Chris Truby hit a ground ball to second base with his red fungo bat and watched the baseball die in the Bowman Field infield.
"I forgot how thick the grass was here," Truby said. "You have to muscle the ball through it."
Truby began hitting ground balls to Derek Campbell and Robinson Torres with fervor, hitting rockets at the two second basemen only to watch the ball get caught up in the jungle of an infield.
Prior to Tuesday, it had been nearly four years since Truby had set foot inside Bowman Field. The former Williamsport Crosscutters' manager is back as the Philadelphia Phillies' roving minor league infield instructor.
"It's great to be back. I see a lot of familiar faces and I'm seeing some guys and talking to some people. Just the drive in here was nice," Truby said after batting practice Tuesday. "I like it here. This is where I started, so this is obviously a special place for me."
Truby has taken the path a number of former Crosscutters' coaches have taken in recent years, stepping out of the dugout from either a coaching or managing role, into the role of a roving instructor. After five successful years as a manager in the Phillies' system with stops at Williamsport, Lakewood and Clearwater, Truby's new responsibilities include traveling to visit all of the Phillies' minor league clubs and instructing the infielders.
Yesterday he was holding court during batting practice with Campbell and Torres, talking about backhanding the baseball up the middle. Truby, a former major-league infielder for the Tigers, Astros, Expos and Devil Rays, enjoyed his time as manager, but becoming a roving instructor was always a goal of his.
"I love managing, I do, and maybe I'll get back into it, but I think this is good," Truby said. "I think this is part of the process a little bit. I love working with the infielders. I was hoping to get this job at some point, and I'm fortunate to get it this quick."
Former Cutters manager Andy Tracy is the Phillies' minor league hitting coordinator, and former hitting coach Jorge Velandia was working as the Phillies' assistant field coordinator before taking a front office job with the organization.
Truby's job change came after recording a 292-264 (.525 winning percentage) record as a Phillies' minor league manager. He was 85-67 in his two years as the Crosscutters' manager in 2009 and 2010. The Cutters missed the postseason by just a game in 2010. That team featured the likes of Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez, Mario Hollands and Cameron Rupp, all of which have appeared in games with the Phillies already.
Truby has now managed at least one player at every level of the Phillies' minor league system. The background has given Truby a base of information to work with as he travels from team to team.
"I think going up to Lehigh and being with (infielder Maikel Franco) and having had him in the past, it's definitely helpful," Truby said. "Having had (Cody) Asche in rehab and having had him in the past helps. All those guys at AA I've had in the past. I think going in and having a relationship with those guys and understanding what makes them tick a little bit, and what areas they need to focus on and what areas they're strong in is a huge help. I'm not stepping in and going cold turkey without having any info on these guys."
But now comes the challenge for Truby. The Phillies are integrating more than 20 new players into their minor league system who were selected in this month's MLB First-Year Player Draft. The organization held a five-day mini-camp in Clearwater following the draft and before assigning players to their new teams, which helped Truby get a grip on the capabilities of the new players.
About the only player from the draft he hadn't seen was Cutters first baseman Rhys Hoskins who was sent to Williamsport directly following the draft to fill a need for the team.
"Those five days were crucial," Truby said. "It adds a little bit into the mix of things as far as what we're responsible for. But I think having the new guys is exciting. It's good to get new blood in here."
BIELSKI SUSPENDED: Williamsport relief pitcher Ricky Bielski was suspended for three games by the New York-Penn League for intentionally throwing at two batters during Sunday's game at Jamestown. Bielski began serving the suspension Monday night and will be eligible to return to game action Thursday against State College.
Bielski hit Jammers catcher Kevin Krause in the sixth inning Sunday, and two batters later hit shortstop Tyler Filliben. Bielski was ejected from the game by home plate umpire Thomas Roche, as was Williamsport manager Shawn Williams.