Hawks manager Frank Gonzales draws all the on-field attention at Memorial Stadium, making pitching changes, waving runners home and ordering hit-and-runs.
But the Hawks’ top man, Fred Nelson, sits in the stands each night.
The Rockies sent a different organizational structure to Boise as part of their first year as the Hawks’ parent club. Instead of the manager serving as the top boss as he did under the Cubs, the Rockies assign a development supervisor to all of its minor league clubs below Triple-A.
Nelson said the plan began three years ago when the Rockies searched for another way to add to their player investments and to make sure their affiliates taught the fundamentals the Rockies preached.
“They felt that here you send these guys out, but there’s really nobody overseeing what goes on,” said Nelson, a baseball lifer who spent 27 years in the Astros organization before joining the Rockies. “If you run a business and HP has a satellite campus in some city, well, they usually send somebody in to make sure it’s organized and oversees the operation.
“Well, in baseball, it’s the manager. But the manager is tied up with a lot of stuff, and emotionally he’s invested every night in what goes on. This way, I’m kind of unattached from that.”
Gonzales still makes all the in-game decisions and runs the club as he sees fit. But after a day filled of throwing batting practice, hitting grounders and offering an experienced eye in the batting cage, Nelson retreats to the stands during games for a view from what he calls “30,000 feet.” He said the different perspective allows him to spot aspects of the game the dugout can miss and separates himself from the evening’s emotions.
After the game, he and the rest of the Hawks’ staff meets and pour over the positives and the negatives of the night before filing a report to Denver.
“During the game, the staff is wrapped up with balls and strikes and who is on and are they going to steal,” Nelson said. “I can sit back and observe the outfield and see how they are moving, see where the infielders are, see if someone is late covering, make a note we’re trying to work with someone on bunting and we’ve now gone four days and he hasn’t even thought about it.”
Nelson filled nearly every role in the organization with the Astros from pro scout to advanced scout to director of player development to director of minor league operations to special assistant to the general manager.
Gonzales knows some could chafe at the notion of a boss constantly looking over of your shoulder. But he said all of Nelson’s experience provides an invaluable asset for himself, a first-year manager, his first-year pitching coach, Doug Jones, and his first-year hitting coach Andy Gonzalez.
“He has the title of a supervisor. But on the other hand, he also lets me do exactly what I want to do,” Gonzales said. “If he sees me doing something really off, obviously he’d bring it up. I haven’t had that issue up to this point.
“I love having Fred around. It’s great for me to be able to learn from somebody that has been around the game that long.”