The Reggie Way

While looking around a bit at the coaches in the Dodgers minor league system, I was pleasantly surprised at the trend that seems to permeate among those selected to be coaches  down on the farm. Well actually, it was not as much of a surprise as a confirmation of what appeared to be a continuing trend. That is, a movement towards youthful coaches, often catchers, and an emphasis on dealing with young  players not just in acquiring fundamental baseball skills but in helping to develop  personal skills that will support the young men and last a lifetime.

Along the way I came across the Reggie Smith Athletics (RSA) site and the Reggie Smith Academy located in Encino, California. Yes, that Reggie Smith who played with the Dodgers from 1976 through 1981 and who broke in with the Red Sox back in 1966 and credits his hitting coach Ted Williams with strongly influencing his approach to hitting. Yes, that Ted Williams who taught Smith this lifelong lesson about keeping the bat in the plane. 

“The biggest thing I learned from Ted Williams was that when I was hitting, it wasn’t me against the  pitcher, it was me against the baseball.”

The purpose of Reggie Smith Athletics, as stated in his website,is to help prepare motivated student athletes for the high school andcollegiate level, and for the rest of their lives. Academics, athletics andcommunity service will be equally emphasized.

Jeremy Rodriguez (29)

Smith also works with players wanting to become and continuecoaching and has a close liaison with MLB and the scouting fraternity. He doesnot work for the Dodgers but directly has had  an influence by teaching young players and aspiring coaches the Reggie way:“…character, class, effective communication, and the understanding needed tosucceed in the “Dodger Way.” In his instructing and within his philosophyReggie speaks of teaching not just coaching.

At least four of the Dodgers minor league coaches have been directly influenced by Reggie Smith and are climbing the minor league coaching ladder. I will again borrow from the work of Steve Douglas from “Last Word On Baseball” who has talked with all of these young men who are protégés of Reggie Smith.

I recently wrote a brief profile on Rodriguez and his quick assent  through the Dodgers farm system all the way to AAA Oklahoma City as a bench coach.  He came under the influence of Smith as a 13- year-old and when asked about his relationship with his mentor speaks freely of that influence.

“He  not only prepared me for baseball, but he also prepared me for life. Reg doesn’t just teach baseball, he teaches you life lessons and how to be a better man. He definitely blows you away with his knowledge and his examples. He teaches you how to be your own hitting coach.”

Petie Montero (33)

I have yet to write an article on Montero and he provides quite a bit of fodder. He is an exciting and excitable coach and has been promoted to the Tulsa Drillers as bench coach for the 2019 season. He and Jeremy Rodriguez are close friends and I expect will coach together one day unless one or the other makes it to MLB outside of the Dodger organization. They certainly are coaching together at Camelback Ranch.

Never at a loss for words, Montero paid his tribute to ReggieSmith also in a Steven Douglas interview.

“Reggie had been preparing us for working in baseball and being able to teach baseball at any level.”

Reggie’s advice regarding coaching does not speak to analytics but to guiding young men:

“Get to the ballpark and when you’re there, go to work…keep your mind open and learn new things.  We don’t teach players, they teach us how to teach them. How can you learn something ten different ways, so that you can teach that player ten different ways.”

Tarrick Brock (45)

Brock, or TBrock as he is known, has been an embarrassing unknown to me. Since 2017 he has been the Dodgers minor league outfield and base running instructor. More on him later

“In ’96 or ’97, I remember hitting a ground ball in the cage, and Reggie said {“get the ball off The ground”}. Now you hear so much about the launch angle and Reggie was always big on that, way before his time.”

He actually has coached both Jeremy Rodriguez and Petie Monterowhen they were teenage players at Smith’s academy. Part of his philosophy isthat the minor league experience should be the most fun of their lives for hisyoung minions. He also offered an interesting note on hitting the Reggie way.

Fumi Ishibashi (36)

I think we are all familiar with former catcher Fumi who moves to the DSL Dodgers this summer as a manager. He had but a few at bats at the minor league level but has already built up an extensive coaching resume at age 36. His six minor league at bats were enough to fulfill his dream of playing ball in the United States.

Ishibashi  has not forgotten Reggie Smith and no doubt Reggie’s way is being passed on by his former student.

“Reggie Smith was like my dad here in the United States, I was treated like family.” The humbleinstructor went on to add about Smith, “he showed me how to survive and live in the States.”

Reggie Smith, at age 73, is still teaching hitting and life skillsat his academy and I expect wherever anyother  opportunity may arise. He no doubt has followed thecareers of his four Dodger coaches and still talks with them as a friend and acontinuing mentor. Their success does not surprise him.

