September 21, 2019

Helping World Series Phenom Buster Posey

November 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    Ken Joyce was talking mile a minute.  He had input for any of my questions, many times offering more than I knew to ask.  How he got started in baseball, his time in the Florida Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays organizations, the big names he has worked with, his years managing and coaching in  Independent leagues.

      He had every reason to be excited.  Who wouldn’t be?

       Joyce is now part of the San Francisco Giants baseball operation.  The World Champion Giants.

      To say he had an interesting season as the hitting coach for the Giants’ Triple-A team, the Fresno Grizzlies, would be an understatement.  Game 4 pitching hero Madison Bumgarner was 7-1 at Fresno, rookie catching phenom Buster Posey played nearly 50 games for the Pacific Coast League team before taking over behind the plate and eventually hitting cleanup for the parent Giants.  World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, Pat Burrell and standout second baseman Freddy Sanchez all made brief appearances with the top farm club.

       And the capper was that the Giants brought Ken Joyce and his 11-year-old son Tommy, now a very popular sixth grader at home in Portland, ME, to Games 1 and 2 of the Fall Classic. 

       Oh, and all of this for a man now trusted to help the likes of the 23-year-old Posey, a likely franchise star for the next decade, with their hitting even though Joyce did not play a single game of professional baseball.  He did play in the NAIA College World Series representing Southern Maine, and he spent time in the Northeast League, which preceded today’s Can-Am League. He was a coach at the remote village of Mountaindale, NY for the Catskill Cougars in 2000 and he spent part of the next season managing the Adirondack Lumberjacks in Glens Falls, NY.

       “Van Schley hired me as the hitting coach in Catskill”, Joyce recalled, with obvious joy when he returned my telephone call from Portland.  Schley has been in various ownership roles since the Independent game started in 1993, most recently as primary boss of the Can-Am’s Brockton, MA franchise.   The Catskill gig took place after Joyce’s six-year run with the Marlins ended, during his time as a middle school physical education teacher and before his 2002-09 tenure with Toronto.

      A year later Adirondack was in turmoil in mid-season, about the time Joyce’s school year ended, and “I agreed I would take the (managing) job as long as Darryl Motley (who had been managing) stayed as designated hitter.”

Posey Was Not ‘Driving the Ball’

      Ken Joyce did not take any special credit in helping to mould Buster Posey, even though he hit a career-high .347 with an on-base percentage of .442 for his 47 games in Fresno.

      “That young man is way ahead of his time,” the hitting coach praised.  “I told him, no offense, but the best hitting coach you will ever have is yourself.  He knows how to make his own adjustments.”

       Modesty aside, Joyce said the Giants’ line when Posey reported to Triple-A after spring training was “he’s not driving the ball; and he needs to cover the inside better”.  That became the project. 

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 Bridgeport Manager Also Remembers Giants Fondly

       One present day Independent manager also has fond memories of his days as first base coach and as minor league hitting coordinator at San Francisco.  The onetime major league slugger Willie Upshaw, who manages Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League, especially recalls the first time he saw No. 2 starter Matt Cain as one minor league spring training was winding down.

      “Oh my, look at his arm and his stuff”, Upshaw related, with similar enthusiasm a few years later. 

 Top ‘Prospects’ Getting Jobs

      It almost seems that methodically, one by one major league organizations are purchasing the contracts of prime Independent Baseball players.  Baseball America came out with its list of top 10 prospects, and the first three already have departed.

      Boston inked outfielder Matty Johnson (Gateway, Sauget, IL, Frontier League), Atlanta came after right-handed pitcher Wes Alsup (Joliet, IL, Northern League) and the Braves also took first baseman Chris Garcia (Shreveport-Bossier, LA, American Association) which leaves righties Ryan Sheldon and Bobby Pritchett, both with Normal, IL of the Frontier on the bubble as Nos. 4 and 5.            

          (This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball.  Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blogs, www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com and www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com.  The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)

 

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