After 23 years of minor-league coaching in places such as Gastonia, N.C., and Daytona Beach, Fla., Chino Cadahia finally was called up to the big leagues last year as the Bravesâ bench coach. The Havana, Cuba, native is a former minor-league catcher.
How did you find yourself being the Atlanta Bravesâ bench coach? Well, 23 years of coaching, you know; I did it all in the minor leagues. I started off as a pitching coach, managed for 10 years.
In the minors? Yeah, all in the minors. Started in '84 as a pitching coach [at Salem for the Carolina League]. Started managing in 1986 [at Daytona Beach for the Florida State League]; managed for 10 years [in Gastonia for the South Atlantic League and for the Rangers' Gulf Coast League rookie squad in Port Charlotte, Fla.] and came to Atlanta as a [minor-league] catching instructor in 1996. â96 to â97 I did that, and then I became the minor-league field coordinator in â98, and did that until last year .
In batting practice, what do you throw these guys? How do you approach batting-practice pitching? Well, most of the time the ways these guys like to do things is the first one or two rounds they like to work the ball the other way â so you try to throw the ball middle to the outside half of the plate. And then [after the first couple rounds] of working the ball the other way, then you just start trying to throw it as fat as you can down the middle of the plate, and let them decide what they want to do with it. Every hitter is different. At this level most of the hitters have been around, so they know exactly what they want to do. You know, [Edgar] Renteria for instance, he works the ball the other way consistently; every once in a while heâll ask to throw him a few inside so he can turn on it. Chipper [Jones] likes to work the ball the other way for the first couple rounds and then heâll start hitting the ball gap to gap. Andruw [Jones] is the same way, you know; [Brian] McCann likes it the same way. So you pretty much, in general â¦ theyâll ask you where they want the ball according to what they want to work on during any specific round.
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
So they want to work on pitches theyâre weak at hitting? Well, not necessarily weak, they just want to work on it on that day.
Do you talk about what you want to work on with a hitter before BP begins? Sometimes, or just when Iâm on the mound. Weâre only hitting for 10 minutes a group.
Ten minutes per batter? No, 10 minutes per group; thereâs usually four guys in a group.
So you divide the team into groups of four and send them to the plate? Well, if youâre going to start asking hitting questions you need to talk to [batting coach] Terry [Pendleton] about that. Yes, thatâs what it is: Weâll have four groups and weâll hit, you know, 10, 11 minutes a group, and as we get going, you know, theyâll ask you, âheyâ â you know, sometimes they do it before or sometimes they do it during â theyâll say, âThrow me a few in, throw me a few away,â or whatever. You know, weâve done this for so many years that itâs not really a big deal. I mean, how do you mentally prepare? You donât mentally prepare, itâs just something you do. I mean, weâve been throwing BP for â I threw BP when I played in the minor leagues. Itâs not a big deal. You just fire the right speed for them to work on and hopefully you throw the ball where they want it, so they can work on what they want to do.
Could I stand up on the mound and throw BP pitching? Is there any specific skill involved? I mean, technically anyone could do it. In baseball terms, they always say that catchers usually throw the best batting practice, for what reason I donât know, you know. Eddie [Perez] throws real good batting practice, Glen Hogal was an infielder â he throws unbelievable batting practice, you know. Brian Snitker was a catcher, he throws real good batting practice.
How does one throw âreal good BPâ? You throw strikes, the right speed, you know, that kind of thing. Now, you know, personally I donât throw as long as I used to because Iâm a lot older. When I started out managing Iâd throw an hour of batting practice, you know. And I would throw from a little farther back.
Whatâs the ârightâ speed? The right batting-practice speed is just a speed where they can work, you know, with their hands, and with stuff theyâre trying to do as a hitter.
So BP is a time to get warm and not necessarily preparation for pitches a batter struggles with? Itâs a practice. Itâs about getting loose, you know, seeing the ball, seeing how the ball comes off the bat, all kinds of things that a hitter likes to see. Thatâs why most hitters like to hit on the field, because they like to see where the ball goes on the field. A lot of times, unfortunately, we have to hit in the cages, and you can work on your swing; but on the field you can see where the ball is actually going on the field. Iâve seen guys in professional baseball come in â¦ some guys throw better batting practice then others, you know, but I donât think itâs an art, or, I donât think that anyone could just go out there and throw. You know, it takes a while to gauge your speed and, you know, learn all that stuff, and throw strikes. Iâve had guys that arenât very good at throwing batting practice but they work on it and eventually they become pretty good.
Is there any particular batter you like throwing to? Well, no. I usually throw to Chipper, Andruw, Renteria and pretty much [Jeff] Francoeur now, and [Mark] Teixeira. But Iâve dealt with all these guys for many years, you know, even though itâs my first year in the big leagues Iâve been lucky enough to be going on spring trainings for like 10 years, so Iâve thrown to Chipper for, you know, 10 years and Andruw and everybody; Francoeur I had in the minor leagues, McCann and Kelly Johnson, too.
