MadFriars Interview: Missons' Doug Dascenzo

SAN ANTONIO: Doug Dascenzo ended his playing career with the San Diego Padres in 1996. He joined the organization in 1997 as a roving instructor, managed the Eugene Emeralds in 2006, took over the Fort Wayne in 2007, then the Wizards - including leading the newly named TinCaps to the MidWest League title in 2009, before taking over the San Antonio Missions, his current position, in 2010.

The current Missions team, with many of the same players he worked with in 2009 in Fort Wayne, are tearing apart the Texas League. Through June 26 they had posted a 53-21 record, easily the best in the Texas League and the Padres' organization.

Always extremely popular with his players Dascenzo's philosophy basically comes down to two tenets; play hard and have fun. We sat down with him at the beginning of May to get his opinions on a few of his players.

You managed so many of these guys in '09 what do you see that is similar about them and what do you see that is different?

Doug Dascenzo: What is similar is that they come to the field to do their job. They love playing the game of baseball and especially with the guys they have on the team. The definitely have fun on and off the field.

What is different from the '09 guys is that they are better players and have refined their skills. The work really starts to begin right now even though they are at the AA level and a phone call away from the major league level. They have worked really hard to get here and is a reason why they are here but need to continue to do that to make it to the major league level.

James Darnell had a disappointing season last year but the last month of the 2010 season he put up the type of numbers that he is now. I know he had some serious hand issues last year and at the same time you guys always stress if you are on the field there are no excuses. But at the same time its a hard enough game to play when you are one hundred percent healthy let alone eighty. Is this what you have expected from him?

Doug Dascenzo: You are right it is a tough game to play when you are healthy. But at the same time when you start a season like James and Logan Forsythe did last year and then an injury hits you after a few weeks. You are out for four or five weeks like they were, now you have to come back and re-do a spring training and get back into the rhythm of everything.

That is why we saw the better at-bats from James at the end of the year. The AA level is not the same as going from the Midwest League to the Cal League, its a little bit more of a jump. You have your two A-ball teams forming one team. The guys that were here last year for the first year in AA understand that. Being back this year he is carrying it through and is where he needs to be. Having good at-bats, playing great defense that is what he needs to do.

His defense looks good, pretty fluid and athletic. What has he been doing to improve?

Doug Dascenzo: Same thing as all these guys have been doing since spring training. Taking their ground balls, working on their footwork and taking extra work whenever they can. When you do all those things the right way they add up because you become more comfortable.

When you are comfortable you have a better chance to succeed. It will be the same way for them when they reach the major league level. You have to have that comfort level to play the game up there and give yourself a better chance to succeed.

Being in spring training with the major league team was great for those guys in getting familiar with the players and the coaches will give them some type of comfort which is one of the factors that needs to be there.

Blake Tekotte's game seems like it has really picked up offensively because he has put on some size. In Fort Wayne I remember he had a bit of a wrap in his swing and he seems like he is a little quicker to the ball.

Doug Dascenzo: We can turn the clock back on all these guys and you are going to see those things but that is what player development is about. That is what we do. That is what we get paid to do. Is to try to get them straightened out a little bit but quite a bit of credit also has to go to the players because they have to be willing to take those changes.

Most of them are very successful coming in, which is the reason why they were drafted in the first place. So many of them have never experienced any problems so the adjustments when things aren't going that well isn't always easy. At the same time we as the "experts" need to guide them and teach them how the game is to be played and get them going in the right direction.

Because when they do experience some failure at least they are going about it in the right way. So when they get to the next level they have a better chance to succeed.

Cody Decker made a big jump from the Arizona League to the Cal League last year. He got off to a good start here, what is the next phase of his game you are looking onto pick up?

Doug Dascenzo: His defensive work needs to pick up some. We know that he had caught a little in college and he is taking some ground balls at third and needs to get a little smoother; but that will come. It will come with experience of practice time in BP, extra work on his own, work with Gary Jones our infield instructor and just becoming very comfortable with his footwork until it becomes automatic.

First is also a very important position because of how much you handle the ball whether it is from an infielder or from the pitcher. You have to be able to handle the leather and be smooth. Right now that is where he is getting the most time and he's been improving.

Hitting wise he needs to continue what he is doing. He is a big strong kid that can hit a ball a long way. We can talk about strikeouts but if he is hitting twenty-five to thirty home runs a year you will take that. Guys like that who can do damage, you let them do damage.

At the same time you are always reaching and striving to get better. He may chase some but if that ball is there he is going to mash it.

Jaff Decker everyone will also talk about what better shape he is in. But being in better shape has also added a few dimensions to his game; he dragged bunted the other night and is even stealing a few bags. What do you see for him next?

Doug Dascenzo: I think its just a matter of him playing. He really hasn't played a full season yet. He had some injuries in both Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. At the same time he is a fairly young kid, high school draft pick, exceptional athlete - even though it may not look like it.

A few years ago with the weight that he did have, he could still run. He needs to continue to work on his trade. He's made some good catches and he has a good arm. We see him as an above average defender with a good arm and that bat speaks for itself. He has tremendous power for a small statured guy.

Tomorrow we catch up with Coach Dascenzo on his pitchers.

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