“I told them if really interested in this teaching, you could teach at any level. Each one of themwas dedicated in their approach. I had all of them from a young age. They are all extremely prepared. It’s expected, not a surprise.”

Photo Credit: Pool/Getty Images North America

This article has 55 Comments

  1. I love Reggie Smith! What a great guy, I had no idea he’s given so much back to the game. It’s great that he’s teaching the Dodgers way. Nice write-up DC.

  2. The Dodgers have re-signed Justin De Fratus to another minor league deal, as revealed by the right-hander himself on his Instagram page. (Hat tip to J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group.) De Fratus posted a 4.74 ERA, 6.3 K/9, and a 3.00 K/BB rate over 133 combined innings for the Dodgers at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last season. He started all 23 of his appearances in 2018, his second straight year of working as a starter after pitching almost exclusively as a reliever from 2010-16. That stretch included De Fratus’ 194 career Major League innings with the Phillies from 2011-15, and he has since pitched in the minors for the Rangers, Mariners, Nationals and Dodgers looking for a return to the Show.
    He pitched quite well during some of his starts in 2018, most of them at the AA level. He was an AA mid-season all-star and a Pitcher of the Week at both the AA and AAA levels.

    1. Justin De Fratus is another of my favorite AAAA pitchers. Like Daniel Corcino, he bounces around and does not complain. He is 31 and happy playing professional baseball. The chances of him making the LAD 40 man are not good at all, but he is undoubtedly playing for his childhood favorite organization. He is Oxnard born and raised, and went to Ventura JC, so he is all SoCal.
      Both Corcino and De Fratus played AA and AAA last year, and both have freely and willingly signed with the Dodgers. What is not to like about players like that.

  3. 78 deg. today in SoCal… Pool may be in order!!!
    Great write up DC on coaches and especially Reggie… One of my favs… Was written up as being disgruntled/disruptive before he arrived at Chavez… B.S… Hard to be a black OF in Boston…
    Staring at my ST tix for St. Paddy’s day and figuring who’ll be my dark horse favs to maybe make the 25 outta ST… My track record Hasn’t been very good… I remember following and watching Justin Sellers… What a glove… smooth as silk and then there was Trayce Thompson… Off field antics for Sellers and a bad back for Trayce ended my excitment…
    2019 and here goes… I’m really hoping Andrew Toles makes an impression and can stick… His speed in our lineup would really be a +… A couple kids that I’m rooting for are Gonsolin, May and Kasoswski… What the hell, thats why we play the game..

    1. Wasn’t Sellers big on covering his bod with tats?
      For some reason Piazza hit a cord with me when he was in A ball whereas Kemp was never on my radar.
      I always rooted for Loney. I watched him do well in several AFL games. I liked Abreu also but never was impressed with LaRoche.
      I’m hoping Stewart finds his fastball and learns to pitch more quickly. The last time i saw him he made Baez look quick.
      It will be interesting to watch Taylor, Pederson, Toles, Verdugo, Hernandez, Bellinger, and Muncy. They all need to show they what they are going to bring to the table this year.

    2. There is a lot to like about Andrew Toles. He was on his way to cementing himself to the 25 man as a more than platoon LF when he tore his ACL. He now finds himself caught in a log -jammed OF. Unless another OF is moved, I do not see a spot available for Toles. Would the Dodgers be better with Joc traded for other needs and Toles getting into a LF platoon with Kike’? Joc has more trade value and more in salary than Toles. Verdugo may have more trade value than Joc, but I cannot see the Dodgers trading him. If they wanted to, they have had multiple opportunities to include him in a package. It seems more than reasonable to expect AF to want to see what Verdugo can do on a regular spot in the lineup.
      Joc or Toles? There will be no shortage of fans voicing their position for either player. Right now, (IMO) Joc will be in LF against RHP, and either Kike’ or CT3 against LHP.

      1. Good takes right there. Right now there is no room for Toles but he does have options. The more I look at Pollock the more I think Andrew for once thought about more than saber numbers and used his eyeball test. Not just the batting right and decent splits but the fact they were limited in CF when Cody sat or was at 1B. AJ can man CF or move to LF with Cody in CF because CT3 and Kike will be used at 2B a lot more this year. If Joc is moved there is room for Verdugo to grow and Toles gets a shot to stick.

  4. I just saw this comment in Sports Illustrated, and it describes what I have been maintaining.

    HRs are nice, but HRs are cheap in the launch angle era.

    And because of that, twenty HRs are not like they use to be.

      1. Mark

        I would never try to hit twenty HRs.

