The Nationals promoted Double-A Harrisburg manager Tony Beasley to the same post with Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday afternoon, filling the spot opened when Randy Knorr joined manager Davey Johnson’s staff as the bench coach. Single-A Potomac manager Matt LeCroy will manage at Double-A and will bring pitching coach Paul Menhart with him.
The promotion of Beasley is a logical one after he produced strong results at Double-A with some of the Nationals’ best prospects and, in particular, developed a very close relationship with Bryce Harper. Barring a spring training that forces their hand, he’ll be crossing paths with Harper again this season — a prospect that most likely delights the 19-year-old phenom.
Beasley and Harper sat down for a one-on-one meeting each day Harper spent in Harrisburg — their time to talk about anything and everything. Even after just one week, when Harper arrived at the MLB Futures Game in Arizona, it was clear Harper held Beasley in high regard — a fact he reiterated this past fall while playing in the Arizona Fall League.
“Beasley’s one of the best guys I’ve ever played for,” Harper told The Washington Times. “We had a meeting everyday about whatever, even when I was going good or going bad. It was never about baseball. We’d talk about the night before, what I could do better, about family, what I’m doing, what I ate that morning, it was just me and him talking. It was good.”
“I think (Beasley’s) track record speaks for itself and he’s more than prepared,” said Nationals director of player development Doug Harris. “He’s had a great deal of success. Not only with his won-lost record but also his ability to impact players.”
Harris also said that Beasley’s relationship with Harper — while strong — wasn’t a factor in their decision to promote him, focusing more on Beasley’s experience and accomplishments in the game.
Beasley was a minor league manager in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for five years before coming aboard with Washington as the major league team’s third base coach in 2006, but he went back to Pittsburgh following that season and remained there, serving as the major league third base coach from 2008-2010. When the Nationals promoted Knorr to the Triple-A job last offseason, they welcomed Beasley back in the Double-A position and he produced a team that finished 80-62 but was felled by Richmond — and some significant flooding at their home stadium — in the playoffs.
At Double-A this past season, Beasley managed prospects like Harper, first baseman Tyler Moore, catcher Derek Norris and right-hander Brad Peacock, who ascended to the major leagues by season’s end.
The Senators were also named Bob Freitas Award winners for 2011, an honor bestowed on “an outstanding franchise that has achieved long-term success in Minor League Baseball.”
— Double-A Hitting coach Troy Gingrich will be joining Beasley as the hitting coach at Triple-A, where there was a spot open with Jerry Browne not returning. Greg Booker will remain as the Triple-A pitching coach.
— LeCroy managed this past season at Single-A Potomac with Menhart as his pitching coach. Menhart also served as a coach for the Scottsdale Scorpions, the Nationals Arizona Fall League affiliate. Eric Fox, who will join the Double-A staff as a hitting coach, is new to the Nationals organization but was familiar with Nationals minor league hitting coordinator Rick Schu.
“Eric has been a hitting coach at a variety of levels,” Harris said, noting Fox’s experience as a baserunning and outfield coordinator in the past. “Rick has a great deal of confidence in him and it allows us to have a little continuity even though he wasn’t previously in the organization.”
As for the promotions as a whole, it’s a good sign for the Nationals that they’re continuing to develop their coaches through the system — just as with players, filling vacancies mostly internally.
“It’s wonderful when we’re able to have continuity and upward mobility with our staff,” Harris said. “We feel like we’re blessed with really talented coaches and high character people.”