McCann and I went to the same high school, you know. Well, we wonât hold that against you.
Whatâs the oddest thing thatâs ever happened to you on the mound during BP? Being hit. I got hit once in 1985, I think it was. And again I was just starting out as a coach.
Where did you get hit? Well, right on the side; I didnât get behind the screen.
In the torso? Yeah.
Did it hurt? It hurt very much.
Who hit you? Do you remember the player? No, I donât remember the player. It was a minor-league player for the Rangers. I forget his name. But he hit me pretty good; I was black-and-blue for a few weeks. And after that I havenât made the mistake of not standing behind the screen ever again.
So you didnât hang a breaking ball or anything? Right. Uh, who was it? I think Brian [Snitker] got hit.
Howâd he get hit? Well, you know, you get tired; you â lazyâs not the word â but you get relaxed, so it happens. Sometimes the way the ball hits the screen, if the screen has too much give on it, youâll get hit.
Do you spend more time with some batters than others? Well, not exactly. Terry handles that. He does a great job as far as â¦ we have six or seven guys who throw BP here, and Terry does a great job as far as rotating the guys and â¦ when we face a left-hander, you know, these guys throw; when we face a right-hander, the other guys throw.
Who do you like to throw to, righties or lefties? Well, I usually try to throw as much as I can. So, different groups, you know. Personally I like to throw to lefties. For some reason itâs a lot easier for me to throw to lefties; probably because of the way I see them in the [batterâs] box, you know. We are behind screens so a lot of the time the righties are â¦ you have the tendency to throw the ball inside a little too much; lefties are on the other side so theyâre a lot easier just to see, and to throw to.
How hard do you throw? How hard can I throw? I think 42 mph. But you donât have to throw hard at batting practice; itâs not about that. Itâs exactly what it says it is: Itâs batting practice, itâs not pitching practice, you know. Iâm not trying to get anybody out â¦ I try to see how good I can make them feel.
When the Braves win, do you experience a particular kind of satisfaction as a bench coach who prepares these guys every day? Having had a lot of these kids in the minor leagues, and to see where they are and to see them play in this environment in front of 30, 40, 50,000 people and get it done, you know, itâs a big satisfaction. You feel like you had a little bit to do with that, you know, and not just me personally, but â whatâs the word Iâm looking for â the whole program in the minor leagues, you know, all the steps that they took, and the instructional leagues, the spring trainings, you know, all the things weâve done with them. Weâve got them not only physically but mentally ready to be able to do this, so you feel like a part of it. In general weâve [Atlantaâs organization] been very successful doing that with young kids. We take a lot of pride in doing it. A lot of organizations try to do it the way we do it, or, you know, try and copy our system or whatever and, you know, pretty much its black-and-white, but itâs the people that make it happen: the scouts, the coaches, the managers, the instructors, the front-office people, thatâs what makes it happen. And then the end result, you know, you see Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur and Chucky James and Yunel Escobar and all the young guys that have played here, you know, get it done on this level, it gives you an awful lot of satisfaction to see them, you know, perform at this level. Every once in a while theyâll talk about stuff they did in Rome, Ga. [where the minor-league Rome Braves play], or in an instructional league, because it takes a lot for them to be able to perform at this level, even as talented as they are. Itâs a lot of sacrifice.
And to get where you are today, you had to go through a lot of the same kinds of things. Yeah, coaches are the same way. â¦ Brian [Snitker] was a coach up here in the '80s; it took him 20-some years to get back up to the big leagues, you know, every coach â¦ When I started coaching, this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a Major League coach. If I would have known it was going to take 24 years, I might have gone to another profession, but not really.
Is the feeling you have now just utter contentment? No, I think, believe it or not, itâs just the satisfaction. Once I got into it, and you put both feet into it, you know, you feel like a part of something special. I never looked at it like, jeez, Iâm on my 20th year now, or Iâm on my 21st year or my 19th year, you know, I just did whatever my job was as good as I could do it, hoping that one day the opportunity will come up. For some guys, itâll take 24 years [to make it to the Majors], for most of the guys it never happens. So you know, you got to weigh both of them. There are five or six coaches for each team, you know, thatâs 180 jobs. Youâre looking to be one of 180, so, you know, percentages are not with you a lot of the time. You just hope that you make a difference in the minor leagues and you help a lot of young players and you do your work, your job, and you do it real good and somebody notices. â¦ A lot of this is timing also. â¦ Itâs just like anything else, you know, you gotta pay your dues, you gotta be a good guy, you gotta be able to do your work and your job and people have to respect you for that, and Iâve always taken a lot of pride, personally, you know, doing my job. And Iâm surrounded by people that are, you know â¦ Iâve had real good role models to follow. Itâs a good combination, as far as thatâs concerned.
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