Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

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June 21, 2020  

Joe Espada- Bench Coach, Houston Astros

June 21, 2020
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Today we have on Joe Espada, Bench Coach for the Houston Astros. Joe grew up in Puerto Rico and attended college the University of Mobile before being drafted 45th overall in the 1996 draft by the Oakland A’s. Joe played 10 years in the Minors before retiring and getting into coaching. He got his first coaching job in 2006 with the Marlins and was named the big league 3B coach in 2010. In 2014 he was hired by Brian Cashman and became an assistant to the GM and the infield coach with the Yankees, and in 2017 he was hired by the Astros to be the bench coach. On the show we discuss lessons learned throughout his professional career, we discuss how working in the Yankees front office helped him become a better on field coach and we dive deep into how to learn about and build the culture in the clubhouse.
  • Extreme ownership- Jocko Willink 
  • Measure what matters- John Doerr
  • We’re all in this together- Mike Robbins


show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

  • When you get into coaching, put your ego to the side and focus on helping the players with your experiences and things you’ve learned.
  • “Share your stories so that others don’t make the same mistakes.”
  • “The best coaches put their players first.”
  • “It’s about the players, not about you.”
  • Players want to see you as genuine and they want to see empathy and humility.
  • The most important thing is to earn the trust of the players.
  • If your patient and your timing is right you’ll earn trust of the players.
  • The best leaders listen well and speak last.
  • The ones that do that earn the trust of the players and people will follow you because of that.
  • “Players want to know how you are going to bring the best out of me?”
  • When players know you care about their careers and the team then they’ll understand that you have their best interests in mind. They’ll trust you because of this.
  • “Do more listening than talking.”
  • Don’t break the ice on how you played.
  • A lot of players don’t want to hear that.
  • Without trust teamwork cannot be built.
  • Listen to the players and their stories so that you can relate to them better.
  • “When things aren’t good at home, they aren’t going to be good at the field.”
  • We need to take time to understand the language and culture if our players.
  • You want to have a human connection so that you can help the players grow and get away from their anxieties at home.
  • Have a conversation about personal life will help grow relationships and help them feel better because it unloads the weight of the world off of their shoulders.
  • Allows the player to perform the best of their ability.
  • Culture is talked about a lot, but are we actually doing things to help create and continue the culture that we want.
  • You need more than talent to win a championship.
  • Three things that create championships:
  • 1. Embrace technology and use new ways to develop players.
  • They adapt quickly to changes in the game.
  • 2. Hire smart and can understand technology and the human side of things.
  • Make sure we put our egos at the door and provide the best data to our players so when we go to the field we are prepared and on the same page.
  • The best teams have a culture of openness to where you can voice your opinion.
  • When we are shifting we must be able to sell what we are teaching.
  • We cannot sell our teaching unless there is trust.
  • When communicating it must be crystal clear with everyone.
  • The best way to sell shifting is to see the results.
  • Balls were hit and people were in front of the ball.
  • Players were able to make more routine plays.
  • Less balls were in the outfield.
  • Hitters hit into tendencies.
  • Hitters are stubborn and don’t change so much.
  • You can’t let the one ball that gets away from the shift to have you change from the plan.
  • We must be rational and not emotional.
  • In the season make sure your players make throws in the shifted positions.
  • Do bunt plays and pickoffs to show shift coverage.
  • Have presentations on cuts and relays as well.
  • Do the presentations before the season starts.
  • As a bench coach get there day ready.
  • Type of the lineup from the manager.
  • Get the pre game schedule ready.
  • Put out any fires before it gets to the managers office.
  • Watch film and find out a relief rotation.
  • Have visualization an hour to an hour and a half before the game.
  • Have a set routine for your guys so that they have something to look forward to every day.
  • Put things on your schedule if its important.
  • Try learning how to learn Spanish with ELL athletes.
  • This creates friendships and respect.
  • “Challenge the players to teach the coaches in regards to a foreign language.”
  • If you prepare well before a game it will slow down the game for you as a coach.
  • Do homework prior to the game.
  • Visualize good and bad scenarios so you are prepared.
  • As a bench coach you get to ask the manager and position coach on decisions to help both groups.
  • The bench coach is often the swing vote.
  • Timing is crucial to understand adjustments.
  • Players adjust when they are ready.
  • The way to go to the next level is to put players first and dominating your role.
  • Put your ambitions to the side and live in the moment.
  • Be yourself, do your job, and be honest.
  • “Do your job today and tomorrow takes care of itself.”
  • Have your players doing game speed drills.
  • Don’t be afraid to have your players re-do a rep they misplayed in practice.
  • When warming up between innings, have the players make one long throw just in case a throw they will need to make in that half inning.
  • “The best investment you can make is yourself.”
  • “You can always improve yourself.”
  • Use Zoom to teach mechanics and fundamentals of baseball in a quarantine situation.