have been with us and some of them we have just drafted, so it's always good to see the new guys and to see their abilities and what they bring to the table. We are very pleased and happy the way the A's scouting department has been doing their job. We all know that they really keep track of everybody and they go a great job doing it.
DM: You travel throughout the A's affiliates all season long. Do you perform the same task for all of their teams in the system?
JN: Yes I do. From the Dominican Republic, Arizona, Vermont, Beloit, Stockton, Midland and Nashville. And I do my work briefly with the Oakland A's, as well ,to see some of the young players called up. For instance. I just saw Ryon Healy last week and he's a good story him and I'm very happy for him.
DM: I'm so happy for Bruce Maxwell, too. It's seems like it wasn't that long ago I interviewed him here at the Joe.
JN: Oh yeah, he got called up a few days ago and I missed him, but it's nice to see our players going through our system and make it to the big leagues and reaching their goal to be there.
DM: Coach, it has to be very gratifying for all the players that you have see throughout the years make the big leagues and succeed in the majors. How does that feel when that happens?
JN: Oh, that is a great feeling. As a matter of fact, I was part of the crew that told Healy that he was going up. You should have seen his face. It is great feeling wherever I am. I might be in the Dominican, I might be in Nashville, I might be in Vermont, and knowing that any of our guys are going up, it's a very special feeling. That is all the hard work that pays off.
DM: Now all that traveling and hard work that you do throughout the season, when do you ever get time off?
JN: I visit my family and there is plenty of time to regroup during the off-season and I get my time off and I really enjoy it. So I know this is the time that the players need backup, support and instruction. I know since February all the way to September there is something to do somewhere.
DM: What hobbies do you have besides baseball?
JN: I don't know anything else, but baseball, but growing up and going to school back in Mexico, accounting was in my mind then, but baseball took over. Once I started to go out and play in the game it was everything.
DM: Where are you originally from in Mexico?
JN: Durango, Mexico.
DM: Any off-season plans?
JN: Take a few days off, then see what the organization has in mind. We have two off-season programs: the Instructional League in Arizona and the Instructional League in the Dominican Republic. And I have been doing that for years. I'm just waiting for the dates and see when it starts, so once we finish the regular season this summer, we check the dates and be ready to keep on going and then I think in December I'll have some time off.
DM: The A's did extremely well this year in signing some very talented International free agents, most notable Lazarito (Lazaro Armenteros) from Cuba, George Bell's son and few other guys highly rated free agents. Have you seen any of those guys yet?
JN: No, I saw a little bit of George Bell, but I didn't see the other guys. He's very strong for a young kid. He has some pop in his bat. Like said, the A's scouting department does a very good job signing them according to the market. They are on top of everybody and they know where they are, they know who they are and their tools and everything, so I think we did very well in that market in Latin America.
DM: Coach, thank you so much for your time and it was a pleasure speaking with you and all the great work you do for the Oakland A's organization.
JN: My pleasure and thank you.