May 11th, 2012
The development of minor league baseball players is crucial for any major league baseball club. It’s been especially important in the transformation of the Texas Rangers over the last five years. Geoff Arnold had a chance to interview Texas Rangers Special Assistant for Player Development, Harry Spillman. Here is the transcript of their conversation.
Geoff: Harry, you’ve been in town for a couple of days so far, what have been some of your impressions of the RoughRiders?
Harry: Well so far they’ve got a young team here, and they’re off to a good start, and I’m seeing some good things. I look forward to seeing them a little bit later in the season to see how much they’ve improved.
Geoff: It’s a young team, but talking with some of the older guys in the clubhouse, it is a very mature team, do you think that has played in role in their success?
Harry: Well that’s the good thing about having veteran guys like Hawpe and Majewski, they bring some big league experience to the team. I’m sure it’s rubbing off on Profar, Garcia, and Beltre and those kind of guys it’s a good mix between the veteran guys and the young guys.
Geoff: Speaking of Profar, he’s really been off to a good start, only 19, based on watching him for a couple of days, how good do you think he can be?
Harry: You know just looking at him he’s obviously a gifted kid. He’s got great hand eye coordination, he’s a middle infielder, and a switch hitter. He’s holding his own here, and we just look for him to get better and better.
Geoff: He’s also hit for some power, and can really drive the ball to the gaps. Last night we saw him put a good piece of wood on the ball for a double, do you think he will hit for more power as he bulks up?
Harry: He will. He’s a 19-year-old kid, probably a year out of high school. He’s come a long way in the last couple of years, and he has a surprising amount of pop. It’s like the ball he hit to right-center last night, you project that ball to be a home run in two or three years.
Geoff: Talking about a guy with a lot of pop, Mike Olt already has seven home runs on the year thus far. What have you seen from him early?
Harry: It’s unfortunate that he banged his thumb and didn’t get to play last night. We’re expecting big things from him. He’s an excellent defender at third base, so that’s a big plus too. He just has to play.
Geoff: Plus he’s learning how to plus first base too. Do you think that will be a challenge for him as he continues to grow and develop?
Harry: Not really. He’s a good athlete, and he can always move over towards first base. Hopefully we’re trying to develop him as an everyday third baseman, and hopefully that happens. It’s like everybody else here, it depends on how he hits. You project these guys to be everyday big league players and hopefully that happens.
Geoff: You work in player development with the Rangers, and you move around from club to club. What do your day-to-day responsibilities entail?
Harry: Just seeing what we have in the system. Talking to the coaches about what they see, and what’s the best for these guys. Then I report back to Tim Purpura, the Rangers Farm Director. I also talk to Jon Daniels (Rangers GM) and Nolan Ryan (Rangers President and CEO) also. It’s been good for me to travel around, see what we have on the system, and give my opinion on certain guys.
Geoff: You also were a coach for quite a long time. At one point you were the major league hitting coach for the Astros. How is different working with guys at the Double-A level, then guys in the big leagues?
Harry: In the big leagues you have the veteran guys. Those guys know their swing. But as a big league coach you always want to make yourself available, and find out what works for each of them. It’s kind of like in the minor leagues you have to find out what works for each of these young guys. It’s about the daily progress of these guys and hoping that some will become big league players.
Geoff: You mentioned you were actually a teammate of Nolan Ryan’s, and that he was a big reason why you came over to the Rangers Organization.
Harry: Nolan and I are good friends. So once he got involved, I came over and started doing this job, and I’ve really enjoyed it. The Rangers are an excellent organization, and we’re hoping to get that championship ring.
Geoff: Playing with Nolan, what was he like as a teammate?
Harry: Same as he is now. He’s a good person, a great teammate, and a great competitor. You enjoyed playing behind him or sitting on the bench watching him. He was a special, special pitcher, and a special person.
Geoff: Did you ever hit against him in batting practice, or see one of those fastballs in a spring training game?
Harry: A couple of times. It was a challenge. But that’s how you approached facing any big league pitcher: as a challenge. And you enjoyed the challenge.