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In 2014, the St. Louis Cardinals implemented a new position on the full-season coaching staffs. Though it is called the “fourth-coach”, it is a coaching/scouting hybrid job in place at all four of the full-season minor league levels.
Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque commented on the fourth coach position last winter in an interview here at The Cardinal Nation. “Great program. We really enjoyed having the fourth coach. The managers, pitching/hitting coaches all said the additional fourth coach was very helpful. The combination of coaching/scouting throughout the course of 140 games is very helpful for them. It turns around and helps us to have work on-and-off the field in scouting.”
Fourth coaches’ responsibilities include traveling with their respective teams, hitting fungoes, pitching batting practice, assisting players in the field, working with hitters and pitchers alike in uniform before the game. For the actual games, however, they change into street clothes and scout the opposition and their own club, sitting behind home plate.
After the inaugural year, two of the four fourth coaches went on to professional scouting jobs with the Cardinals, Packy Elkins and Ricky Meinhold. Elkins was the Double-A fourth coach and covers the Sally League based in the Baltimore/Washington area while Meinhold was the High-A fourth coach and currently works in the Tampa area out of Florida.
The intent of these jobs is to help the organization build an internal pipeline of future coaches and scouts with the individual getting a feeling for which side of baseball may most interest them over the long-term.
The 2015 fourth coach for Springfield is David Compton, who joined a coaching staff with a combined 15 years of big-league playing experience as well as 19 years of minor league coaching experience in manager Dann Bilardello, pitching coach Jason Simontacchi, and hitting coach Erik Pappas. This is a very seasoned staff to say the least.
Compton finished his three-school, four-year collegiate career at Cal State Los Angeles. Following college, the 26-year old signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a non-drafted free agent, but did not stay long. Compton was released after just four games against Arizona League competition. He returned to Cal State LA to finish his degree and majored in business management while serving as a “bird-dog” for the Minnesota Twins in Southern California.
In the following interview, Compton discusses his decision to take the Cardinals hybrid role, as well as detailing his father (Ken Compton) having a major influence on his decision to make a career in baseball, and talks about his favorite between coaching and scouting.
Derek Shore: You were an associate scout for the Minnesota Twins last year. What made you decide to take on this hybrid scouting/coaching role with the Cardinals?
David Compton: “I’ve always been around the game, I always known I wanted to do something in baseball. As you mentioned, I was an associate scout for the Twins last year. I have enjoyed scouting, and I have been around it because my dad is (Ken Compton, Minnesota Twins veteran scout) a scout too, so I grew up at the field doing stuff with my dad scouting games and I have always been an observer of games. I figured this would be a good first start, a first official job in the game.”
DS: Who gave you the opportunity as the fourth coach?
DC: “The person I communicated the most with was Gary LaRocque (Director of Player Development). He was the one who got me started. I interviewed with him and got the ball rolling on the whole thing with him.”
DS: What was the intensive training course like this spring and how exactly did that work?
DC: “It was actually pretty neat. Us fourth coaches, which there is one per full-season affiliate, four of us, they all sit us down in spring training and all the higher-ups showed us the ropes of scouting essentially. It was pretty neat to take the time to do that. It was two weeks of full-on scouting in a classroom basically of explaining how they do things, how they want their reports written, go out and scout them, then go over our evaluations basically.”
DS: What is your favorite part of the job with a full season nearly under your belt?
DC: “I like how it is a full-circle view of the game, where I can be on the scouting end, the player development side, go in the stands and scout the games at the time to get to see the whole picture.”
DS: Do you help in putting together defensive shifts for Springfield?
DC: “Every once and while, only if there is an extreme case where a guy is just strictly pull then we will put that in there.”
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