The baseball season is just flying by for Jorge Velandia, faster than it ever did when he was the hitting coach for the Williamsport Crosscutters for two years.
His job within the Philadelphia Phillies organization this year has allowed for that opportunity. He's not stuck in one place through the doggest days of summer. Instead he's traveling, to Lehigh Valley, to Reading, Lakewood, Clearwater and even Latin America.
As the Phillies' Assistant Minor League Field Coordinator, Velandia is working with all Philadelphia's minor league clubs. And with the travel that's required with his new job, the season is just flying by.
Velandia made his first stop in Williamsport this week since serving as the Cutters' hitting coach in 2010 and 2011 for the team's three-game series with Mahoning Valley.
"I'm enjoying it a lot. It's a great experience," the Venezuelan-born Velandia said. "I get to travel to all the minor league systems and I get to see the development of all the players. I'm enjoying it."
Velandia has found there's different ways to deal with each level of players. When he gets to places like Reading and Lehigh Valley, dealing with the Phillies' Class AA and Class AAA players, Velandia's job is more about fine-tuning and making the final necessary adjustment to get a player to the big leagues.
When he comes to places like Williamsport or even Lakewood, he has to be careful not to overload the players with too much to think about. But Velandia is enjoying the prospect of working with a new set of players each time he ends up in a different location.
"It's part of the job. I think I'm capable of doing it. I don't think it's difficult at all," Velandia said following the Cutters' session of batting practice Monday. "It's kind of fun to see them throughout the year and see how guys are getting better. You know you have a hundred and some players in the system, it's fun to watch them all year."
Even after just a day with the Cutters, Velandia was pleased with the talent he sees in Williamsport. Much like manager Andy Tracy has pointed out during the early portion of the season, Velandia said there's going to be great times and times that this Willamsport team struggles.
But he also made sure to emphasize that this group of players could also be a special group. Even for one of the youngest teams in the New York-Penn League that talent has already shined through like it did in twice scoring more than 10 runs in a game in the first week. The struggles have also shined through like it did Sunday in a series-opening loss to Mahoning Valley.
"It's a fun team to watch," Velandia said. "It's going to be great games and bad games here just because they're young. But it's great to see these kids come to Williamsport and play under the lights with fans. It's fun to see that this might be the next big leaguers in a few years. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of kids from this team that ends up playing in the big leagues."
Velandia floated from place to place working with a number of players during batting practice Monday. He started at second base during pitchers fielding practice working with the second baseman on how to take a throw at first on a bunt play.
He ended up spending a lot of time working with Roman Quinn on his bunting. Velandia was trying to get Quinn to get the bat out in front of the plate more for better accuracy when putting a bunt down.
"They're a sponge and they're just trying to absorb all the knowledge," Quinn said. "That's why you have to be careful of how much information you give them because then you can lose them and the ability of them showing you what they have and why they got drafted. You want them to show you why they got drafted. Then we can tweak things here and there and make them into a finished product."
GETTING AGGRESSIVE: Andy Tracy wasn't bothered Sunday night when told his players made eight outs on either the first or second pitch against Mahoning Valley. He quickly pointed out that the Cutters' offense also had six hits on either the first or second pitch.
Tracy said the aggressiveness early in the count is a good thing from a lineup that generally features just two college draftees.
"We can't have these guys taking pitches and getting off-speed pitches too much because a lot of them haven't hit good off-speed pitches," Tracy said. "(Mahoning Valley starting pitcher Ryan Merritt) had a good curveball."
HOUDINI ACT: Williamsport left-handed reliever Luis Gonzalez made his presence known in just three batters Sunday night against Mahoning Valley. Gonzalez entered the game with the bases loaded and nobody out. He left the game with the bases loaded and no runs scored.
It was a Houdini act born of establishing a fastball against the Scrappers' fifth, sixth and seventh hitters. It was an encouraging sign for Tracy and pitching coach Aaron Fultz who have already enjoyed what Gonzalez has given the Cutters' bullpen.
Gonzalez started his outing with a strikeout of Juan Romero with a fastball at his neck. He caught Aaron Siliga looking at strike three for the second out, and got a lazy fly ball to left field off the bat of Hunter Jones to end the inning without a run scoring.
"If you walk guys there with off-speed pitches, you're going to have to come answer some questions on the bench," Tracy said of Gonzalez establishing his fastball. "If you end up getting hit with fastballs down, you can't do anything about that. But we love how he throws. He works fast, he's a good left-handed arm. He mixes his pitches well. We like Luis a lot."