        But that was actually in an article where a writer was trying to evaluate what JD Realmuto was really worth.


    – The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced the signing of free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock to a four-year contract with a player option for an additional year.

    Pollock, 31, hit a career-high 21 home runs in just 113 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season and was named NL Player of the Week for April 30-May 6 followed by being named National League Player of the Month for April after slugging .670 with nine homers and 24 RBI.

    Pollock’s best season came in 2015 when he was named to his first All-Star team and batted .315 with 20 homers while collecting 39 stolen bases. Following that season, the center fielder won a Rawlings National League Gold Glove.

    In 105 starts in center field last year, Pollock made just one error and his .996 fielding percentage tied for second best among NL outfielders.

    The Connecticut native has a career .281 batting average with 74 home runs, 264 RBI and 103 stolen bases in 637 major league games after being selected in the first-round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Notre Dame.

    The Dodgers now have 40 players on their 40-man roster.

    Pollock will be available to the media tomorrow at 1130 in the Dodger interview room.

    1. See!! You had to go to Pollock coming out of Notre Dame didn’t you. I kept trying to ignore that. I am a Pollock fan but I know I am going to have to get over that.

        1. Don’t forget Pat Haden. I was at the ’74 game at the Coliseum and it will never fade from my memory. IMO the greatest college football game in my lifetime.

          1. I was going to include Haden because JK McKay was one of his favorite targets.

            I still can feel that excitement after Anthony Davis ran that kick off back, at the beginning of the second half.

  6. DC mentioned that Reggie was a Ted Williams devotee, and an early launch angle disciple. The difference between the Reggie Smith’s and most of today’s launch angle players is that Reggie had a tremendous eye. Last year the team experienced the all or nothing approach with waaaaaay too many K’s. Reggie never struck out 100 times in a season. For his career, Reggie batted .287/.366/.489/.855. From 1977-1981 while with LAD he hit a ridiculous .299/.394/.534/.928. When talking about greatest LAD hitters, Reggie needs to be highly considered, even if he was only with LAD a short time (5.5 years).
    There seems to be another feather in RVS’ quiver. While with the DBacks, JDM used Pollock’s indoor batting cage in the early AM with his personal hitting coach RVS. Pollock would join in and is now another of RVS’ students. Perhaps RVS was a plus for the Dodgers in signing Pollock. Pollock said he spent last year reconstructing his swing, and he now says that he is ready for it to take off. Will he hit as well as JDM? Probably not, but I am anxious to see him and with his other student CT3 hit this year. Belli has had sessions with RVS. I have always believed that RVS is first and foremost a hitting instructor. That does not always translate into being a good coach, but he is saying the right things. My wife says that I am old and stubborn. So maybe it is taking me longer, but I am quickly becoming more optimistic with RVS. If he was in anyway helpful in bringing Pollock to LA, that makes me even more so.
    “The biggest thing I learned from Ted Williams was that when I was hitting, it wasn’t me against the pitcher, it was me against the baseball.” This should be printed on every hitter’s clubhouse locker. It seems so simple, but too often the batter is focusing on the pitcher rather than the ball. See the ball, hit the ball. It is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports, but if the hitter concentrates on the ball, they have a better chance at success.

        1. Definitely. On most lists of best switch hitters he does not even get consideration in the top 10.

  7. Yesterday, Dodgerpatch asked where he could purchase a vintage player’s jersey. I have used as a source for some of mine. I just purchased a Ron Cey jersey for my wife for Christmas. It does take a couple of months. They are custom made.

  8. For his career, Reggie batted .287/.366/.489/.855. That seems HOF like.
    From 1977-1981 while with LAD he hit a ridiculous .299/.394/.534/.928. Considering Koufax and Snider leveraged their best 5 years to get into the HOF, Reggie’s best 5 years would seem to be the leverage he needs for the HOF.

  9. I don’t know if this has any meaning or not but Verdugo is missing from the autograph line at Dodger Fan Fest today.

  10. I think San Diego does want to sign Machado.
    I think San Diego only wants to make the Dodgers give up more for Realmuto but other than that, has no interest in Realmuto especially after Miami said they would not let teams negotiate an extension before making a trade.
    I think Miami wants Ruiz and either Pederson or Muncy plus as many lower level prospects as they can get.

    1. I have not seen any mention of Muncy being shopped so far on any site, and the reason is 35 bombs and .973 OPS making $560K this season-the team is keeping his bat around. Ruiz I would substitute Smith, Barnes, Joc and Alvaraz plus another lower level arm or 2. Not sure how the team feels about Toles but right now there is no room for him but he does have options remaining.

