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September 17, 1998

Manager Speier finds easy switch from field to dugout
By GVL Regular... Royce Feour

This article ran in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on September 3, 1998

Chris Speier, a three-time National League All-Star in his 19 major-league seasons, said he didn't find it a difficult adjustment to concentrate on player development as a minor league manager. "I don't think development or teaching ever stops, even at the major-league level. You can always learn," Speier said Wednesday before his Tucson Sidewinders lost 7-6 to the Las Vegas Stars at Cashman Field. "Sometimes you learn from the players."

Speier, 48, is in his third year as a minor league manager, all in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He said managers in the minor leagues try to win as well as develop players for their parent major-league teams. "(Players) need to go through failure to be a success," he said. "There is a fine line between development and winning. Winning is an important part of the puzzle. The only way to learn is to try to win the ballgame."

Speier, who spent most of his career as an outstanding defensive shortstop with the San Francisco Giants, has worked with a younger than usual collection of Triple-A players as the top farm team for the expansion Diamondbacks. Arizona doesn't have a Class AA farm team, so some of the Diamondback prospects who would normally be at that level were assigned to Class AAA instead. Also, as a new organization, the Diamondbacks don't yet have the number of minor leaguers established teams do. "We've had to pull help from the rookie-ball level to help us out," he said. "That part has been difficult." Speier said the player development process has changed dramatically since he last played in the minors. "When I came up, we had a manager, period. He was in charge of everything, " he said. Now, Speier pointed out, there are hitting coaches, pitching coaches, infield coaches, baserunning coaches, strength coaches and nutritionists. "They have everything for development. Players would be remiss not to take advantage of it," he said. "What I don't see players do (now) is a lot (of work) on their own. We were forced to," he said.

Speier also played for Montreal, St. Louis, Minnesota and the Chicago Cubs, hitting a career .246 in his major-league career, which spanned 2,260 games. Speier was the California League Manager of the Year last season for directing High Desert to the pennant. In 1996, he managed the Diamondbacks' rookie team at Lethbridge, Alberta, to the Pioneer League playoffs. One of the young players in the major leagues is Speier's son, Justin Speier, a 24-year-old rookie pitcher with the Florida Marlins. The younger Speier even pitched against his father's Sidewinders earlier this season as a member of the Iowa Cubs, before he was traded to the Florida organization.