Gamboa allowing prospects to dictate success

EUGENE, OR: In his first year as the Padres minor league field coordinator, Tom Gamboa brings a wealth of knowledge, a keen scouting eye, and plenty of suggestions for his troops. One thing he does not do is make snap judgments based on what he sees the first time through.

Is it tough not to make snap judgments on some of your newly signed draft picks that you see for the first and second time?

Tom Gamboa: No, I could see how it would be for some people, but I scouted for 10 years. I have always wished every scout could spend one summer – even though he is scouting – if he spent one summer as a coach or manager in rookie ball and vice versa, if everyone of our development guys had the opportunity to scout like Grady (Fuson) and I have –Tony Muser has scouted – to see what it takes to get an 18-year-old kid from Bismarck, South Dakota and see him in his environment and the competition they play against or a kid from the Dominican and then see them in a pro environment – it completes the full circle.

Over so many years of doing this – both scouting and development – you can see one mechanical change, whether it is a pitcher and his delivery or a hitter and his approach, a light goes on and he can change overnight.

I always try with these kids – like Weems who I saw for the first time – when I watch a kid for the first time, I automatically have a checklist: run, throw, field, hit, hit for power, makeup. From a scouting standpoint, I try and see what the scout saw that brought them here. Then I try and identify but never want to jump in too soon.

We have a philosophy, particularly in Arizona and Eugene that we want to let a kid get acclimated to pro ball and show us what he did to get signed before we jump in and make wholesale changes.

Even if you identify an adjustment a player has to make, if you want to jump in for the right reasons to help him too soon, well, the player is getting adjusted to leaving home, playing with wood bats – really what you are doing is giving him an excuse for failure. If he does not perform like he did in high school or college, he has a natural alibi to his parents, to his high school or college coach, to his scout, to say, ‘Gee, I didn't do well this year because they changed me.'

You can damage your credibility, even though what you are saying has credibility.

I always make it a point in the spring and in the camps to caution our people for our teachers and those that want to help that from a scouting standpoint, let's let him get on his feet and acclimated to professional ball. Watch enough at-bats or innings that we see what the scout saw in him and then if he is in fact failing, common sense says he will be much more apt to take the suggestions. Plus, now you have seen 50 or 75 at-bats rather than the guy practicing for a few days and he goes 0-for-4. Real data.

Jeudy Valdez is a guy that you have seen for quite some time and you have lengthened his stride and changed his stance from last year. He is a guy who has a lot of athleticism and you can change now that he has been around.

Tom Gamboa: We have high hopes for him. He is crude but is out of Arizona and into night baseball in front of the fans. We can practice forever but nothing is as valuable as that on the line game at-bat he had (in July) when he hit a rocket triple to the opposite field. That does worlds of good for his confidence.

Since we signed him, being on an American diet and our strengthening program, he has obviously gotten a lot stronger. He has put on some weight and can drive a ball. Regardless of how many home runs he has, he can hit it with authority.

We are trying to get him to have better balance and better separation at the plate. What I like as a teacher and a coach – as good as that at-bat was and the praise for him – where we want to help him is in his first at-bat of that day it was a wasted one. When he got two strikes on him, he panicked. The pitcher threw a slider that was not only low but way outside. In his approach, not only did his weight go forward but his hands went with it before he even knew the speed and location of the pitch. When he was about halfway through that swing and he knew it was a bad pitch – it was too late. He gave an at-bat away, which allows us as teachers to say, ‘The reason why we want you to separate and get your hands back and take a shorter, softer stride is because now when the ball is in flight it gives you a split second to determine whether it is not a good pitch and let it go and get yourself back into the count.'

What was good was when the game was on the line, I felt what setup his triple was the first pitch. The guy threw him a fastball low that a year ago he would have been so excited to do damage that he would have chased and topped it or swung and missed. Now it changes the whole at-bat. By taking ball one, now it put all the pressure on the pitcher. The bases are loaded and he is already behind in the count. Valdy knows the guy has to come center of the plate to get back into the count. And he had a great approach and he whacked it.

For us as coaches, that is thrilling. To see a guy have a bad at-bat but make an adjustment and have a quality at-bat and it obviously affected the outcome of the game in our favor.

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