Diaz the developer: Former GJ Rockies manager merging into new role

Former GJ Rockies manager merging into new role

Tony Diaz, right, led the Grand Junction Rockies to the Pioneer League playoffs in the team’s inaugural season in Grand Junction last year. 
Diaz has taken on a new role with the franchise this season, becoming the development supervisor of the Rookie club.

Tony Diaz will still watch the game with a manager’s eye. He just won’t be in the dugout all that often.

The Grand Junction Rockies’ first — and now former — skipper is acclimating to his new role as the Rookie level club’s development supervisor. Diaz, who managed the Casper Ghosts for five years before the big-league Rockies relocated their Rookie operation from Casper, Wyo., to Grand Junction in 2012, said his new gig isn’t all that dissimilar from the old one.

“The main thing is I’m just going to be an extension of the staff,” he explained. “It’s no different. I could be in the dugout at times, but for the most part I’ll be watching the game from different vantage points. As far as the work, the relationship with our players and our staff, nothing changes.”

His perspective is changing a bit, though. Diaz said he’ll mostly watch games from the stands.

“One of the main things is to have another set of eyes that can, you know, watch the game from a manager’s standpoint but from a different vantage point,” he said, “to make sure that we, as a group, cover everything and don’t miss stuff.

“You do miss stuff from the dugout, from that level, so you go up and get to see whether the guys are shifting, you know, pre-pitch movement, tendencies, whether they’re covering home plate as a hitter. You can see that much better than when you’re in the dugout.”

Diaz arrived in Grand Junction last week from extended spring training in Scottsdale. Ariz., so he has yet to delve into his new duties in earnest. As such, he’s not yet sure if he’ll miss calling the shots from the dugout.

“Ask me in a month and I’ll have a better idea of how much I’m missing it or how much I’m not missing it,” Diaz said with a smile.

In the offseason, the Colorado Rockies created the role of development supervisor at its lower-level minor league stops — Grand Junction, Class A short season Tri-City (Wash.), Class A Asheville (N.C.), Class A Advanced Modesto (Calif.), and Double A Tulsa (Okla.).

A February news release issued by the parent club described a development supervisor as “a team-builder who will create synergy among staff members so that they may generate and evaluate best practices on a daily, weekly, monthly and season-long basis.”

Whether a coach, manager or development supervisor, Diaz has long been a key figure in indoctrinating young players in what he termed “the Rockies’ way.” The 36-year-old is in his 13th year with the organization.

“I’m sure that maybe the Rockies’ way can be applied to many organizations, but we really focus on team versus the individual,” he said. “It’s team-oriented, playing for each other, playing aggressively. Aggressiveness is one of our staples, but also playing smart. That comes with experience.

“It’s developing an environment in which the kids are not afraid to make a mistake and learning from that, and also developing an environment in which every kid feels that he’s got a chance, believing in every player and making them better. That’s really it in a nutshell.”

That team-oriented approach extends to the coaching staff, with which Diaz will work closely. He and the GJ Rockies’ new manager, former Tri-City hitting coach Anthony Sanders, have already been exchanging ideas.

“We’ve known each other for many years, but now we’ve gotten closer, and that’s the way it should be,” Diaz said. “No egos. We’re just bouncing ideas off of each other to see what’s in his mind and see what’s in my mind and the whole group’s mind. It doesn’t matter whose idea is the one that wins as long as the player wins.”

In the minors, it’s all about the player. And Diaz’s new role is crafted to bring out the best in the organization’s youngsters.

“The main thing is seeing the game from different vantage points and combining that with what’s going on in the field with the dugout atmosphere,” he said, “and hopefully we can be more impactful as an organization developing players.”


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