AZL Padres hitting coach Manny Crespo

With a team that collectively hit .290, led the league in walks and sported some of the top hitters in the Padres' system, there is a lot to talk about. Hitting coach Manny Crespo led us into the world of Cedric Hunter, Luis Durango, Jeremy Hunt, Cedric Hunter again, and much more...

This year you had four guys who topped the league in hitting streaks, Cedric Hunter who reached base in 48 straight – talk about the season for you – your first as a coach.

Manny Crespo: Honestly, I kept telling the guys for the longest time that I was getting spoiled. Not only did we have great talent, we had guys who really worked hard. They did not rely on their talent to get by. They got in there everyday and did their job. It was great coaching them because. . .it was easy. They were guys that you told them what you wanted and they gave it to you. It was definitely a great experience, especially for the first year.

Were you surprised by the way the players took the patiently aggressive and aggressively patient approach to heart in their first season?

Manny Crespo: Well, I would have to say it was something that had to be preached. It wasn't something that they grasped the concept immediately. It was something that took them a little bit. Even Cedric, the best hitter in the league, it took him a little bit of time to realize what it was. That whole patiently aggressive thing is trying to make these kids better hitters in the future. Not getting them to hit .400 in rookie ball but to get them to be better hitters in certain counts, see more pitches and as the season went on and you got to see the numbers that is when they really started to get it. They really appreciated the whole idea and that they were actually getting better.

You mentioned Cedric Hunter being the best hitter in the league but what about Luis Durango who led the league in hitting and on base percentage?

Manny Crespo: Luis is a special player. I have never seen anything as fast as Luis. Luis also understands his abilities. At the beginning of the league, Luis was slapping the ball and beating them out. Towards the end of the year he has learned how to really bunt the ball and now that the infield was in he learned he could hit the ball past these guys. I think Luis did a lot of learning this year. He is going to be a special player with the speed he had.

Jeremy Hunt had a great year too. A little older and I understand he had some dehydration problems that affected him in August. How difficult is it to balance the workload.

Manny Crespo: That is a big thing I learned this year. Me coming into my first year from Florida – you don't understand the heat in Arizona until you are there, till you actually do it. It seems like something you can pound through day after day but it is just not. I have to give a lot of credit to these kids and all the kids that play in Arizona because us as coaches have to do our best to try and take care of them. The heat will wear them out, no matter what. It is not about mental toughness. It is a fact of life. You have to go out there and really take care of yourself and we have to take care of them so that they are not only ready to play the game but physically healthy to play.

That is something that happened to Jeremy. He not only played a bunch of games in college and came over to play – it is probably the first time some of these kids played 100 games in a year. It is a big change.

He did a fine job.

Let's get back a little bit to Cedric Hunter since we touched briefly on him. It seemed that he was so advanced for a kid coming out of high school.

Manny Crespo: There isn't really much to say about that kid. He is an advanced hitter and the whole process of it. The way he can change from a leadoff guy to a third hitter. The way he is aggressive. The way he listens. He listened to the hitting approach and I was able to show him both sides. I was able to show him how things don't change according to our hitting plan on that day and never did it the other way. He learns quickly. He pays attention to what you say and he goes out there and he takes it to the game.

I remember Cedric one time – and he is hitting .390 – and he is 0-for-2 in the game after his first two at bats. He comes up to me and sits down next to me. He says, ‘Manny, what am I doing?' I said, ‘Cedric, I don't know if anyone has ever told you this in your life but I am going to tell you now. You can't get a hit in EVERY at bat. It is impossible!'

Cedric gave his half smile and he went up there and got two hits after that. He went 2-for-4 – he hit .500! He was wondering about those two at bats like he did something wrong.

This kid was fun to watch because he battled every at bat. He did not give one at bat away. Sometimes he got under balls, just like everyone else. Sometimes he dipped, sometimes he got out in front, but you could tell that he didn't give it away. He was trying to hit.

He is going to be something to watch. He is going to learn and put it into play pretty quickly. Definitely the MVP of this league.

I remember hearing that there were questions on whether he could play centerfield. What is your take?

Manny Crespo: He is definitely a centerfielder. There is no doubt about it. The kid can run and people say he can't run too fast but I don't care because he gets to some balls that other kids don't. He can cover ground and that is what you want from a centerfielder.

He gets great jumps off the base. Overall a fun player to watch. His effort level is there. He goes about his business like a professional. He smiles a lot. His smile is big – they underrate that but it is fun to have players that enjoy that.


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