Kennedy well-placed in Double-A

Double-A hitting coach Terry Kennedy came into the season having to learn new hitters and a difficult park to hit in. His straightforward attitude and wisdom from being there may have been the best thing these San Diego Padres prospects needed while playing for the San Antonio Missions.

You come into a new organization. How difficult was it to assess some of the hitters here and try to make some determinations on how you can be of help to them.

Terry Kennedy: I got a really good view in spring training because we did so much work, but there were some guys that were with the big club until late like Blanks. I picked it up pretty quick and then we have to do a report on these guys. I've gotten to see what I needed to see.

Now that you've seen all you can see, how small were the adjustments along the way? What kind of advice are you giving some of these players?

Terry Kennedy: You've got to start small no matter what hitter it is. We've talked, and I'm one that I remember what it was like to be a player. Somebody trying to make wholesale changes in my swing, I wasn't open to it at all. You get pretty defensive and you protect yourself.

You know it's more suggestions, and you try to suggest to them and bring up examples of successes of players that have had success and why you do it. I think players now ask more why than ever because in the past, not in my time, but before me, it was like you did what they said or you're going to lose your job. I like to give them a why, this is why I'm suggesting this and this is what I think it will do for you.

How much does this park play into those things? We have a guy like Kyle Blanks who can obviously hit the ball far, but in this particular park it may not be as conducive.

Terry Kennedy: Right, right, but you still have to take the same swing. You'll hit some balls, like Drew Macias had a successful night that I remember, but he hit a ball that probably would have been 30 feet up the scoreboard that didn't go out. They want numbers, and I don't blame them, but we're evaluating on how they swing the bat, what kind of contact they make.

It's no consolation to the player to tell them ‘hey, good swing,' when they come back. ‘I didn't want to hear that, I wanted hits. I'd rather have a jam job that went for a hit than hit something on the nose that was caught at the wall.'

They have to overlook that. I think they accepted that. They yell at the stadium when they come in the dugout sometimes, but I think they've accepted the fact that we're not after results that come in hard numbers. In the Texas league, we're after good swings that will come to the big leagues.

How do you overcome that? Because, like you said, they're all looking for that result that's stacked. Some guy is hitting .250 and all of a sudden he's like ‘I'm putting good swings on the ball, who's going to see that? They see .250.'

Terry Kennedy: Luckily for them, the only people that matter to them is us and our reviews of them and our reports. We're happy with it. If we're not happy, we're going to tell them that they've strayed off course and they've got to get back on course. It's the one-minute manager almost every day. You've laid out the baseline in camp early in the year. This is what we want to do; this is what we agreed to the goals.

I ask them personally as the hitting coach to set goals and write them down. This is all what we're about in baseball is numbers more than any other sport. So, I would like them to do that, but try to achieve those goals. Not make them so ethereal, like ‘oh yeah, you're swinging good,' like my opinion is enough for them. It's not. It never was for me. Some coach's opinions, even though they were right, you know, you see that when you're on the other side. You try to get something hard.

The best thing that can happen to a hitting coach, or any coach is you make a change and it works on the first day. But, that's like one in a hundred. It just doesn't do it. It's a bit-by-bit process.

Sean Kazmar was a guy who struggled early on. What did you do to help him overcome that?

Terry Kennedy: He'll never quit, that's just not Sean. But, you do get to a point where you may, you say ‘Screw it; I'm just going to swing the bat.' He continued to work every day. He came and saw me and we'd talk about it and we'd simplify. I think I got to the point, we got to the point that it was a little too much information there, and it's hard to concentrate in the game when you think about too many things. So, we narrowed it down to a couple of things, actually one thing, that he can concentrate on and apply every day and go from there. It's hard to come back. What he needed was a good week. He needed 10 hits in a week to get up to .220, .225 to get away from the Mendoza line and give him some breathing room and he did that and went from there.

Chad Huffman has had periods where he swung the bat pretty well and times where he has struggled, What do you talk to him about?

Terry Kennedy: He makes his own adjustments. We talk more about how the guy's going to throw him. His swing is pretty, pretty well grooved, pretty well regulated. He knows how to change it. We talk more about what a pitcher's going to do. If he makes out, generally it's his own doing. But, he's making good adjustments; he can hit the ball to all fields, so when he gets into trouble, he can shoot that ball to right, center.

How often are you asking these guys to keep journals? You mentioned writing down goals, is a journal part of that too throughout the season? So, this way, they can say ‘Alright, hey, I faced this Arkansas pitcher tonight?'

Terry Kennedy: Yeah, I think, though, that our league is so small.

There are only seven opposing teams, they can remember everybody. There are a lot of repeats in the league that they know. So, you're right. If we were in the South Atlantic League with 16 teams or the Pacific Coast league with 16 teams, that would be a good idea. But, also, I remember the guys, we have now, with the stats and everything, you can find out about it. We've got film. It's not as detailed as the big leagues, but it's pretty close.

Now, were you a guy who kept a journal too on the opposition?

Terry Kennedy: No, I didn't forget anybody. I might have forgotten their names, but once I saw their motion, I would remember it. When you're in the big leagues that long, you see so many guys so many times. And then, if there's somebody new, you ask the other guys.

I remember Pete Rose was always asking me, ‘you guys faced so and so last week, we're going to see him next week.' He was always thinking ahead, ‘what about him?' I would tell him. and if I wanted some information, ‘hey, what about so and so.' As long as we weren't sharing about each other's teams, we would give all the information we wanted. That was interesting, and it was eye opening for me when I was a young player.

I always wondered if there was just too much information. If you start keeping a journal, you start thinking about it when you get in a box, rather than just going through it...

Terry Kennedy: It's all that fine line. You have to distill it down. I always tell them you've got to distill it down to one thing. You have to make up your mind, what are you going to do when you leave the on deck circle because indecision gets you out more than the pitcher does.

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