River Cats manager Jose Alguacil is a ‘baseball lifer’

Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 5:03 AM

“Some of these guys, they’re disappointed with going up and coming down. But that’s what my main focus is going to be, is trying to hold these guys positive through the whole year and be by their side.”Alguacil, forty-three, knows a tiny about managing a team through disappointment.

River Cats manager Jose Alguacil is a ‘baseball lifer’

Jose Alguacil hasn't managed at Triple A, yet he'd an reply prepared when asked how it may be different from working at lower levels of the minor leagues.

“You’re dealing more, I think, with frustration,” the River Cats’ new manager said this spring as he prepared his team for the season that opens Thursday in Salt Lake City, against the Bees. “Some of these guys, they’re disappointed with going up and coming down. But that’s what my main focus is going to be, is trying to hold these guys positive through the whole year and be by their side.”

Alguacil, forty-three, knows a small about managing a team through disappointment. Latest season, the Giants handed Alguacil their Double-A affiliate in Richmond (Va.) for his first managerial job. The team started 3-17, including fifteen losses in a row. Rather than crumbling below its first-year manager, Richmond rallied and finished with a 72-68 record, lost the Eastern League playoffs by one game.

“That says a lot about a team,” Giants common manager Bobby Evans said, “and obviously says a lot about the manager and about the environment he created for them.”

The losing streak in Richmond started innocently sufficient with a 3-0 loss to Altoona on April fifteen that dropped the Flying Squirrels to 3-3. But the following week went by without a win, and then another. On April twenty-four, Richmond blew a one-run lead in the eighth inning to New Britain and lost 3-2. Two days later, they broke out for six runs but gave up eight.

“We were losing every which way, but he wouldn’t authorize us to point fingers one way or another,” said outfielder Mac Williamson, who joined the Giants later in the season. “He wanted to create sure we knew we were in it together, and he'd the team he wanted to win with. There wasn’t a point in that losing streak where he got down on us or allowed us to obtain down on ourselves.”

Still, as the streak grew, Giants executive wondered how Alguacil was handling it. Evans reached out, as did Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who surprised Alguacil one day with a phone call. Alguacil thought Bochy was calling to speak about prospects. They wound up talking for forty-five minutes.

“I just wanted to speak to him and look where he was at,” Bochy said. “He had a grand attitude about it. Guys were playing hard, so he wasn’t taking it personal, and that’s what I didn’t wish him to do.

“I said, ‘Listen, there’s only so much you can do. This game can be frustrating. The most necessary thing is (the players) know you stay behind them.’ I knew he would, but I just wanted to create sure he was doing OK.”

That isn’t to declare Alguacil acted indifferent during the streak. When Richmond lost its ninth game in a row, Alguacil got ejected arguing a call at first base in the early innings. He left the field – but not before pulling first base out of the ground in protest.

“Oh, I recollect that,” Williamson said. “I think sometimes some players perceive coaches don’t always have their backs – they’re doing what management, the front office wants them to do. And I think Augie, it’s really necessary for him to create sure we know that if we’re getting hosed on a call, he’s there for us.

“He got ejected several times latest year, that being one of them, and I think it really showed the players that at the finish of the day he’s got our backs through thick and thin.”

On May four, the Flying Squirrels broke the streak with a 5-1 win at Altoona. Yet for as long as it lasted, Alguacil said, he didn’t look the streak as more than a “bump” in the course of a season.

“I think at some point people probably thought I was crazy because when they called me or interviewed me I said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine,’” Alguacil said, smiling. “But I was fine.”

Alguacil seems perpetually upbeat, maybe partly the result of a lesson he said he learned from his father.

“My dad always said to me, ‘Prepare for the worst and you’ll be able to live in the good,’” Alguacil said. “Whatever happens, just tell the player, ‘You don’t have control of that, you just have to hold playing. Because if you pout, you’re going to prove to people that they made the right decision.’”

Alguacil, who worked as a roving instructor in the Giants system for eight seasons before managing in Richmond, cites a handful of influences in baseball, including former managers Frank Robinson and Felipe Alou. But he said his “mentor” is Joe Amalfitano, the Giants’ player development helper whose major-league experience dates to one thousand nine hundred fifty-four, when he was an infielder for the NY Giants team that won the World Series.

Amalfitano is maybe best known as Tommy Lasorda’s third-base coach for the Dodgers from 1983-98. So when Alguacil, who calls coaching third “my passion,” joined the Giants’ organization as a coach, he sought out Amalfitano for guidance. The two became close, and whenever Alguacil has a question about something he's observed during a game, he’ll call Amalfitano – sometimes several times a week.

“He’s always looking for knowledge,” Amalfitano said. “I love him because he's a passion for the game, which is very important. And as a baseball guy, he does three things that I think are very important: He connects with the players, he contributes to their skills and he’s a confidence-builder.

“And he’s a lifer, a baseball lifer. He loves baseball and I think he’s on track to go even higher than where he is.”

A common refrain among players who were at Richmond latest year is that Alguacil is a “players’ coach,” in that he's effective at relating to and relaying his message to players. It’s portion of the reason the Giants, after just one season of Alguacil managing in their system, handed him the reins to their top minor-league affiliate.

“We looked at Alguacil as just a genuine grand presence with our players – very positive, very upbeat,” Evans said. “He believes in our guys and lets them know that, and when you play for a manager that believes in you, that gives you a lot of chance for success.

“He’s a genuine solid presence in our system. We felt love this was a excellent opportunity for him to grow, and that our players would benefit.”

Alguacil hopes to bring to the River Cats a managing fashion that matches his personality. The team was 71-73 latest season, their first as the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, ending a streak of twelve consecutive winning seasons when they were affiliated with the A’s.

“I’m aggressive, I love action, I love to running a lot, I love to hit and running a lot,” Alguacil said. “I have fixed energy, that’s my game, and I wish everybody to be love that. When I look players go out love that, they pump me up. I love guys to play hard, and that’s why we were able to do what we did last year.”

Among the people Alguacil said he talked to during Richmond’s losing streak, of course, was the man he calls “my dad in baseball.” Amalfitano’s message was simple: “Weather the storm.” And that’s what Alguacil and the Flying Squirrels did.

“I don’t know what the definition of success is, but I know what it's to fail,” Amalfitano said. “It’s undeveloped potential. And Jose won't experience that. He’s on a mission.”

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