SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Bud Black takes over as the Rockies' manager, it's a good time to examine the intangible traits that make him special.
Connections run deep
Black, 59, was a left-handed pitcher for the Royals from 1982-87 when Rockies special assistant and pitching expert Rick Mathews managed, scouted and coached in the system. When Black was with the Giants from 1991-92, Rockies Minor League hitting coordinator Duane Espy managed and coached in the system.
"I was around [Black] during Spring Training and saw his work ethic, attention to detail and the way he connected with all the players, not just the pitchers," Espy said.
Black's former teammates in the Rockies' chain include Minor League pitching coaches Doug Jones (with the Indians) and Dave Burba (Giants), and Triple-A manager Glenallen Hill (Blue Jays). Class A pitching coach Brandon Emanuel was an Angels prospect when Black was the Major League pitching coach.
The closest baseball connection is with Mark Wiley, who since 2013 has guided the Rockies' pitching philosophy in the Majors and Minors as the director of pitching operations. Wiley was Black's pitching coach during two stints with the Indians, 1987-90 and in 1995. In their first conversation after Black arrived in a trade with Kansas City, Wiley asked him for the best advice he'd received from a pitching coach.
"Cloyd Boyer with the Royals taught [Black] that there were two or three times in a game when you have to prove you're a Major League pitcher," Wiley said. "Your back is back against the wall, traffic on the bases, and you have to turn it up. So I started calling those 'CB's, for Cloyd Boyer."
Wiley incorporated that into his teaching. Pitchers in the Rockies' current young wave, such as Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson, have been using what Black brought with him from K.C.
"Even today, our pitchers will say during a game, 'Here's one of those CBs," Wiley said. "Bud got a kick out of that when I told him."
Black's playing career ended when the Indians released him in late 1995. But they showed respect by keeping him in uniform and let him work with pitchers through a World Series run that ended with a loss to the Braves.
Then-Indians GM Jon Hart hired him in a teaching, scouting and player development capacity. Often he'd put on a uniform and go to Minor League affiliates to throw batting practice or work with pitchers on assignments for Cleveland's then-player development director, one-time Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd.
"They said, 'Whatever direction you want to take this, whether it's a track to get back on the field or front office, we'll let you decide,'" said Black, who settled his itch to get back into uniform by becoming the Angels' pitching coach under manager Mike Scioscia in 2000 and winning a World Series ring two years later.
After the Padres dismissed him as their skipper in 2015, Black rejoined the Angels as a special assistant to general manager Billy Eppler and brushed up on skills he couldn't when he was managing the Padres.
"He'd go to the SEC Tournament with me as we were preparing for the Draft and go to games starting at 8 in the morning, and we left at 12:45 one night," Eppler said. "He was thirsty and intellectually curious."'How does this work?' 'Yeah, I'll head out and see this high school guy and this college player, then jump over to watch our Burlington [Iowa] affiliate.'"
According to Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, "In positions like this, breadth of experience can only help."
Knowing how to communicate
Current Angels pitching coach Charles Nagy, a young pitcher with the Indians when Black was around, said Black mentored him without being overbearing.
"[Black is] very subtle with a lot of things," Nagy said. "And he's right more times than not. He's left-handed, I'm right, but I'd watch him do day-to-day stuff and say, 'Yeah, that works.' And he's interested in you.
"I call him a friend. He's the reason my wife and I moved to San Diego and I sent my kids to St. James Academy. My wife and I would travel and were looking for a place, and Bud and his wife said, 'You might want to come visit us.' Here we are all these years later."
Black said his teaching style came from his managers when he was a player. Dick Howser (with the Royals) worked on each player's confidence. Roger Craig (Giants) helped his team gain perspective by having players take time with stadium workers. Dusty Baker (Giants) demonstrated that it's OK to allow players to show intensity during the game.
The Angels staff with Scioscia and future managers Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke, as well as Alfredo Griffin and Mickey Hatcher, provided insight. In meetings, Black absorbed the thought processes of catchers and position players, the logistics of running a club day to day, and the information that guides decisions.
Black has passed on the knowledge. From his 2013 Padres coaching/scouting/baseball operations group came four eventual managers: Dave Roberts (Dodgers), Brad Ausmus (Tigers), A.J. Hinch (Astros) and Rick Renteria (White Sox).
But it comes back to players.
"That's what I do; I talk to my players," Black said. "People have asked, 'What's your managerial style?' Open communication is important. In this day and age, players are curious about what's going on, and it has to come from the manager and the coaches."
Onetime Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes played his final big league games with Black's Padres in 2015, quietly scrapping for time behind the younger Alexi Amarista. Barmes didn't ask, but Black explained his playing-time decisions and checked in with Barmes periodically. Barmes noticed that Black's treatment of a player didn't swing with the player's performance.
"It's not that [Black] needed to explain things to me, but it felt kind of nice," Barmes said. "Sometimes, not meaning to, if a guy is not playing well, people will try to keep their distance from that guy. What I found is that you maybe you need to do that more with guys who are struggling, to remind them there's a reason you're here."