Padres Interview: First base coach Tye Waller

Tye Waller served as the Padres Director of Minor of Minor League Development from 2000 to 2005 and was a frequent interview subject for Obviously, he has unique insight into the young players that are currently in San Diego and the next wave. We tapped into that extensive knowledge.

Waller attended San Diego City college for two years and has never really wanted to leave, as evidenced by his sixteen years in the Padres‘ organization. This year he has embraced his new role as the Padres first base coach, focusing on building a better outfield and improving the teams base running. With the team being successful on over 70% of its attempted steals, he's doing some thing right.

What has been the biggest change with moving to the field as opposed to being in the front office?

Tye Waller: Mainly staying off of the phones [laughing]. My calls now are more personal related than baseball now. I've really been dealing with a lot of key guys, mainly veterans, which has made my job a lot easier.

It's all about baseball now. No agents to deal with, no paperwork.

What have been your specific duties with the Padres other than coaching first base?

Tye Waller: I work with the outfielders and base runners, so I watch a lot of video and look for tendencies. A lot of it is about trying to know where to place guys in the outfield so we can give our guys every advantage that we can out there.

I watch the tendencies of the pitchers so if we can steal on them we can and which outfielders that we can get the extra base on. Its exciting especially when you are doing as well as we are.

When we watch you on television and at the park we always see you with the stopwatch, are you timing everyone's moves?

Tye Waller: A little bit. I'll clock them a few times but mainly I'm watching so I can tell my guy if the pitcher is quick, average or slow. Sometimes they set you up to lull you into a false sense of security. I just want to make sure that our guy knows what is coming.

Along with all of your duties with the team, it seems that you may have a little extra work because you were the minor league director for so many years and have quite a bit of intuitional knowledge on all the guys in the system. How often are you called in to help out on the development side?

Tye Waller: There are cases where I am asked about guys in the system, what went on the past few years to give them some background. So whatever changes that are being discussed, we keep them going in the right direction.

I'm also asked and work with a lot of the young guys here, so they can become a major league baseball player. Guys like Josh Barfield and Adrian Gonzalez, getting them to understand that being a big league ballplayer is about everyday performance.

We were speculating at that because of the relatively small television market, the Padres are going to have to rely upon their minor league farm system in order to compete. One of the reasons why you were added to the staff is to help provide Bruce Bochy with first hand knowledge of what players like Josh Barfield and Ben Johnson can do.

Tye Waller: I've talked to Boch about the things that these guys have done in the minor leagues, but one thing I have helped everyone understand that it takes a little while for these guys to get settled in. More so this is a huge jump for them because you have watched these stars on television, now you are lining up and trying to make plays.

The players have to make sure that they understand that it's great to be up here, but you're up here to compete and not be in awe of the talent. I think we all go through it, but after a few games it has to be pushed aside. We are up here to win ball games.

Last year we had an interview with you where you were stating how one of the things that helped turn Ben Johnson around after a slow start in Portland was just getting him to relax. I've noticed this year that Johnson has been a pretty good performer whether he was coming off the bench or especially when he was given a regular opportunity to play. Have you been working with him on his approach?

Tye Waller: Oh yeah, that is in the works with Ben because he is in and out of the lineup. The more he is in the lineup, the more he gets to relax. When you sit out for a little time, then you have to work to get back that comfort zone. He's done a much better job this year, I'm real proud of how he goes about his business.

When Roberts went down he did a great job both offensively and defensively. He adds a different dimension to our club because he can play anywhere in the outfield and he adds some speed and power. We are hoping that he is going to be a bright spot in our future.

When you look at the Padres system it's a given that you have to be able to hit to get an opportunity, but the team is also looking for someone that is a plus fielder, especially in the outfield. The reason is because PETCO Park is such a pitcher's park you can't afford to have someone out there who could cost you runs. Is that what makes a player like Ben Johnson especially valuable because there are so few players with his skill sets?

Tye Waller: You sound like you were at our meetings. I think this year the strength of our team has been pitching and defense. Our ability to make plays and not give that extra outs. I have to give our players a lot of credit for sitting through the meetings with our coaches so we can be as prepared as possible.

Ben Johnson is the type of player that you want to have. I think its underrated how important defense is to a club's success. Fans want to see offense and we are definitely not the most exciting team offensively. If we can run the bases well, play defense and get timely hitting then we have a chance to win.

This seems like the first year the team has really embraced that since PETCO is an extreme pitchers park, the team has to play and be configured a certain way whether you like or not in order to win.

Tye Waller: It is something were getting used to and trying to get our hitters used to it too. Just put a good swing on the ball, hit the gaps and run the bases well and we will score the runs that we need. When we get four or five runs with this club, then we have a real good chance to win the game.

To continue on this theory it seems at the plate a left-handed hitter has to be able to go the opposite way while a right-handed hitter has to have the ability to jerk the ball down the left field line.

Tye Waller: Definitely at PETCO because that right-center ally is a tough one. You really have to be strong to hit it out of there.

Which is why its so important to us to have a strong defense in the outfield. Cameron has helped us out so much there taking away a lot of extra base hits in the gap, Roberts can cover ground from the gap to the line and Giles catches whatever he gets too. So we cover the outfield well and up the middle we have been solid. Position to position to position we have a pretty solid team.

The past few years the team has done a better job of bringing guys up by asking them to do on the major league level what they were successful at in the minors. For example, you're not asking someone to suddenly become a leadoff hitter or hit with much more power now they are at the major league level.

With Josh Barfield, his greatest success in the minors was hitting with runners on base. In 2004 for example he hit over 100 points better with runners in scoring position. Have you thought about trying to move him up in the order?

Tye Waller: Josh is very tough mentally and he's always done a great job with that. It is a very tough lineup to position guys and he is still adapting here. When Cameron was out he was in the #2 hole and did pretty well, but you still want to help him ease into the big leagues a little, but that is really Boch‘s call.

I'm just happy he's having the type of success that he has been having this year, fitting in and being a key part of our lineup. That is great for any farm director and I have to give a lot of guys credit who worked with him all the way up.

Hopefully we can get one or two more up here too.

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