It wasn't an unfamiliar scene, Andy Tracy standing atop the turf covered metal ramp, throwing batting practice to the members of the Williamsport Crosscutters. He spent nearly three months doing the same thing a year ago, day after day.
Saturday afternoon wasn't much different. There was batting practice, helping Gabriel Lino adjust his footwork at first base.
A year ago Tracy performed the same jobs as the Crosscutters manager. Now, he's accomplishing the same goals of teaching young players in a new role as the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league hitting coordinator.
Phillies minor league hitting coordinator Andy Tracy, left, talks with Williamsport Crosscutters outfield Dylan Cozens on Saturday at Bowman Field. Tracy managed the Crosscutters during the 2012 season.
The change in job came during the offseason when previous hitting coordinator Steve Henderson was hired as one of two hitting coaches for the Phillies. Tracy's job has changed from managing and instructing just one team to traveling to all the Phillies' minor league affiliates and working with all the hitters in the system.
Tracy is one of two former Crosscutters coaches on the Phillies' minor league field staff. Former hitting coach Jorge Velandia is the Special Assistant of Player Development.
"I don't know if it's a different direction, it's just another phase in baseball," Tracy said Saturday during the Crosscutters' media day at Bowman Field. "You never know what your calling is. It's my second year in the game, there's no reason not to try and do everything in the game. Bottom line is you're still here, you're still on the field, you're having a good time doing it and you're caring about kids. That's all I really care about right now."
Guiding the youngest team in the New York-Penn League, Tracy was 30-46 in his first year as a minor league manager last summer. That included a brutal month of July where the Cutters won just six game.
The 30 wins in a season were the second-fewest in team history. Tracy was working with a team which often featured five 19-year olds in the starting lineup and had, at times, six players learning a new position.
But the product on the field for the Cutters was vastly different from July through the final five weeks of the season.
"Obviously we wanted to win more last year, but the bottom line is all those guys got better and we saw that from Day 1 to the last day," Tracy said. "I was about development and making the kids better players, and I think we did that."
Tracy is just two years removed from a playing career which featured 302 minor league home runs. So shortly removed from his playing days has allowed him to better relate to the players he's working with on the Class AA and Class AAA levels in Reading in Lehigh Valley.
Working on those levels is much different than the teaching he did with the Crosscutters last year. The work becomes more about fine-tuning and less about building a player.
"Not that these (other coordinators) can't relate, but I understand what the guys at the upper levels are going through," Tracy said. "Some of these guys are four-A guys that are trying to get back up and that was me my whole career. Double-A guys are trying to make adjustments at that level to move on. I think I can relate to them pretty well in that aspect."
But the teaching aspect hasn't change for Tracy. It's still what he loves to do now that he's no longer playing pro ball. Even as he threw batting practice Saturday, he was instructing from that makeshift metal pitching mound to one player as he took his swings.
And as the Phillies have had to call on a number of minor leaguers to take spots on the 25-man roster this year, he's seen the rewarding feeling that comes with watching a young player reach their goal of the big leagues.
"I'm sure down the road a couple years if I'm fortunate enough to keep this position, it'll be rewarding to see those guys get to the next level," Tracy said. "I'm enjoying it. I'm getting to see everybody play. It's exciting."