Most people who change employers and job titles go through an interview process, and Chris Valika It was no exception. A former major league player who worked as an assistant batting coach for the Chicago Cubs, and prior to that as a minor league batting coordinator, he was carefully vetted prior to his appointment as the Cleveland Guardians batting coach last winter. What is that process? He explained in an interview earlier this summer.
David Laurella: You were hired by The Guardians last November. How can this be achieved?
Chris Valica: “The interview process started a week or so after the season ended. I spoke to [President of Baseball Operations] Chris Antonetti then to [General Manager] Mike Chernoff. The one who really facilitated the process was Alex Eckelman, our batting manager. We did the phone to start and then zoom with two different groups. Tito [Terry Francona] It was on one of them. There were some of our advanced players. There was Chris and Cherny. I also conducted an in-person interview with two different groups. I spoke to the player development department. I’ve also worked with a hitter. I’ve gone through a whole series.”
Laurea: Can you elaborate on “I worked with a hitter?”
Answer: “It was a dummy. We went through the whole process…basically, it was a work out of what I saw on the swing, how I would handle the changes and the swing approach.”
Laurea: Was this from the video?
Valika: “Yes. And we did a personal simulation, too – how I would react in the cage to deal with certain things – seeing my training voice, and how I presented the information. We also went through advance reports and had a mock meeting.
“With the avalanche, I was basically giving my 10,000-foot vision to him, in terms of approach, biomechanics, things I saw in the hammock, and again, how I’m going to approach it.”
Laurea: Who was the hitter and what did you see?
Valika: “There were actually two. It was one Richie Palacios. He’s always had elite communication skills, but he’s not the most traditional. I didn’t know him nor had any info on strength and conditioning or really any of the subtle stuff, I just browsed what I saw in the load mode, the pitches he covered, where there were some failures in the strike area – things like that. From there, I worked through what I would do to address these things.”
Laurea: Who was the other hitter?
Valika: “she was Nate Freeman, located in our front office now. If I remember correctly, a lot of him with Nate was trying to get him to tap his front leg to create a bit more speed [and] force in the earth. It’s long on the lever, and its swing has been more rotating in the videos I’ve seen. My recommendation was to try to get him to create a slightly stronger front side so he can stick to a better steering.”
Laurea: What do you think about helping the hitter create a stronger front side?
Valika: “I kind of realized that my philosophy is that there’s no philosophy. It’s to do what’s best for the player. Different guys create speed, different guys create strength in different ways, so it’s communication with strength and conditioning, you communicate with the coaches, and if you have the resources, whether it’s KinaTrax or HawkEye, or strength boards, they’re able to see some biomechanics data to really understand how these guys create speed. From there you find the prescription to meet that individual player’s needs.”
Laurea: Going back to Palacios, has the video brought to your mind anyone you’ve been working with that helped make adjustments to the Cubs’ system?
Valika: “No one in particular. But with the way he was loaded and how he kind of got his hands stuck behind him, he’d be kind of in a hurry with his lower half. I didn’t know if that was a physical limitation, how his body worked, how slack off. From his midst… He was trying to pin him down early. Without knowing it, any time you break up guys you don’t have any background with, it’s really hard to know how they work. While doing the interview, it was basically just ‘these are the things I see’ .
“However, Richie has done a great job being a master compensator. He has elite skills from bat to ball, so it’s almost like a medical section; it’s ‘do no harm.’ The way he swings doesn’t hurt anything. There might be some aspects. Positive to clean up some things, but until it appears to us that it is a problem, is this where we are? Should we intervene when what is happening does not show us that we need to intervene?”
Laurea: You obviously looked at a lot of videos after you were hired. What stands out from these winter looks?
Valika: “After the shutdown and not being able to communicate with the players, I also read a lot of regulatory reports on the players. I got a background on them and, at the same time, I tried to be impartial with everything. As for what I saw from the cool guys… Let me review Rolodex My mind is here. I think an easy one Stephen Kwan. He’s not the holder of the greatest stature, and we’ve all seen he has elite communication skills, but he needed to get into the big leagues to show us who he really is.”
Laurea: Basically, Kwan is better than what you saw on the video.
Valika: “I think that’s accurate. He’s definitely a guy who grows on you. He’s not the most physical guy, see his track record in college and in the minor leagues… He’s done a great job on both the mid and terminal hitting metrics. Seeing him personally, how he can navigate the racket and how far His coolness in the box… and while he doesn’t have the highest exit speed, he has enough to hit him over a wall. The more he settles into the big leagues, the more power I think we’ll see from him.”
Laurea: I’m assuming you’re too big for hitting analytics?
Valika: “I’m trying to be, in a sense. As major league coaches, it’s our responsibility to know all these things, but at the same time, we’re not evaluators. We’re coaches. We want as much information as possible, but we also have to be a candidate. We need It’s about providing context for what’s going on and what could be useful. It’s not just about getting that much information and trying to train on certain metrics.”
Laurea: What about your current and previous jobs? Major league hit coaches and minor league hit coordinators have distinctly different jobs.
Valika: “In the minor leagues, you still focus on development, so you have a lot of runway to make changes. Small leagues still sway in building and building approaches, while when you get to the big leagues, it’s all about production. With a young team like ours, we’re still developing. At the major league level, but when the lights come on at seven, all that matters is a win.”
Laurea: One last question: What do you think sold The Guardians when they hired you?
Valika: “You have to ask them. But the thing I’ve always been passionate about is the overall cooperation and development of the players, not just the bats side. That’s just one tool, and it’s something I think can get lost in the shuffle. There’s how these guys move, how they think, right there. Working with mental skills, working with guys who are strong and adaptable, working with sports science.Taking bits and pieces from all these different combinations will help us make this guy the most efficient player.
“Throughout the whole process, this was probably something they loved hearing. This is a very collaboration oriented organization, and believes in taking all the resources we have, and from there making the most educated decision. This has always been my passion, to get the full picture before doing any interventions. But again You have to ask them.”