River Cats hitting coach Damon Minor passing down the 'Giants Way'

River Cats hitting coach Damon Minor passing down the 'Giants Way'

Every October for the last quarter century, baseball’s top young prospects showcase and develop their skills with six weeks of high-level competition in the desert, where 180 players come together to form six teams and play in the Arizona Fall League.

The Giants sent eight players to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions in 2016 – third baseman Ryder Jones, catchers Aramis Garcia and Eliezer Zambrano, outfielder Hunter Cole and pitchers Rodolfo Martinez, Tyler Mizenko, Tyler Rogers and Chris Stratton.

Of the position players, Jones’ numbers might have been the most impressive, but Scorpions hitting coach and former Giants first baseman Damon Minor left Arizona and returned to his offseason home feeling strong about the Giants’ overall crop of talent.

“With guys like Ryder Jones and Aramis Garcia, and then Hunter Cole as an athlete out in the outfield, the Giants showed some great young talent down there,” Minor told CSNBayArea.com.

Jones rode a second-half groove to finish with a .302 batting average, .380 on-base percentage, .429 slugging percentage, two home runs and 12 RBI in 18 games.

“For Ryder it was just about seeing pitches, and especially with two strikes” Minor said. “He stopped expanding his zone so much and was able to get more pitches to hit.”

Jones batted .357 and hit both round-trippers while walking six times to just three strikeouts in his final nine games. And Minor, who was known more as a player for big flies than drawing walks, is finding a niche as the Giants’ Triple-A hitting coach for the franchise that made him a four-year MLB veteran.

The 42-year-old Minor this year is entering his second season as the Sacramento River Cats hitting coach, a position he never dreamed of holding during his playing tenure.

“As a player, you never really think about coaching because you’re just so focused on being a player and getting that next at-bat,” Minor said. “But I always wanted to be back with the Giants.”

After his playing career ended in 2006 with 12 games in the Mexican League, Minor’s post-playing career began modestly. He first ventured into coaching in 2007 as a volunteer at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma. Later, private hitting lessons developed into the Minor-Floral Baseball Academy, which Minor co-founded in 2008. And in 2012, Minor was hired as the hitting coach for the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate – the New Orleans Zephyrs.

Four years later, Minor jumped at the opportunity to return to the Giants organization.

“I was lucky enough to be able to come back,” Minor said, “which is something I always wanted to do.”

Minor cited Giants coaches like former manager Dusty Baker and long-time infield coach Ron Wotus for instilling in him the “Giants Way.” Now, that’s Minor’s job, and it’s much different from his former role as a player.

Minor arrives at Raley’s Field in Sacramento around 12 p.m. for a standard 7 p.m. night game and is met with the task of preparing players to succeed that night as well as the challenge of developing players for a long professional baseball career.

“As a player, you would kind of just show up and be ready to play that game that night,” Minor said. “But as a coach, you’re there early and helping prepare for all these different guys. It’s a long process, but it’s all worth it because I love what I do and it’s so fulfilling seeing these guys progress and have success as Giants.”

Minor enjoyed a successful career with Fresno Grizzlies, then the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, slugging 79 home runs, 259 RBI and a .297 batting average over 388 games in five seasons, but it’s the lessons he learned along the way observing his coaches that most help him in his current position.

“I think for me,” Minor said, “it was seeing that Giants Way and learning from guys like Dusty Baker and Ron Wotus and that’s really helped me more than anything else in what I do today.”

Asked about his favorite moment on the field with the Giants, the 6-foot-7 slugger didn’t hesitate: In a 10-2 home win over the Padres on Sept. 10, 2000, Minor clanged his first major league hit off the right field foul pole, good for a three-run homer that caromed back onto the field.

He keeps the ball and the memory forever in a safe place. Time will tell if his coaching career produces a new favorite Giants memory.

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Dodgers will play their first opening day since 1950 without Vin Scully calling their games. He won't be in the stands. He won't make a point of watching on TV, either.

"It's a day game. I'll probably have things to do," the famed 89-year-old announcer told The Associated Press from his home in Hidden Hills, California. "I might catch a piece of it."

Not that Scully has any regrets since retiring after last season. He says he's grateful for every minute he spent with the Dodgers, the franchise he joined 67 years ago in Brooklyn and followed to Los Angeles eight years later. He feels blessed to have worked as long as he did covering the game he fell in love with as a boy.

But he's learned that after a lifetime in the broadcast booth, watching a game as a fan holds little appeal.

"During the World Series back around '77 or '78, there was a game at Dodger Stadium with the Yankees, and I went to the game as a spectator. Now, I hadn't been as a spectator in a long, long time, and I felt somewhat restless that I wasn't broadcasting," Scully recalled Tuesday.

"I did not have the challenge of trying to describe, accurately and quickly, the way it should be done. I just sat there, and I was not happy, I'll be honest. So I realized that although I love the game, what I loved more was broadcasting it," he said.

Scully spoke to the AP because the Library of Congress has announced it will preserve his call of a 1957 game between the Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, the final time they played at the hallowed old stadium. Both teams moved to California after that season, opening up the West Coast to Major League Baseball.

Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game is more famous. But that game at the Polo Grounds meant more to him personally, because he grew up going to games there, cheering for the Giants and dreaming of watching from the press box.

"It was so meaningful to me. I'm not sure what it really means to baseball fans anymore," Scully said. "The sands of time have washed over the Polo Grounds. But for me, it was one of the more memorable games I was ever involved in."

During that broadcast, Scully implored the players to take their time before there franchises left town: "Let's take it easy, we just want to take one last lingering look at both of you." The Library of Congress called it "a masterful example of the artistry that great sports announcers bring to their work, as well as their empathy for players and fans."

Six decades later, Scully is having an easier time letting go. So no plans to keep track Monday when Los Angeles plays the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

"All summer long, I expect to get feelings of nostalgia, wistfulness, whatever the word may be, but no, I am comfortable, I do know in my heart and soul I am where I should be, and that really is all I need," he said.

"Sure, after 67 years, you'll bet I'll miss it," he added. "But heck, I miss the guys I hung out with when I was in school."

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco …