MadFriars Interview: Luis Ortiz

A new regime in the front office has led to a significant overhaul of the player development side for the San Diego Padres. While Director of Player Development Sam Geaney has overall responsibility for the 173 players currently in minor league camp, field coordinator Luis Ortiz is in uniform trying to keep all of them – and all their coaches – headed in the same direction.

With so many new eyes trying to get looks at players, what was your approach as you opened camp?

Luis OrtizThe first thing is making sure they have every opportunity to get ready for the season and everyone can compete for jobs, and keep them healthy. Besides that, evaluating hwere they’re at technically and physically, and how can we get them to the optimal spot for their level.

What’s your general approach to how you want guys to work in camp and to get ready?

Ortiz: We want them to run hard – have hard 90s. We want them, like anybody else, to grind out at-bats. But having an emphasis on approach and timing, trying to time the pitcher before we try to time the pitch. We want them to commit to the particular situation instead of listening to the ego – basically doing what the game is asking them to do.

How do you deal with coordinating all of your coordinators?

Ortiz: A lot of it is learning their personalities and how they work. I have a really good group of guys, I’m blessed with that. We’re starting something new. It’s trying to build something and it’s going to take a lot of moving parts to get it together and a lot of work, getting those kids to change their thinking. We’re trying to define work for the kids, not just tell them ‘we want you to work hard.’

What does hard work look like to you?

Ortiz: It’s a holistic approach to whatever you’re doing at that moment. There’s a mental component, there has to be emotional control in it. You can’t be a lazy thinker, you’ve got to be able to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing so when you’re by yourself, you can push yourself. And of course, the one that everybody sees is the physical component.

But are you taking ground balls with the precision that they should be taken with. Are you taking a swing in batting practice that’s a professional swing, or just home run derby?

How do you deliver messages to players one-on-one and figure out what works for each guy?

Ortiz: That’s the hard part just because of the sheer number of players we have here. The message has to be a more generic, with more absolutes as we start it out. Then as you start to see deficiencies, that message is more individual. That’s what we try to instill in the coaches – you don’t give a specific message to the group. The specific message is to the player. Stuff that are absolutes, anyone can say that to anybody.

It’s tough right now, because there are kids who want to make teams and they want to make adjustments. The message to them has been, if you keep worrying about the team, you’re going to struggle. Now, you commit to the process and what you do well, more than likely you’ll make the team. It’s trying to put the horses in front of the wagon.

What was AJ’s sales pitch to come over and take this on?

Ortiz: He didn’t want me to leave the Rangers [for Cleveland] when I was there, so there was always that relationship there and he knew how I like to work and how we go about things. It was more about trying to make something to be the standard in Major League Baseball, and it’s been fun trying to get all the work done and build a foundation so that we have sustained success. What’s the one thing you took from your experience coming up through the system as a player that frames how you go about this job now?

Ortiz: Don’t get distracted by the little things. The acronym of WIN – What’s Important Now. I think we get distracted, so it’s about picking up what’s important at that moment. Why are we doing the things that we’re doing and doing it the best we can after that.

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