      1. Since we have 3 players(Stewart, Yimi and Chargois) with no options left why not include them in a package of Joc, Barnes, Smith and Alveraz? Just a thought.

        1. Good point, like the way you think. Shaggy does have an option left as do Floro, Fields and Urias. Baez and Stripling 2 and Caleb 3. Cingrani does not but at $2.6M he is either going to be on the 25 or the DL.

          1. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that by getting Pollock and hope fully Realmuto, we have removed two thorns in our side. Pollock .291 BA; .884 OPS and has hit more HRs vs us than any other team. Realmuto is even better: .388 BA and 1.093 OPS. That’s lifetime figures.

      2. I haven’t seen any talk about the Dodgers trading Muncy. What I read was that Miami wanted a power bat in the outfield or at first base in addition to Ruiz.

    1. Since Manny Mota stopped wearing it after 1982, it has been fairly forgettable.
      Logan Forsythe (2017-18)
      Micah Johnson (2016)
      Josh Reddick (2016)
      Jimmy Rollins (2015)
      Erisbel Arruebarrena (2014)
      Manny Mota (1969-1982)
      Other Dodgers who have worn #11 – John Kennedy (1965-66), Kenny McMullen (1963-64), Carl Erskine (1950), Dixie Walker (1939-47). In all, 26 Dodgers have worn #11.

    2. Dodgers have just announced they won’t be trading for Realmuto. since he also wears #11 and they obviously can’t both wear the same number.

  11. Still got a funny feeling that harper is going to be a dodger, but that could just be my wishful thinking! !

  12. I was reviewing my Baseball America top 100, and it is apparent that the Dodgers are still a top ten minor league system. Probably around 8 or 9, but still top 10. The top 100 is broken down as follows:
    San Diego – 1 top 10, 4 top 50. 7 top 75, 9 top 100.
    Tampa Bay – 1 top 10, 2 top 25, 3 top 50, 7 top 75, 9 top 100
    Atlanta – 3 top 25, 4 top 50, 5 top 75, 8 top 100
    Toronto – 2 top 10, 3 top 50, 4 top 75, 7 top 100
    ChiSox – 1 top 10, 2 top 25, 4 top 50, 5 top 100
    Astros – 1 top 10, 2 top 25, 3 top 50, 5 top 100
    Reds – 1 top 10, 2 top 50, 5 top 75, 5 top 100
    Cardinals – 1 top 25, 2 top 50, 4 top 75, 5 top 100
    Dodgers – 1 top 25, 3 top 50, 5 top 100
    4 Top 100 – Mariners
    3 Top 100 – A’s (1 top 10), Twins (1 Top 10), Nats, Phillies, Tigers, Pirates, Mets, Orioles
    2 Top 100 – Angels (1 top 10), Rockies, Brewers, Indians, DBacks
    1 Top 100 – Giants, Marlins, Royals, Rangers
    0 Top 100 – NYY, Boston, Cubs
    Dodgers are not in bad shape seeing where they have been drafting the last several years. 2 of the Dodgers top 100 are from the Colletti regime (Verdugo and Ruiz) and 3 from the AF regime (Lux, May, Smith).

    1. You have talked about new hitting coach RVS and I am hoping he works with some of the minor league players as well. 2 that come to mind are Jeren Kendall and DJ Peters who both could fast track if they cut down on their K’s. Peters does not chase and has mad power but could use a better approach. Kendall has top end speed but can’t steal 1st, he needs to put the ball in play. Both are plus OF defenders with good arms. Have you heard any discussion of this new hitting approach filtering down through the organizational levels?

      1. Vegas, since the all or nothing approach went down thru the affiliates last year, it sure seemed like that was the organizational approach. We can only hope that the new approach will also be pushed all the way down thru the affiliates. I am hoping that this was per Zaidi, and is going away with RVS.

    2. Which is a very modest return, to be generous,
      for all they’ve invested, and all the PR noise about
      “Dodger depth.” And going backward in the ratings the
      last couple years.

      And once again, see what Tampa has done with limited
      resources at both major and minor levels compared to
      Andrew’s four years of wretched exce$$.

      OTOH, systems don’t have to be strong across the board.
      At their best, they produce two or three guys with a legit shot
      at MLB long-term impact most years. (Remember how many
      World Champs were gonna come from the Jacksonville Five?)

