I recently addressed the 19 Padres prospects who are in San Diego for the club's winter program. Was inclined to remind them that the Padres have never won a World Series and that getting the trophy is part of why they're here, but Padres executive Jason McLeod beat me to it. McLeod, like the Doogster, used to work for the Red Sox, so he'll not be satisfied with moral victories. (I don't think there's a debt service trophy, or a trophy for playing meaningful games in September.)
Anyhow, I was there to talk about media relations, not the big picture. The club had asked me to explain how the local and national baseball writers go about their jobs, what they look for and what the pitfalls are for ballplayers in dealing with the press. The Padres say that if the players are familiar with several aspects of major league life, including media relations, they'll be more comfortable when they reach San Diego. Makes sense. The gist of what I said: It's easy to deal with the baseball press, both local and national, and with a little thought, players can convey messages that benefit themselves and the team.
The players also were to visit the Navy SEAL training site, perhaps to show how far the body and mind can be pushed, and they heard from iconic Padres Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman. Another former Padre, Brad Ausmus, threw batting practice. With former Padres such as Mark Loretta and Dave Roberts working for the club, Padres prospects do not lack for baseball experts to consult. All five are aces as people, too.
My surface impression is that these Padres prospects are attentive and driven, and larger physically, generally speaking, than the general cut of prospect from 1995-2009. The players who grew up in Spanish-speaking countries all speak English, which the Padres say will make their transition less difficult. (Vladimir Guerrero might not agree.)
The group includes three players on the 40-man roster: right-handed pitchers Simon Castro and Jeremy Hefner and middle infielder Jeudy Valdez. Other pitchers in attendance were Casey Kelly, Matt Lollis and Juan Pablo Oramas. The outfielders: Jaff Decker, Reymond Fuentes, Rico Noel, Donavan Tate and Blake Tekotte. The infielders: Matt Clark, Anthony Rizzo, Drew Cumberland, Logan Forsythe, James Darnell, Jedd Gyorko and Edinson Rincon.
When the Padres asked my thoughts on social media and the potential boons and perils of Tweeting and text messaging, I said they were useful tools but like most tools could do either good or harm depending on how they were used. In that context, I mentioned Brett Favre. A Padres official cringed. A Web site bought the Favre photos for $12,000 and the story promptly drew 5 million hits, a reminder, I told the players, of the celebrity-obsessed times in which we live.