Following four seasons as the manager of the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, Billy Gardner Jr. takes on a new challenge within the Nationals organization as the minor league roving coordinator. Gardner said it was a new position that assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Doug Harris brought to Gardner in the offseason. Randy Knorr would then move to Triple-A manager. Gardner is excited about this new opportunity.
“Well, Doug called me at the end of the year and said there were some things that they wanted to do in the organization a little different than they had done in the past,” Gardner said. “He asked me if I’d be interested in roving around and go to all the affiliates we have stateside and obviously to the Dominican. I said I was on board with that.
“I felt it was something I could really embrace because it would give me an opportunity to have a hands-on approach to the organization from top to bottom. I managed at pretty much every level. So I have a pretty good idea of what boxes need to be checked as far as player development. I can get out there and be a resource for the staff and also be eyes on the field for Doug and (director of player development) Mark (Scialabba). I can give my opinion on what we need to do just to make sure development plans are being executed the way Doug wants them to and report back to Doug on what I see.”
Gardner said he valued and appreciated his years as manager at Syracuse. He came over to the Nationals in 2014 after being the Double-A manager in Montgomery.
“I’ve always tried to have a very positive learning environment understanding it is about development, getting the players ready for the big leagues,” Gardner said. “I think we did a very good job of that. I think the wins and losses aspect of it after that first year in 2014 kind of trended downhill a little bit, but at the end of the day we are there to develop players and get them ready for the major league level and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
So far this spring training, Gardner started with the major league camp and now has moved over to the early camp with emphasis on working with the pitchers and catchers this weekend in West Palm Beach.
Gardner understands the travel involved during the summer season, visiting and focusing on development at several different levels with the Nationals.
“I’ll be moving around a lot,” Gardner envisions. “I’ll work my schedule out where I get to see everybody, then obviously circle back to see them again just to see where the players are from a development stand point. I will be out with affiliates a lot each month and go to the Dominican.”
Coming up: I will ask Gardner about the development of the Dominican players in the Nats system and how that fortifies their growing talent base.