TigsTown Q&A: GCL Tigers Coach Garrett Guest

Garrett Guest is an Area Scout and GCL coach for the Tigers, after finishing his three-year playing career with the Chicago White Sox. He took time out of his off-season to chat with us about his career and what's in store for 2009. Check inside to see how he influences draft day, how he helps our young Tigers in the GCL, and where his AL Central allegiances sit today!

TigsTown: You've had a lot of roles with the Tigers in the last few seasons; you've worn a couple of different hats, including working in the Minor League Operations Department, and then working as a scout and a coach in the Gulf Coast League. Are you going to continue in the latter two roles in 2009?

Garrett Guest: I'm going to do exactly what I did last year. I'm still going to be able to do stuff in the Northeast, and then be able to go down and do the GCL again, which is fantastic; I loved both ends of it.

TT: Let's talk a little more about your role last year with the GCL Tigers. What exactly was your role with the team? I know you had Greg Sabat down there working with the pitchers, and Basilio Cabrera working as the Manager, but what were you focused on while you were there?

GG: I just had the hitters. Not necessarily just the hitting coach, but just another coach. Basilio was the hitting coach before I got there, and then he had more duties to do with the managing, so basically I went out there in the morning and worked with the hitters and made sure they got their reps. After that I helped Basilio and Greg to an extent, with whatever they needed me to do with the team.

TT: Obviously that was your first coaching experience at the professional level, so what were some of the highlights that you experienced last year?

GG: To me the biggest thing, and all players will say this, the biggest thing you miss when you stop playing is being out of the locker room. Just having that uniform on, and having that camaraderie, and just being in the locker room is something that as a baseball player and as an athlete, you just miss that more than anything. So for me, the highlight was getting back into the uniform, getting back in the club house, and just getting back into that lifestyle that I had missed so much. To me that was the biggest highlight. But you know the other highlight was just learning how everything works and being able to see the game from so many different eyes is something that I really, really enjoyed.

TT: You mentioned last year was just kind of seeing how things worked and I'm sure some of it was getting your feet wet and learning the ropes a little bit. What are some things that you look at now that you know the way it works going into 2009, what are some things you have identified that you can do to improve yourself as a coach?

GG: As far as I'm concerned, when I put the uniform on this year after the draft is complete, I'll be able to dive right in. I won't have to worry about when we are supposed to get out to the cage, when the guys are going to be back, things like that. I'll be able to already have a relationship with some guys. The other tough part for me last year was a lot of the kids that repeated the GCL remembered me, but remembered me from the office. That was a little bit of a barrier that I had to get through, to make sure they knew I wasn't just somebody working in the office, that I had a baseball background, and I have an idea of what it takes to be around the field everyday. That was something I had to work through last year, and this year I feel like I can sort of dive in and avoid that. The other thing too, your first year you are always out there working hard and everything, but the one thing you have to do aside from getting the trust of the players, is getting the trust of the coaching staff. Going into my second year working with Greg and Basilio, who in my opinion are two of the best coaches I've ever been around; having already worked with them last year takes away that transition phase and the getting to know you type deal. We already respect each other. We already know what each other can do, and it just lets us get right back to work this year.

TT: Switching gears a little bit, and talking about your role as a scout; they have you listed as the Area Scout for the New England or Northeast area. Can you talk a little bit about what your role is as an Area Scout?

GG: Basically my job is to figure out who the best players in my states are; my states being New York and all of New England. My job is to let the higher-ups in the scouting department know who our best players are heading into the draft. I spend all winter trying to find things on the Internet, or read things to give myself a little bit of an edge. When the weather finally warms up up there, we get up there and start going to see these guys with our own eyes, and put together a list of who the best players are in the Northeast. We don't just want to get a scouting report done, but we want to get to know these kids personally, so we can kind of make an assumption of what type a kid they are. If we decide to take a kid early on in the draft and commit a significant amount of money to him, we have to make sure that this is a safe bet; or at least as safe as it can be. We want to make sure that this is not a kid that is going to be a poor investment.

TT: I'm sure part of it is also getting a feel for signability of the players due to commitments to colleges or universities, and you can't do that without knowing the player and the family.

GG: You have to know that real well. To me, that's the toughest part of the job; asking these kids how much money they want. You have so much to learn going to the ball park every day and seeing these guys play, you get to see how much passion there is in high school and college baseball. For me, that was really fun to go out and see. Ultimately though, at the end of the spring, you have to figure out how much money they want. Some of these guys you spend all spring not knowing how much money they want, and you really like them, and you want to go into your meetings and really push for these guys, and some of them throw out a big number that we're just not going to be able to do. That's a part of the job, but if I could change it I would.

