If you look at a list of job titles for the Arizona Diamondbacks front office staff (or the front office staff for any major league team, for that matter), you are inundated with job titles that don't really clarify what a person's job actually is. The Diamondbacks have more Vice Presidents than outfielders, for example, and only employees within the organization could tell you exactly how each one's job differs from the others.
Former major league third baseman Jack Howell has served as the Diamondbacks minor league field coordinator for the past four seasons after serving as manager of the Missoula Osprey in 2002, hitting coach of the Tucson Sidewinders in 2003, and minor league hitting coordinator in 2004. I asked Jack what exactly the role of field coordinator entails and how it differs from his pervious responsibilities within the organization.
"As I see it, mainly being A.J. Hinch's right hand man and making sure we're building the identity of what it is to be a Diamondback: on the field type stuff of how we play the game, like bunt plays, and how we're getting guys developed through the system is what I oversee, and being able to answer front office questions as to whether a player should move. Do we need to make changes if a team's struggling, or if a certain individual's struggling? What are we doing to get him better, what's worked, what hasn't; just mainly being the answer man as to why we do what we do and making sure that we getting guys developed and getting them through the system."
"It's just a lot more responsibility," Howell added. "Taking more responsibility and more ownership and feeling like I have a part in the development of out players.
We caught up with Howell during a three-game April series between the South Bend Silver Hawks and the Kane County Cougars. Like the hitting, pitching, infield, outfield, and catching coordinators that he supervises, Howell travels across the country to see all of the Diamondbacks prospects. Those other coordinators report back to Howell, and Howell reports to Hinch. Howell's input is therefore crucial for the consideration of whether to advance a prospect to the next level of the organization, but he isn't afraid to delegate much of the scouting work.
"A.J. makes all the final decisions, and I guess I'm the decision right before the final decision," Howell explained. "But there's a lot of players attached to it. We definitely give a lot of credit to our coaching staff that's on the field and see them every day. Me coming in for three days and thinking that I'm going to immediately notice something and have the answer [would be presumptuous]. I just look at it like I'm coming in with a different set of eyes and looking at it differently, as to figure out why a guy's doing well or struggling, and can he move to the next level or can't he. But definitely, we put a lot of credit in with the coaches who see them every single day and are with them every single at bat and for nine innings of a baseball game."
One reason that Howell respects those coaches input is that he used to be one of them. He has that experience as a field manager, hitting coach, and hitting coordinator, and despite a successful 11-year major league career, he knows that the other members of the player development department are experts in their particular fields.
"I've kinda been in these guys' shoes in the past, so I feel like I have a connection there," he added.
But Howell is enjoying his latest position and all of the responsibility that comes along with it. Helpfully, he works for a young Diamondbacks management group that has taken this Phoenix-based organization and resurrected it from its ashes, not through more debt-incurring free agent signings, but by building a strong core of young talent that promises to sustain them from years to come.
"AJ came with Josh Byrnes and the new group with a game plan: Not just a one-year quick fix, but in the next ten years, how we can at least feel like we're one of the top organizations in baseball," concluded Howell.
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of Jack Howell describing his role within the organization
of Jack Howell discussing South Bend Silver Hawks prospects
Did You Know? Jack Howell led all American League third baseman with a .974 fielding percentage in 1989.
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