  13. Damn, did someone mention South Bend?? I must have seen it somewhere…
    ST doesn’t seem to start till you see Manny Mota chugging around the grounds on his bike…
    Pete Rose, now that may be the dumbest player to ever hit the diamond… All he ever had to say was a simple YES…

  14. Actually Alex Verdugo is at the FanFest today. My friend took a pic with him (Alex is rockin a Lakers hat and Dodger jersey)

    1. I didn’t have a chance to get out to the stadium, but did see a Fan Fest interview with Verdugo on TV. He sure says all the right things. Kelly is kind of a smart ass (in a good way). He and Kike will do well together. Pollock also well spoken. The one guy who always seems like he’s being tortured when he’s interviewed is Joc. They would do him a favor if they traded him to a small market team with no press or TV contract. Ruiz was also very impressive. Answered the first question in Spanish but when nobody could translate he answered the next couple in very good English and I’m guessing he didn’t speak any English when he got here a couple years ago.

  15. Who was the guy that mention all the rumors that kept coming true from some sports writer or insight connection

  16. Per Doug Padilla of the AP:
    “Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager can’t guarantee he’ll be ready by Opening Day but says he hasn’t had any setbacks in his recovery from hip and Tommy John surgeries.

    ”Right now, everything is on line to kind of be able to make a decision on whether I will be ready to go or not, but for the most part I feel great and everything is on time right now,” Seager said.

    Seager, who has been told he will continue to play shortstop, threw from 120 feet for the first time Friday and is still progressing toward live batting practice and throwing across the infield.”

    Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has dropped 25 pounds since the end of last season and threw his first bullpen session Thursday since a heart procedure in November.
    The 31-year-old dropped the weight hoping to better manage his health, and he said his doctor is confident the issues are behind him, even if he’s not completely cured. He said he is off blood thinners and has been cleared to pitch in Colorado this year.

  17. Watching Seager at Fanfest and it hit me. All kinds of people out there (including the voice of doom, my buddy Bill Plashke) ragging on Freidman about signing Pollock instead of Harper. Don’t forget, we went to a World Series without a healthy Seager ALL year long. Love me or hate me, I would take a totally healthy Cory Seager’s bat over Harper any day. Way more consistent, and Seager hasn’t even reached his prime yet. If this guy is truly 100%, this lineup can be flat out scary without Harper. He can be THAT guy. He has not been 100% for two seasons, let’s see how this pans out. How would you like to be the opposing pitcher facing Seager, Turner,Pollock, Bellinger in the middle of the order? Interview with Pollock tells me he’s ready to roll. Starting to get excited…

  18. Damn, just saw David Freese and Kenley. What are you guys worried about? Freese is Chase Utley reincarnated, and Kenley dropped some pounds, looking good.

  19. The weight drop by Kenley is encouraging.

    I have always thought that the 6’4” Seager would ultimately become a 30-40 HR guy with the added strength that maturity brings. Not saying that’s coming this year, especially given that he still requires time before full recovery sets in. Even if he was fully recovered physically he would no doubt need substantial time to re-acclimate himself to a full MLB schedule.

    If he’s given adequate time off during his initial season back, maybe he will stay strong throughout the full season, and end it strongly as he continues to get more comfortable throughout the season.

    As Mark always says, and I agree, it’s not how you begin the season, it’s how you finish it.

  20. I am going to assume that the Dodgers are just about done. The Idiot GM of the Padres will overpay for Realmuto, which is really, really dumb for them, but they are very capable of being dumb.

    The Dodgers keep their prospects intact and can make a make in July…. if needed.

    Going into Spring Training, I think there is only one GUARANTEED position: Justin Turner at 3B. The rest is to be decided… and I like it!

  21. I was wondering why the Padres would be willing to part with multiple prospects to acquire Realmuto when they are apparently not yet ready to contend. From what I’ve read, the Padres already have a top rated young catcher (maybe two) and a wealth of young, but still inexperienced talent that will enable them to contend over the next several years. Why would they surrender several of those prospects
    to get a single player who is not likely push them into contention at this time. Seems to me that such a move would be more than a little premature, and shortsighted.

  22. I like the AJ move, hoping he has learned not to be
    so all out where walls and bases are concerned.

    I would like to see a Realmuto trade, but agree with MT
    that Ruiz’s season at 19 has some WOW in it:-).

    I worry about Cory’s body type over time.

    I also wonder how often, and how badly, CK and JT
    will be hurt.

    Will Walker glide into the “ace” role, or have soph

    Will Kenley have the same power to the plate with the
    weight loss?

    I don’t assume Joe K will, of necessity, be the guy from
    last fall. Could be or could be more like his career self.

    Would like to see Andrew T. get a REAL chance to make
    his mark, here or elsewhere.

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