TT: Just off the top of my head going back to last year's draft where you first served in that area scout role, two guys that came out of your region would have been Scott Weisman and Chris Gloor. How much of an influence did you have on the selection of those two players?

GG: Just as much as all the other area scouts do. Those are two guys I saw and liked them obviously, and I told David [Chadd] and James [Orr], and the cross-checkers that I liked them, but we just couldn't get it done with them. It was a situation where Scott was going to Clemson, and I had a really good relationship with Scott. I talked to him a lot, and we knew what he wanted. At the end of the day we just didn't get it done, and he felt really comfortable going to Clemson. We would have loved to have him, but hopefully its one of those situations where we will get another shot at him in three years.

TT: Changing things up a bit, let's talk some about your playing career. What might have been some of the highlights of your three-year minor league career?

GG: It was pretty brief, so I don't know how many highlights there were! To me, the highlight was just being there. I was one of those guys that never took for granted being in baseball. I knew I was lucky to be there. I couldn't wait to get to the park every day. My last year there, I didn't play a ton, but the best part of my day was just getting the uniform on and checking the lineup. The name wasn't written on there a lot, but when it was, it was a pretty cool feeling to be able to go out and compete that night. For me the highlight was just being a part of it. You always hope to be a Major Leaguer, but here I was, 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10, and I'm playing with guys that were 6-foot-8, and all these other guys that were big, big guys. I always hoped it would work out, but I was also realistic about it, and just wanted to soak up as much as I could. If one of our rovers [roving instructors] came around, I'd try to chew his ear off. Whoever was there, I asked a lot of questions and just tried to soak up as much information as I could. If I wasn't going to be a big leaguer, I was going to try and parlay that into something else, and the only way you do that is to learn. So far, it looks like it has worked out, but there's a long way to go.

TT: That's a great way to approach it Garrett and I guess I'm curious if you try and instill that mentality into the players that you work with at the lower levels of the system?

GG: Oh, absolutely! That's the toughest part about it for me. I would have to declare myself in the minority of players that feel like they are there to learn. I would say 99% of the players that come to play pro ball are there to make the big leagues; and I was too, but I was also realistic. Not to say that these guys aren't always realistic, but they want to get to the big leagues and many of them feel that they can't get there if they aren't in the lineup. That's really tough to get across to these guys. Just because you're not playing, there is still some good that can come out of tonight. Some guys get it, and some guys just get in that frame of mind where once they aren't playing, they don't care. It's certainly a lesson that we try to convey to these guys, but it's a tough thing to tell a young man that probably hasn't experience too much failure, or seen his name at the bottom or not on the lineup card, that just because you're not playing doesn't mean you don't watch the game and try to learn.

TT: How did the experiences you had as a minor leaguer, or even as an amateur, help you relate to the players?

GG: As far as relating to the players, I kind of have a little bit of an advantage, because I'm a little closer to their age bracket. Besides being able to talk about baseball, when its time to just let baseball ease away for a bit, I can relate to some of the players a little better. But what I really try to convey to them is a lot of what we just talked about. Go out and enjoy every single minute that you have here. Because at any time this can be over. If the organization decides to make a change, or you get hurt, or whatever, you have to go out and really enjoy putting that uniform on. EZ [Glenn Ezell] says this all the time, ‘That uniform is a privilege!' As a young man, a lot of kids don't really grasp how special it is, and how lucky they are. It's one of those things where you just don't want to see them fall into that trap where they wish they would have done this or that, or they wish they would have enjoyed it a little more than they did.

TT: A little bit on the fun side here, having played for the White Sox organization, and now you're working for the Tigers, was there any trouble aligning your allegiance between two Division rivals?

GG: Not really. The tough part for me when I first came over, was that not only did I play for the White Sox, but I was from the South Side [of Chicago], and was born and raised a White Sox fan. My parents had season tickets, we used to go to a lot of games, and all my buddies back home are Sox fans. That first year there was a little bit of a transition phase, but I still remember the Tigers were still kind of in it down the stretch in '07, and they played the White Sox, and before the series I wasn't sure how this would feel. Once I turned the game on and started watching, I figured out that I was a Tiger fan now. Those old loyalties are gone now.

TigsTown would like to thank Garrett for taking time out of his off-season to chat with us about his career in baseball, and about his role with the Tigers in 2009. We wish him the best of luck in 2009 and look forward to seeing him on the field in the GCL this summer.

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