New Zephyrs manager Arnie Beyeler remembers the last time he was in New Orleans.
That was early in the 1984 season, and he was playing with collegiate power Wichita State in a series at UNO, which also had a strong program under coach Ron Maestri.
“It was during spring break, we were in New Orleans and we did what we were supposed to do,” Beyeler joked Monday at his introductory news conference. “We broke curfew and got in trouble” with the coaches.
Maestri said he remembers Beyeler.
“He was in his first year with them, and he was a good player — tough kid,” Maestri said. “And they were all good hitters. It was that kind of program.”
Beyeler, who turned 52 on Saturday, has played professionally, managed in the minor leagues and coached in the majors. But he still adheres to much of the teachings he learned under Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson, he said.
“He was big on players having a strong work ethic when it came to improving, and hitting certainly was a big part of that,” Beyeler said. “But what I liked is he let each guy be himself. He did not have a cookie-cutter approach to the way guys in his program hit, and we had a lot of players go on to pro baseball.”
Last season, the Zephyrs set records for futility at the plate. Part of the difficulty is Zephyr Field, a big ballpark where the ball does not carry well in the humid, heavy, summer air.
“That’s just the South,” Beyeler said. “You don’t change your hitting philosophy based on that. Players just like it when they play in Colorado Springs because the ball will go out and make their numbers look good. You just need good hitters, and hopefully we can get some.”
Beyeler leaves Wednesday for spring training with the Miami Marlins, the Triple-A Zephyrs’ parent club. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.
Don Mattingly, one of baseball’s greatest hitters, is the Marlins’ new manager, and career home run leader Barry Bonds is a hitting coach. That suggests the franchise wants to improve offensively.
Changes also are being made to the minor league system. Beyeler said he and hitting coach Paul Phillips will wait to see what approach the Marlins want to take with their affiliates — and not just with hitting.
But he’s not too concerned.
“The bottom line is that you want to score more runs than the other team,” he said. “And we’re here to get players ready for the major league club. If you have good hitters, you’ll score runs. And if you have good pitchers, you’ll win a lot of games.”
The Zephyrs likely will have a good pitching staff after Miami bolstered its roster with free-agent signings. Barring a spate of injuries to the Marlins staff like last season, Adam Conley (the Pacific Coast League’s left-handed pitcher of the year), Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena, Kendry Flores and Andre Rienzo could be back in New Orleans.