MCGILL: Exchange of Ideas Helps Waggoner, Herd Baseball
The Word on the Herd -- March 13, 2018
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – At a Marshall University baseball practice this season, Thundering Herd coach Jeff Waggoner welcomed one of his former players to speak to his team: West Virginia Power manager Wyatt Toregas.
Toregas, now a 35-year-old in charge of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ low-Class A affiliate in Charleston, West Virginia, stopped at the Chris Cline Athletic Complex on his way to the Pirates’ Spring Training facility in Bradenton, Florida. He watched the Marshall baseball team hit and take part in fielding drills, and then addressed the players as a group.
Waggoner hoped the words from Toregas, whom he coached in summer league baseball with the Vienna Senators in 2002, would stick with his team throughout the 2018 season. One thing is for sure – they didn’t hurt. Marshall is off to a 10-4 start with four consecutive series wins, with the Conference USA opening series against UAB awaiting this weekend at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park – Toregas’ home ballpark during the summer months.
“These guys are all trying to play at the pro level,” Waggoner said of his players. “Their goal is to play in the big leagues. They hear a pro manager come in and talk about his better teams and their routines, that is valuable. It might be the same message they hear from me, but hearing it from a different person, that’s what matters.
“These guys can’t hear enough from adults about more than baseball, but better their lives and being more organized with classes and time management.”
Toregas, a native of Fairfax, Virginia, was a 2004 draft pick of the Cleveland Indians who received two stints in the major leagues. He played in 19 games with 60 at-bats and caught 153 innings for the Indians in 2009, and then received a brief call-up from the Pirates in 2011.
Last year was Toregas’ first at the helm of the Power. He stressed to the Herd players the importance of having a routine, personal health and knowing your role.
“You can’t always be the hero,” Toregas said. “Sometimes you have to do your job so the next guy can be the hero.”
Waggoner called Toregas an “energy guy” who was “an extension of the coaching staff” when he was a player.
“The biggest thing for me you have to understand your role,” Toregas said. “You have to know what your job is, what am I good at? Everybody in this room has strengths and everybody has weaknesses. The strengths got me where I wanted to go, and I had to continue working on the weaknesses.”
After Toregas’ chat with the team, he and Waggoner had dinner in Huntington and talked baseball for hours. That exchange of information is essential.
“If you stop learning, you’re in trouble,” Waggoner said. “You’re always trying to be a better coach and learn how to prepare teams and get the most out of your players. What people don’t see sometimes from coaches is the amount of time you put into preparation and how much time you spend trying to become a better coach.”
One story Toregas shared with Waggoner involved Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. Toregas was often called into Hurdle’s office for chats, and they seldom centered on baseball. Later that year, Toregas received a call-up to the Pirates even though his numbers were down at AAA. He realized how effective Hurdle was at communication and building relationships with players and others in the organization.
“What separates him as a manager is his ability to communicate,” Waggoner said. “I’ve enjoyed that more than anything, just throwing out ideas. The game is always changing. There’s 10 different ways to swing now; the launch angle versus hitting more line drives … there’s so many ways to teach things and find out what works for the players.
“Listening to how others manage players and how I manage situations and how every kid is different, I think that is the key to winning.”