When I set out to provide some takeaways on Derek Shelton's first few days as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I expected I'd have more than three. However, as I listened to him, and to others speak of him, everything seemed to go back to three very encouraging themes that I will highlight here.
Shelton 'Gets' Pittsburgh
Sometimes it's cliche to say, but everyone knows that there have been certain Pittsburgh sports icons that just seemed to be Pittsburghers from the start. It often had nothing to do with their play on the field, but rather an attitude, as well as an appreciation for the city of Pittsburgh and the people within it.
Derek Shelton seems, at least early on, to have that quality. Here's a piece of the story he told in his opening statement during the press conference.
As we came through the tunnel, every driver we had for my family said, 'take in the skyline, take in the city.' We all came in at night, the Christmas tree was lit up, Heinz Field was lit up, the stadium was lit up. Just to see how prideful three different gentlemen were about the city, and, being in the city the last few days, I'm really excited to be here.
He's Passionate about Player Development
Player development, particularly at the big-league level, has been a struggle for the Pirates. Since Ben Cherington was hired, Pittsburgh has heard some form of the term "player-centric" quite a bit, and they heard it again on Wednesday, but this time from Shelton.
Ben has outlined the four pillars we believe in, and I think the last pillar (the deployment) was something that we did pretty well this past year in Minnesota of deploying guys actual skillsets, and freeing them up to do their thing.
He was specifically asked about the recent trend of players excelling in the minor leagues only to falter in Pittsburgh.
It's a big part of building a coaching staff, and having a coaching staff that has development-based ideas, and is able to build relationships. One of the things that has to be at the forefront of our minds is, development is not going to stop when we get to the big-league level.
He's Even MORE Passionate about Building Relationships
When Cherington was introducing Shelton, he talked about the different people who spoke highly of Derek during the process. He highlighted the players who Shelton coached as the ones who gave the loudest endorsement.
In particular, for Derek, the feedback from players was really overwhelming. From various different stops that he's been at, different teams, all kinds of different players who really spoke with conviction about Derek as a coach, as someone who can connect with all kinds of different people.
Shelton was asked about his role in the Minnesota Twins setting a Major League Baseball record for home runs in a single season. His response was interesting.
The big thing was, amongst our group, we did a good job of building the relationships and freeing guys minds up in terms of who they were as players.
Who knew hitting home runs was about building relationships? This tells me that his style will go a long way in the clubhouse. Players are going to want to play for him.
He also recognized Joe Musgrove for both being at that press conference, and for taking him out for his first Primanti Bros. sandwich. Here's the video of that outting. It's a fun watch.
His passion for building relationships doesn't seem to be isolated only to those players he directly coached. Shelton was the hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays while Chris Archer was with the team. He spoke on how he was able to build a relationship with Archer despite not being his coach.
It's a responsibility of any coach that is on a staff to have a relationship with everybody, and, as a hitting coach, I tried to do that with our pitchers.
Those are my three observations from Derek Shelton's first couple days as manager, and they're pretty encouraging. The honeymoon phase of relationships like this should feel good, but it was clear that player development and strong relationships will be a focus of a Derek Shelton team.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife