Sunday, April 16, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Former Phils catcher, Greensboro manager Todd Pratt


Todd Pratt, Image- Jay Floyd
Former Phillies catcher Todd Pratt has returned to professional baseball for the first time since he played with the Braves in 2006. He’s now the manager of the Marlins Class A affiliate, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a team that he played for when it was a Boston affiliate 21 years ago.

In 14 big league seasons, primarily as a backup, Pratt posted a .251 batting average with 49 home runs and 224 RBI. He also played with the Mets, Braves and Cubs.

This weekend, I talked with Pratt about his transition to the coaching ranks, differences in the minor league lifestyle now compared to when he was riding the buses from town to town, his team and more. Read ahead for that full interview.

-I was surprised to see you today. Didn’t know you were managing this club, till I saw your name on the roster today. Talk to me about the new gig. Is this a brand new venture for you, or have you coached in the pro’s before.

This is my first year as a professional manager. Last six years I started a junior college program right outside of Atlanta, in Caroll, West Georgia Tech and I was having fun at the junior college level and I actually became the (athletic director) there and be there at the school. And it was kind of a shot in the dark, I got a call from Marc Delpiano, vice president of player development, and kind of went off of there.

-You’re known for your time playing mostly with the Phillies and Mets and now you’re with the Marlins organization. What’s it like working for the enemy, a division rival, in the Marlins?

You know, I don’t know if I’m the enemy any more, but yeah, my whole career was in the East, except for a little hiccup over there in Chicago, and you know- great division. It was great time with the Phillies and the Mets and my last year with the Braves. It was good baseball.

-It’s a young season, but what do you notice as some of the biggest differences in these “bus leagues” now versus when you played in these leagues?

The bus, obviously. We have sleepers now! It’s incredible. 22 beds that these guys can sleep in with the long trips. You know, I remember when I played here in Greensboro in 1986, our bus was basically the Bull Durham bus. So, definitely, organizations have taken an investment in these young kids and all going through the equipment, the buses, the travel, the meals. They’re really taking care of their investments here and that’s a pleasure to watch.

-Is there anything that stands out on this roster of Grasshoppers players that you’re in charge of this year?

Well, we’re a team consisting of some young guys and some guys that have been here for one or two years. I think that’s a good mix. You have some veterans and you have some rookies. Overall, our team makeup is we have some team speed. We have four or five guys that are on their own and just run with abandonment, so I think that just puts a lot of pressure on opponents. We have a couple big left-handed sluggers, the third baseman (Brenden) Berry, kind of pits that middle of the lineup there. And pitching, we have—they’re very intelligent. They’re older guys, all pretty much college guys except for a couple. Everything so far has been so good. We’ve won games a lot of different ways. A lot of different aspects of the game with our power, with our pitching, with our speed.

-I got to talk with Charlie Hayes, who also just got into pro coaching for the first time, last week and he was describing some guys from his playing days that he keeps in touch with. Is there anyone from your days with the Phillies that you remain close with?

Oh, well, you know, Pat Burrell I’m really good friends with. Tim Hudson with the Braves. You know, we all meet up. Heck, tell Charlie I said hello. He was a good guy that I was with before and, you know, I live outside Atlanta and I just concentrate on my kids and my wife. Being back in pro ranks I would start to see faces that were familiar. It was great in spring training, we’d play other teams and ex-teammates or guys I played against would come up to me and congratulate me and say this is where you belong and I feel like I do belong here.

-Obviously, you wouldn’t do this if you didn’t find it rewarding and if you didn’t like grooming the next wave of talent. Can you talk about what you like most about coaching?

Yeah, I just—it started, you know, my last season. They told me get into coaching right away and I just kinda didn’t feel it was fair to my kids. I played 21 years. My wife had been with me many of those years, honestly, and you know I’m lucky to get back into it. The junior college ranks it kind of gave me an outlet and it was me being the A.D. and building that program up and now here, it’s just a better talent of player and it’s just enjoyable to watch these guys work and for me to give—obviously, it’s not for the money. It’s just being in the baseball life and me helping these players out.

-Did you miss the game a lot while you were out of it?

No. Not really. I was coaching at the college, like I said, was my little outlet and no. I’m not one of those players that feels bad or missed it too bad or a bitter ex-player. I’m just trying to give back to the game that gave to me.
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