Angels manager, coaches run drills for 200 youngsters at Compton academy
By Chad Thornburg
COMPTON, Calif. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia and several members of his coaching staff took the field Saturday to host a free clinic at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
Scioscia was joined by Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, third-base coach Ron Roenicke and catching and information coach Steve Soliz as well as Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey. They offered instruction and ran drills for about 200 players, ages 12 to 17, who attended the free clinic.
"All of us, we love talking about the game," Scioscia said. "We love teaching it. And whether it's a clinic here or talking to a group of Little Leaguers anywhere, it's important, and we really enjoy doing it."
Scioscia's team is in the process of shaping its roster for the 2016 season under first-year general manager Billy Eppler. The Angels have had a relatively quiet winter, with their biggest acquisition coming early in the offseason when they traded for Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons. They've since acquired third baseman Yunel Escobar from the Nationals and made several low-cost free-agent signings, adding catcher Geovany Soto, infielder Cliff Pennington and outfielders Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava.
"I think Billy Eppler is building depth as the offseason has gone on. There's always question marks with every team," Scioscia said. "There's no doubt a lot of focus was on our offense, and we do need to improve offensively. I know Billy is working very hard to try to bring some depth there, but you also have to maintain a pitching staff and maintain that depth there. Our bullpen held leads very well last year and that's important to us."
One area of need that remains is in left field, where the Angels are currently slated to deploy a platoon of the right-handed hitting Gentry and switch-hitting Nava, neither of whom contributed much offensive production in 2015. Gentry spent most of the year in the Minors, batting .120 in 26 big league games with the A's, while Nava hit .194 through 60 games with Boston and Tampa Bay.
The Angels are up against financial constraints with their 2016 payroll sitting at about $5 million shy of the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, which owner Arte Moreno has expressed a desire to stay below. That would seemingly have the club turning to the trade market or lower-cost free-agent options to address its remaining roster needs.
"If we have to mix and match to get the production we need from left field, we'll do it," Scioscia said of a platoon in left. "If someone comes in from now until the start of the season, great. But for the most part, I think we're going to have the combinations we need to get us some production."
With Spring Training still a few months away, however, Scioscia and his staff were focused on giving back to the local youth players at the academy on Saturday.
"It's a thrill always for me to be here to work with the young kids and see their dream to one day develop into a Major League player," Ebel said. "When I was this age, I didn't do things like this. So for me to get an opportunity to come out here and speak to kids is always a blessing."
The Urban Youth Academy is part of MLB's Urban Youth Initiative, which strives to provide opportunities through baseball and softball to children from underprivileged communities.
The Compton academy, which comprises more than 20 acres of the El Camino College campus, is one of five such facilities around the country, with others based in Cincinnati, Houston, New Orleans and Philadelphia as well as Puerto Rico. MLB has announced future plans to expand to San Francisco, Kansas City and Dallas.
"I'm excited for our players and member community that we have an opportunity to hear from some substantial people in the game," said Rodney Davis, senior manager of the Urban Youth Academy. "I think that the turnout reflects that they understand how special it is to have guys like this out."
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.