Tornicasa on San Antonio Missions hitters

Tom Tornicasa was the hitting coach for the San Diego Padres Double-A Championship affiliate, the San Antonio Missions. Chase Headley, Drew Macias, Matt Antonelli, Peter Ciofrone and Brett Dowdy were among the cornerstone pieces to contribute to the success.

What was winning the Championship like for you as a coach?

Tom Tornicasa: It was exciting. It is always nice to win a Championship, especially when you have worked all year long for it and have met your goal and accomplish it. It is gratifying.

There is always a distinction between winning and development and oftentimes they go hand-in-hand. What makes it a successful season for you?

Tom Tornicasa: Actually watching the players grow. You look at them at the beginning of the year – we do a lot of film – and you see where they are at the beginning and see where they end up. It is always a pleasure to see them make the strides they need to make, even though they still have to keep work at what they are doing – getting better as the year goes on instead of going backwards.

Chase Headley tore up the league from start to finish. You have had him for two years in a row – how has he grown from last year to this year?

Tom Tornicasa: Actually, at the beginning of last year – he was a good player, but had a little stiffness in him. It was lack of experience. Watching him get into a flow and better rhythm of hitting – his approach improved and you could see that he was on the right track.

He has some struggles hitting right-handed last year and seemed to iron those out.

Tom Tornicasa: He had so many at bats left-handed that he wasn't getting his ABs right-handed. As time went on, since he wasn't facing lefties, and you can work on it and work on it and take BP but it is nothing like seeing live pitching. That slowed his progress down. He actually has more power right-handed than left-handed. Last year, he went to the fall league and got good work right-handed and this year kept moving in the right direction.

Drew Macias has always said he likes working with you. What did you see out of the young outfielder this year?

Tom Tornicasa: He actually swung the bat much better than his numbers showed. He hit a lot of balls hard – it was just one of those years for him. He made good, solid contact and his walks were up. A lot of the balls he hit wouldn't seem to find any holes. He had a three-week period where he was one of our hottest hitters but had three hits – he was like 3-for-35, but he was actually swinging the bat well.

Drew is solid. The big improvement for him this year – and he is an aggressive hitter – is he learned to accept his walks, which will help him out along the way. He hit better pitching – guys that are around the plate, he has always hit those guys for the fact that he is aggressive and you throw him a good fastball he is ready to swing the bat.

You had Matt Antonelli down the stretch. What impressed you about the young man?

Tom Tornicasa: He is a good player. I like Matt. I had him in Instructional League last year and he was still a little raw then. He really picked up his game. He got into the flow.

You could see he had some ability but he just had to fine tune a few things. He had a very good year.

Peter Ciofrone always seems to find himself in crucial situations. What makes him so good at delivering in those clutch times?

Tom Tornicasa: Some guys are like that – they get a little more focused at crunch time. Pete was one of those guys. He had a lot of big hits for us, especially down the stretch. He had a couple of homers – in Frisco in the playoffs he hit a two-run homer to give us a big lift. Some guys are like that. They get a little more excited and bear down a little more at crunch time.

Brett Dowdy had a great playoff series of course. Is his game based on the energy he brings?

Tom Tornicasa: Brett was in that situation where he was our utility guy there. He is solid at all his defense positions. He was swinging the bat OK and then all of a sudden – as you work with him and keep working with him something along the way clicked for him.

For that last month and through the playoffs was our top hitter. He went from hitting about .225 and ended up hitting close to .270 for the season. It carried on through the playoffs.

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