Touching base with Al Pedrique.
Every Friday through Spring Training, we’re running a feature called “Touching Base.” This is an effort to let the fans get to know the Major League coaching staff, from the four newcomers to the two returnees.
We hope this gives you insight to what coaches do every day. Their duties extend far beyond what you see them do on a field once the game starts.
This week, we spotlight bench coach Al Pedrique.
(Check out our one-on-one video interview with Pedrique here.)
It really all starts in Little League.
The objective, when tutoring eight and 10 year olds, is to keep things interesting, and hold the players’ interest.
In the big leagues, the object of the game is, obviously, winning. But some things never change, and in the early days of Spring Training, coaches make sure to avoid one simple emotion: boredom.
The best way to make morning workouts tedious is to drag the station-to-station drills to a slow crawl. That can often be the case in spring camps, but this year, the Astros’ coaching staff, with the help of bench coach Al Pedrique, has worked hard to make sure to avoid monotony.
How? It’s simple: keep things moving. Get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. Fundamentals — pickoffs, rundowns, hitting the cutoff man, plays at the plate, covering bases, throwing to the right base, and on and on and on — are hugely important over the course of a season. But practicing involves lot of, by definition, going through the motions.
This year, workouts ran like the proverbial well-oiled machine. That’s due in large part to Pedrique, who’s in charge of crafting the entire six-week Spring Training schedule, all the while working side-by-side with new skipper Brad Mills.
“You have to keep things interesting,” Pedrique said. “You don’t want to keep players on the field for more than two hours, or they’ll just start going through the motions. They get bored.”
Pedrique, like the entire coaching staff, starts his workday long before the sun comes up, and he won’t leave the ballpark until late in the afternoon. He works extensively with the players on the field, but in the hours beforehand, he has to make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.
“We have to make sure guys know when they’re traveling, when they’re not traveling,” Pedrique said. “The guys that stay back, they have to know what the program is for the day. A lot of the guys would like to go home early, but still, even when they’re not making the trip, we’ve got something they need to go through, whether it’s a PFP (pitchers fielding practice), throwing the side, hitting and bunting. We’re pretty busy the whole day.”
This is Pedrique’s first year as bench coach, but he has an extensive resume within the Astros’ organization. He first joined the club in 2004, when he began a three-year run as a special assistant to the GM. In 2006, he took over all Latin American operations, including the overseeing of the franchise’s academies as well as the player development and scouting efforts.
He began the 2009 season as the Astros’ Minor League field coordinator but ended it as their third base coach after Dave Clark took over as interim manager in September.
Pedrique also interviewed for the managerial position that eventually went to Mills. The two have spent ample time together this spring, getting to know each other as they prepare to become a one-two dugout punch once the regular season begins.
The getting-to-know-you stage began soon after Mills was hired. They traveled to the Arizona Fall League and participated in several staff meetings as the groundwork was laid for 2010.
“We started going over Spring Training, his ideas and suggestions,” Pedrique said of his new field boss. “For the most part it’s a combo, teamwork, and so far, we feel like we accomplished a lot.”
Mills spent six years as Terry Francona’s bench coach in Boston, so he’s more than familiar with what Pedrique has on his plate this spring. Pedrique spent half of 2004 as Arizona’s manager, so he’s quite well-versed on what Mills is going through now.
“We’re trying to get to know each other right now, to get his thoughts and ideas, how he likes to run the game, how he likes to manage, the moves that he likes to make now with the double switch,” Pedrique said of his new field boss. “Basically, I’m trying to keep my eye on the little things, because I know he has a lot of stuff on his mind. He’s thinking two, three days ahead, so I’m sometimes behind him.
“For the most part, I just make sure to pay attention to details. Remind him, ‘this is the fourth inning, the fifth inning, how many at-bats somebody’s going to get, when to pinch-run for somebody.’ Just kind of keep his mind fresh.”
Just the facts: Al Pedrique
Born: Valencia, VZ
Resides: Tucson, AZ
Drafted: Signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1978.
Major League debut: April 14, 1987
Final game: June 21, 1989
First year as a Minor League manager was 1995.
Was a coach for the World Team in the 2003 MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Something you might not know: He managed Roy Oswalt in 1999, with the Astros’ Class A affiliate in Michigan.