Friday, April 20, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood hitting coach Tyler Henson

Tyler Henson, image- Jay Floyd
The Class A Lakewood BlueClaws are off to a fair start, posting a 7-7 record through the first couple weeks of the season.  The guy in charge of the offense (2nd lowest OPS in the South Atlantic League entering action on Friday, with a .636 mark) is former Phillies farm hand Tyler Henson.

A 5th round pick of Baltimore in 2006, Henson, 30, took the field in the Phillies organization from 2013-2015 on the end of a 10-year playing career.

Henson began his coaching tenure in 2016 fresh out of retirement.  Last year, he coached with short-season Class A Williamsport.  During his time in affiliated minor league baseball, Henson posted a .263/.323/.393 slash line.

Last week I talked with Coach Henson about his team's lineup, including outfielders Josh Stephen, Jhailyn Ortiz and Simon Muzziotti, along with infielders Daniel Brito, Cole Stobbe, Jake Scheiner and first baseman Quincy Nieporte, plus more about his transition into coaching.

Read ahead for that full interview. 


-Josh Stephen has gotten off to a solid start for the BlueClaws.  What have you seen from him thus far?

He's in a good spot right now.  He's controlling the zone.  That's what we've been working on with him and really getting good pitches to hit and when he does that he does a good job and finds his way on base.

-Cole Stobbe is a name that I think fans will become familiar with, if they haven't done so already.  What are your thoughts on him?

For me he's just got to continue working and keep doing what he's doing right now.  For me, he's got a chance to play in the big leagues, but right now, he's just got to learn how to play the game the right way and go about his business the right way and I think he has a pretty good chance.

-Looking at the roster and just based on your date of birth, my first thought was, "This guy is still playing age!"  Players can find it easier to relate to a guy that they've seen do it or is closer to their age.  Do you find that to be the case, being able to relate to the players, as a guy closer to their age than some of the other coaches they might run into?

They kind of know-- some of the guys were in the organization my last year here, so they kind of knew me and were around me a little bit.  I just try to keep it loose with them.  We get our work in, but we'll still have fun and don't make it feel like it's a total grind every day.  There's going to be days where we go in the cage and turn the music up and hit and I think keeping them loose like that gives them a chance to succeed every day.

-Are there coaches from the Phillies system that you took a lot from while you played and now use that in your coaching techniques?

Andy Tracy, who is now my boss, he was still the coordinator my last few years here and I learned a lot from him as a player, which I've carried over into the coaching side.  We agree on a lot of things.  Frank Cacciatore, who was in Reading for a long time, I clicked with him as a player.  You know, everybody in this organization goes about it the right way and I have a lot of respect for them.

-Your transition into coaching, was it more difficult than you expected or is it what you imagined it would be?

I knew exactly what I wanted to do once I decided I was done playing, so I was fortunate enough for the Phillies organization to bring me in.  It's such a great system with a lot of good players and it's made my transition pretty easy.  So, it's what I always wanted to do when I was done playing, so I'm thankful for that.

-Back to your team...Jhailyn Ortiz is on this Lakewood roster and is a guy that got a big signing bonus.  Started out a bit cold.  What have you seen from him thus far?

He's young, he's got a lot of growing pains to go through.  And I think a lot of these guys will have that.  And as they go up there's going to be some growing pains.  With Jhailyn, it's just trusting his ability to do what he can do and having the confidence to play on an everyday basis.  And when he does that, he could be the best on the field.

-Is there anyone that started hot or had a hot spring that made some good impressions on you?

Muzziotti, he had a great spring.  He's 18, 19 years old, whatever he is and, you know, his ability to put the bat on the ball in all different zones is very impressive for someone his age.  He's, for me, he's got the hitters' knack to be able to barrel the ball that's up in the zone, down in the zone and he's going to do great things.

-Daniel Brito is a guy that was on this team last year and could be a player that some newer guys can learn from.  Thoughts on him?

He's just got to go about his business the right way here.  He's still young.  He's a solid player, defensively and offensively.  I think whenever the strength kicks in, he's going to take off.

Quincy Nieporte, image- Jay Floyd
-Another new guy on the team, Quincy Neiporte...I know he's an offensive guy the team might need to rely on.  What else can you tell me about him?

He's an older guy, a Florida State kid.  This is the first year I've had him and he's good for some of these younger guys to be around.  He, to me, he is a leader in the clubhouse and I think if he continues what he's doing now, he'll be fine for the rest of the year.

-Jake Scheiner, a 4th round pick from last year, is another guy I wanted to ask you about.
 

Another good guy in the clubhouse.  We've got a lot of good guys in here and he is one that extremely works hard and does everything he needs to do the right way.


-I've heard you use the phrase "go about business the right way" a few times.  Not to trying to pick apart what you're saying, but is there any implication that maybe some individuals that need to do that have something they're not doing the right way behind the scenes or whatever?

I mean, for me going about the business the right way is being a professional, learning to be a professional, learning how to do your cage work the right way, having a purpose with everything you do.  And I think, with such a young group of guys, for me, that's the biggest thing for me to teach these guys.  Don't go in the cage just to hit, go in the with a purpose.  You go in there to work, get your work in and then you don't have to be in there for an hour.  Do it right, you get in and out.  As we all know, 140 games is a long year and some of these guys have never experienced that.  And for me to stress that early cuts down swings in the cage and will help them as a professional.

-Most teams will have a guy that is, not necessarily a clown, but, jokes around and keeps things really fun and loose.  Is it possible, in your mind, for a player to be that guy, but also go about all his business the right way?

Absolutely.  I've played with a lot of guys like that.  Here in the clubhouse; have fun, joke.  But when you've got to get your work in, you go about it and do it the right way.  

-How are the Latin guys on this team with English?  Anybody really outstanding?

Pretty much all of them.  Pretty much all of them in here speak good English. It's easy for me and I'm thankful for that.  The Phillies have a good system to where they get their English classes in, you know, and a lot of them are very advanced.

-Conversely, I know from American players that attended some of the Phillies' fall camps and symposiums, that Spanish classes are mandatory for them to learn.  Are there Americans on this team that are good with Spanish?

There's a few, but it's not as important yet.  But in the Phillies organization we stress getting to know each other's cultures, so a lot of these guys they room with a Latin player, so they get to know the language, the heritage, the culture, everything about them.

-A lot of guys will play abroad and that experience can help in precisely the regard you're referencing there.  Did you ever play in a Latin American league and did that help you?

I did.  I played two year in Venezuela and I loved it.  It's a different environment.  You go there to play winter ball and it's not like it is here, mostly about development.  It's about winning every day and it teaches you how to win.  And it's not that we're not trying to win here, but as a coaching staff, we're about developing players and making them better.  And over there it was "win now or go home!" 
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