Fort Wayne TinCaps manager Jose Valentin has a lot clearer head as the 2013 season begins.
Last year was all about familiarizing himself with being a coach of a minor league organization, from practice schedules to relating to players of this generation.
During Valentin’s 16-year Major League Baseball career, he only had to worry about himself when it came to both mentally and physically preparing for games.
It was a big change as a rookie manager.
“When I was a player, I was only worrying about one person,” Valentin said. “Now, I am a manager, so I am responsible for 25 guys. It is different and I have to make sure those guys are healthy, do the right job and are working hard.
“It is something that is not easy, but I went through it last year and I survived and I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
Valentin did not just survive Year 1 as a manager, he thrived. After a 31-39 first half of the season, the TinCaps turned it on in the second half, never dropping below third in the standings and beating Lansing and Lake County to earn a trip to the Midwest League Championship Series.
The TinCaps fell to Wisconsin in the finals, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of Valentin’s successful first season.
Valentin helped groom right fielder Yeison Asencio, who was crowned Fort Wayne’s first batting champion after hitting .323 a year ago. Asencio will begin the season with high-A Lake Elsinore and is listed on the San Diego Padres’ expanded 40-man roster.
Perhaps the most important lesson Valentin learned a season ago was just how to deal with the various personalities of a young team. Each player needs to be treated a little differently, from the high draft pick fresh out of high school to the veteran minor leaguer perhaps facing his last shot at advancing up the farm system ladder.
Properly dealing with every situation in the clubhouse sometimes becomes more prominent in a manager’s job description than on-the-field decisions.
“You are going to have ups and downs … they are young players, not quite ready to play at the high level,” Valentin said. “My job is to go out there and teach them how to play the game and make them better every day. I will do that.
“I did it last year and I think this year will be a lot easier than last year because now I know how it is to deal with players like that.”