TROY — The 2018 Tri-City ValleyCats will feature plenty of rookies. That is the nature of playing in short-season Class A. They’ll have a rookie calling the shots too.
First-year ValleyCats manager Jason Bell is just 27 years old and is in his first season managing at any level. He says that he has a large amount of support from his peers and feels ready to have this job.
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of good people in my corner that have helped me grow as my coaching career has gone on the past few years, and I think the people in our organization have really helped me adjust,” Bell said during the team’s media day on Wednesday afternoon.
He added, on his first year in this type of job, “Everybody was once a first-time manager. Everybody can relate to those first feelings.”
Bell’s coaching career began as the director of baseball operations at Ohio University, then became the pitching coach at Maryland-Eastern Shore. He joined the Astros organization last year as a development coach with the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits in Iowa. For this season Bell replaces Morgan Ensberg, who was promoted to manage the Class A advanced Buies Creek Astros.
Bell said that he will be learning on the job this season, “Right now it’s getting adjusted to maybe how to use the pitchers. We have certain ways, which guys are supposed to pitch, getting them in the proper order, giving them enough time,” he said. The ValleyCats used six pitchers in Wednesday’s 6-1 win in an exhibition game against the PGCBL’s Albany Dutchmen.
Bell is the second-youngest manager in all of minor league baseball behind Hudson Valley Renegades skipper Blake Butera, two years his junior, but wants the focus to be on the players once regular season play begins on Friday.
“I don’t think, really, it’s about me. I think the whole minor league system, the whole professional baseball player development is about the players, so I don’t like to even think about myself in that regard, because I’m here to help them develop as quick as they can and reach their goals,” Bell said.
He has already been around a championship-winning team as Quad Cities won the Midwest League title in 2017, and Bell says that he can apply things he learned there in his first managing job. “The effort of our coaching staff last year was awesome in how they organized everything. I think being around Russ Steinhorn who was once a hitting coach here, Drew French, who was a pitching coach here and Ben Rosenthal were all great coaches and mentors for me, so I can take a little bit from all of them while also taking things from the players to help mold my style.”
He is looking forward to learning things from his players, especially so due to the roster having players from five different countries: The United States, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela and Panama.
“It’s guys from all over the world which is an awesome combination for everybody, that way we can all kind of learn from each other,” he said.
The nerves are a bit of a factor as the season, and his official managerial debut, commences on Friday night.
“I think if you don’t have them a little bit, I don’t know if you’re human.”
First pitch on opening night is set for 7 p.m. against the Vermont Lake Monsters at Joe Bruno Stadium.