Interview with Emeralds manager Roy Howell

One of the first managers that Padres' prospects encounter is Roy Howell, the manager of the short-season Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League. Howell, a ten year veteran of the major leagues, is going into his second year managing the Ems. A short-season affiliate of the Padres, the majority of their college draft picks are sent here initially to get their first taste of professional baseball, with a smattering of high school picks sprinkled in to gain experience after Rookie ball.

We caught up with Roy on our recent visit to Eugene to talk about what life is like as a manager in the low minors, adjustments to the professional game and the best pitch in baseball.

John Conniff: As a manager in the low minors, which is the first experience with professional baseball most of your players have, what is the biggest challenge that you have?

Roy Howell: That it is everyday, not Friday, Saturday and Sunday as it was in college. It's an adjustment not only physically, going from an aluminum bat to wood bats, but it's on a daily basis mentally which is very challenging.

When you throw in the long road trips, the emotional up and downs, its very big adjustment.

John Conniff: One of the things we try to get our readers to understand is how hard it is to be a minor league manager. We talked to Randy Ready of the Fort Wayne Wizards, and he said managing the game is one of the easier parts of his day. How is it for you?

Roy Howell: Yeah, I can relate to that scenario, because I have a twenty-five year old son, and now I have 22 other ones. They are my responsibility on and off the field, for the team and the organization.

We always have instructors coming in, and our job is to introduce them to professional baseball. There are things that you do at the level you came from that you don't do here. You know bunting with a seven run lead, things you do at the professional level which is going to get one stuck in your ear.

The game is played differently, the positioning, the bats. That ball that they hit in the gap in college, here someone catches that ball. Those things come into play, and the mental aspect is tough. You're hitting .370 at the college level, here you are hitting .240, it's different. Our job is to recognize their abilities and put them in situations where they can succeed and that only happens when you put them on the field.

People will always say, ‘Why are you playing this guy', it's because I need to find out what this guy can do in certain situations. We try to put them in these types of situations, and the guys that make adjustments the quickest will go on to the next level.

John Conniff: Is there any difference how you treat someone just out of college compared to a high school guy who may just be a year out of high school?

Roy Howell: No, not really they all have to make the adjustment to this game. The big difference with a high school player is his adjustment period may be longer than a college player because of the experience.

How many groundballs have you taken? How many sliders have you seen? All those things that a high school kid just doesn't have that experience.

Daryl Jones (first baseman), 18, and Ben Krosschell (right-handed pitcher), 19, are going to take their lumps out here because they just don't have that experience. What we really look at is how do they bounce back from failure, do they get their head down or do they make adjustments?

As a coaching staff we have to let them hit the ground, and they have to stand back up on their own. As a coaching staff, we have all played this game. We can't play it for you, it's your turn. We can help you, but when you go across the white lines, you have to do it. When you come back we can help you, but you have to be the one our there making adjustments.

John Conniff: One of the big priorities in this organization seems to be throwing the changeup.

Roy Howell: Best pitch in baseball. You shouldn't be allowed to go to the next level if you can't command your fastball and changeup. All of us, we tried to hit those things. It's the greatest pitch in the world, just that split second of indecision is enough to get you out.

Hoffy hasn't had the career he's had by throwing 95.

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