It is unusual for any minor league manager to coach the same team for four straight seasons. Either a manager isn't a good fit in the organization, or he has enough success to advance to higher levels.
Mark Haley definitely fits into that latter category, having led his club to those three straight playoff appearances, the first of which led to the Midwest League title. It's not as though Haley's performance hasn't warranted advancement; Haley is happy in South Bend, and the organization is happy to have him serve as the first professional coach for many of the organization's players.
"We just talk about what's best for myself and the organization," Haley said of his annual discussions with the Diamondbacks' front office. "At the time, this was the best move for everybody. Of course I have goals, and I want to move in positions where I can increase my responsibilities. That's being looked at by the Diamondbacks, and I have all the faith in the world that we'll always be able to come up with the right equation."
Why is this California native happy to bear the often brutal April weather in South Bend, Indiana? Mostly because that's where his wife is from, and that is where he resides. He and his wife have many family members available for babysitting duties and for support at Coveleski Stadium, and Haley has become quite active in the South Bend community.
"As you know, the success of a coach in baseball is going to depend on how happy his wife is," Haley quipped. "It's very rare for baseball guys to get established roots in their hometown because they travel so much."
Haley has enjoyed success to the tune of a 226-188 career record at South Bend. He attributes part of his success over the past three seasons to pitching coach Wellington Cepeda, who has finally been promoted to pitching coach for the Hi-A Visalia Oaks.
"A lot of the coaches want to move up to higher levels," said Haley. "My situation is such a good fit for everybody, so what I try to do is help them to get their opportunities and reach their goals. It's nice to see Wellington Cepeda, although we've had a lot of success together, get his opportunity to move up. I don't want to hold him back just because we work so well together."
While Cepeda gets his opportunity for advancement, so too does the staff of the Yakima Bears. Ex-Manager Mike Bell leapfrogs Haley to become the Oaks' field manager, while 2007 hitting coach Francisco Morales and 2007 pitching coach Eric Sabel become Haley's new underlings in South Bend. Haley is already familiar with those two from past spring trainings.
"I'm real excited about the new staff coming in. We've got a lot in common in terms of personality traits," Haley remarked. "I think it's going to be a nice, easy transition."
Haley continues to preach aggressiveness on both sides of the ball, and Morales and Sabel bring that same attitude with them from Yakima. For the 2008 season, they will preach that mantra of aggressiveness to a core of players that perhaps has lower expectations than a typical group of players in South Bend. The Diamondbacks system is somewhat depleted from all of the graduation to the majors over the past few years and the eight-player deal that brought Dan Haren to the desert this offseason.
"It will be interesting to see how we do in the future here," Haley mused. "Some of the pitching looks pretty good. What's going to get us, is when you trade six guys out of your minor league program, you've gotta replace them."
Mark Haley has shown that he can get the most out of the talent that he is presented with, meaning that the future of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system is still in very capable hands.
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