After six seasons in the Oakland A’s minor league system and five more seasons in the independent leagues, Lloyd Turner made the switch from player to coach. In 2013, he re-joined his original organization as a minor league hitting coach. Over the past five years, Turner has served either as the A’s short-season or Low-A hitting coach.
This year, Turner coached a Lake Monsters’ squad that featured several players who had above-average seasons. Turner spoke with Donald Moore about his 2017 team during the season.
Donald Moore: Hi coach, so how does this team’s offense look to you?
Lloyd Turner: I think it looks good. Obviously you know as every year at this level, it’s their first year or there some guys that came straight out of high school who started out in rookie ball, so they are experiencing this for the first time. There are a few repeats, as well, so the guys here are still learning trying to figure out who they are as hitters, but for the most part I think they have gone out and have had a lot more good days then bad, so it kind of worked out in our favor.
DM: Any standouts that you’d like to mention?
LT: Oh sure, a big kind of power hitter in Greg Deichmann, an LSU guy, a left-handed bat which is huge. It seems like it is something we drafted a lot of lefties this year, so he’s a big bat. Kevin Merrell at the lead-off spot and he has shown being able to handle that area pretty well, just putting the balls into play and not trying to do too much. Then having his speed in the lineup is also a big plus. Being able to have someone on the base paths that can be a threat to run.
Also, Logan Farrar. He joined a little bit later, then the first initial draft picks go here, and he has really stepped it up big. A big hitter kind of approach at the plate. For the most part, guys have done really well. Ryan Gridley, he’s not a big guy, but he takes big swings and he’s up there looking to do some damage, as well. Not necessarily hit home runs but when he puts the bat on the ball, he’s actually trying to inflict some pain. A good group of guys.
DM: What is the biggest challenge as a hitting coach, teaching batting skills to guys new to the league?
LT: Well, one is getting to know them in a short period of time. All these guys come in with success, which is the reason why they have gotten here. They have talent, they have tools, they have egos in a good way, which they need. You need that confidence to be a hitter. You want someone who is going to step in the box, believe in themselves in what they do. But the challenge is when those players start to experience failures and inconsistencies in their games, whether it’s their approach, techniques and physical.
You kind of allow them to go through that process on their own and, at the same time, be able to give them information that can kind of sustain them throughout their careers. Something that will stick. If you try to just correct the mechanical issues, it’s likely they are not going to get better, just kind of putting a band aid on the problem. We are more so into process of development and approach at the plate.
As a hitting coach you have to teach them those things that are going to help sustain them and help make them better throughout their future and just not right now, during their professional career. There are plenty of growing pains. It takes time to learn, compete and adapt and figure things out on their own. The biggest challenge for me as a hitting coach is getting to know the guys, getting to know what they do well, what they don’t do well and you give them that respect to kind of work it out on their own. I guide them and give them information that ultimately gets them to the big leagues.
DM: What do you like best about being a hitting coach?
LT: Who doesn’t love hitting? When you’re a kid and you play this game, you have to play good defense because when you mess up, everybody sees you, right? But you run off that field because you want to hit, so it’s like a race to the bat rack. Even though I am not playing, I enjoy seeing these guys going out and competing and I love that about hitting.
On top of that, hitting is a very tough thing to do. It’s not an easy thing, probably one of the hardest things to do in all of professional sports. Not just the hand-eye coordination element of it, but just because you have a guy out there who is intelligent on that mound that is challenging you, making the ball do all kinds of things, changing speeds, it just adds another dynamic to it. I just love hitting for the challenge of it and when you’re successful, it feels great. To see these guys try to achieve that is worth it to me.
DM: Any off-season plans?
LT: I haven’t been back to Georgia in a while because me and my wife had a baby last year, so when you have kids, the traveling is much tougher and it’s a little difficult living in Arizona. We are going to try to go to Georgia and spend some time with my family back there, then off to Instructional League, which I’m looking froward to just because it’s these guys first go at it and I’ll see a lot of these guys go to Instructs and continue to grow and see what we are about as an organization. We go about our business and what we do and teach and just kind of be there kind of help facilitate that, as well. And probably do some lessons, too. I have a few young kids that I work with that want to be baseball players.
DM: It’s an honor and a privilege to speak with you and thank you so much for your time.
LT: Absolutely. Thank you very much.
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