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.

Giants hammer three homers in third straight spring training win

Giants hammer three homers in third straight spring training win

BOX SCORE

At Goodyear, Arizona, Joe Panik, Conor Gillaspie and Jarrett Parker homered for San Francisco. Jimmy Rollins singled and scored twice.

Giants lefty Matt Moore went 1 1/3 innings in his first start of the spring, allowing one run and one hit. He walked two and struck out three.

Cincinnati starter Tim Adleman pitched two innings, giving up four hits and two runs.

Giants spring training Day 14: Moore, Beede debut as SF improves to 3-0

Giants spring training Day 14: Moore, Beede debut as SF improves to 3-0

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — An hour after he gave up a run, walked two, and struck out three in 1 1/3 innings, Matt Moore stood in front of his locker and smiled.

“I usually stink in spring training,” he said. 

That’s not entirely true. By spring training standards, Moore’s 4.06 ERA over 19 exhibition appearances is practically Cy Young-worthy. But the Giants have come to find that Moore, acquired at the deadline last summer, has high standards. He lived up to them the last time he took the mound in orange and black, throwing eight brilliant innings in the final game of the 2016 season. 

Moore had a long offseason to think about the way the postseason ended. He said he doesn’t have regrets. 

“The ball doesn’t go your way, but there’s nothing about what happened that night that I second-guess,” he said. “We all showed up. Boch managed the game, we played the game … that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The Giants are counting on Moore to help them get back to October. To recover from last year’s lengthy run — his first full season back from Tommy John — Moore pushed the start of his offseason throwing program back a month. Sunday’s outing was just the second time facing hitters this spring because rain messed with some of the coaching staff’s workout plans, but Moore said he feels strong. 

“We got him where we wanted,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He looked good.”

GAME RECAP: The ball was flying at Goodyear Ballpark Way Out In The Middle Of Nowhere and the Giants took full advantage. Conor Gillaspie, Joe Panik and Jarrett Parker homered in a 9-5 win over the Reds. The Giants are 3-0 in Cactus League play … Tyler Beede struck out one in two scoreless innings. Beede gave up two hits, but he finished his 2017 debut by getting a double-play ball … Jimmy Rollins scored twice while leading off … Albert Suarez made his debut, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings … Cincinnati’s pitching was mostly brutal, but former Giants prospects Luis Castillo and Keury Mella finished off the day with three scoreless innings. 

POSITION BATTLE: Parker had two hits and walked twice. His homer was a laser shot. “He smoked that one,” Bochy said. “I didn’t think it was going out, but he scalded it. It shows the kind of power he has.”

Mac Williamson had two hits, a walk, and two runs. He made a slick sliding catch for an out near the left field wall. The left field candidates are off to a good start. 

QUOTABLE: “It’s great. There are a lot more places to eat.” — Moore, on his first spring in Arizona. Moore is from New Mexico, so he’s happy with the switch from having camp in Florida.