Mixing experience and youth

When the San Diego Padres tapped into the past to name Greg Riddoch the manager of the Eugene Emeralds they paired him with a bit of inexperience.

"Number one he brings years of experience and success," Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development, said of Riddoch. "He has done everything in the game - manager, hitting coach, rover and been successful at them all.

"A tremendous educator, a very bright man. He is an educator by nature."

It is fitting that the man with so much knowledge and history will be paired with a first-timer – a coach that just finished his playing days.

Jose Flores enters the mix as Riddoch's hitting coach – fresh on the heels of Matt Howe before him. Howe was a first time manager but never seemed to connect with the players and was a little shy for his role as the hitting coach. Howe had the storied bloodlines with his father a big league manager. That did not help.

Pairing Flores with a wealth of baseball acumen should help solve part of the equation but it will still be up to the New York native to make do.

And the Padres hope that translates better this time around.

Fuson cited his love of the game as part of the reason for the hiring,

"He worked our plan as a hitter," Fuson confided. "He understood the role of getting on base. When I talked to him I liked his presence, intellect, and knowledge."

"He was a little bit of an overachiever as a player. He knew what he was doing as a player."

Howe was 29 at the time of his hiring and Flores is 33 but he does have the profile of being patiently aggressive through his minor league career – one that ended after 32 games in 2006.

Flores hit .279 over a minor league career that began in 1994 but perhaps the most important statistic he generated – more walks (623) than strikeouts (586).

And there is the kicker – the lowest levels of the minors require that the implementation of their system's philosophy begin.

Riddoch again figures into this mix. His leadership skills have been display in speaking engagements outside the baseball world and his mentoring skills on the diamond have extended from the minor leagues to the majors, including the Northwest League and Eugene. He was the last manager to guide the Emeralds to a Northwest League Championship.

"It is about getting the bottom parts of our plan educating into their minds," Fuson admitted. "Setting an example early. When you look at that staff I am putting him around - Riddoch and (pitching coach Tom) Bradley. A tremendous blend of experience and a new guy who can learn and grow into the game.

"Greg is very wise – and it is evident that he has the energy, and just his passion for the game. He is in it right reasons - the players."

The choices moving forward may not be so easy. Arnie Beyeler took a managerial job in Boston's minor league system, vacating his post as the hitting coach in San Antonio.

There is the possibility that the Padres will lose other parts of their farm system to the big leagues or other managerial jobs in the minors. Craig Colbert has to be considered a possibility on Bud Black's staff in San Diego after the Padres decided that bench coach Tony Muser and first base coach Tye Waller will not return. And Rick Renteria and Randy Ready have been considered for jobs in the past and both have the qualities and experience that would make them excellent coaches in the big leagues.

The problem with any coach moving on at this hour is who will be available to replace them. If Colbert goes to San Diego, Renteria would be the favorite to head to Portland. Then things get cloudy. If more than one is taken, things could get even messier.


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