Tommy Watkins is one of two Black coaches in the Minnesota Twins farm system. After his season at Single-A Cedar Rapids concluded in September, he was called to join the major league team’s coaching staff for the remainder of the season.
“I thought so as my career went on,” admits Watkins when asked if becoming a coach was part of his post-playing career plans. He spent 12 years in the Twins organization (1998-2009) but played only nine games with the big league club in 2007, mostly at third base after being drafted by Minnesota in 1998 out of high school.
“I started helping out at my high school (in Riverside, Florida) in my third or fourth year as [an active] player. I always thought when I got done playing I would want to coach somewhere.”
Watkins completed his fourth season as a coach in the Twins organization. “They came to me toward the end of my playing career, and I made that transition from player to co
ach. It was pretty easy being in the organization for as long as I was.”
Speaking like Crash Davis in Bull Durham, Watkins tries to impart his playing time wisdom to the players who are vying for a chance to one day become big leaguers. “Some are easier [to coach] than others, but you try to get them to
play the right way,” he continues. “Our job is to get people better and have them move up and make it to the next level.
“I always want to be a student of the game,” Watkins says. “My dad played baseball, and it was easy for me as a kid to play baseball. I played football, too, but I always loved baseball since I was four years old. I love the strategy in trying to out-think the other team.
“A lot of people watch baseball and they feel like it’s boring,” Watkins points out. “There are a lot of things going on in the game that a lot of people don’t think about. Trying to shut down the running game in baseball is [as] exciting for me [as when] you play football and score a touchdown or dunk on somebody in basketball is exciting to a lot of people.”
Watkins says he usually spends his off-season in the instructional league, but not this year. “I haven’t coached in the Arizona Fall League or any kind of winter ball, and I would like to do that,” he concludes. “I would like to coach in the winter somewhere, but I haven’t had the opportunity yet. I keep on working on it, and hopefully if not this year, sometime in the near future.”
‘Football’ big with Brits
It’s called football in England, and not NFL football, observed Melvin Tennant, the Meet Minneapolis executive director who was part of a traveling group of City officials in London when the Minnesota Vikings played Pittsburgh September 29. (See this week’s MSR front page for a related story.)
Football in the UK is soccer to Americans, Tennant pointed out.
Said Tennant of London’s Wembley Stadium, “They did a very nice job of replicating a Vikings home game in the stadium, [but] to put it in perspective, American football was very much a novelty.
“After the game I looked at the Times of London, and noticed that there was a very nice story, about a half-page story about the football game and the Vikings winning. But then I continued looking at the paper, and they had about nine or 10 pages of soccer stories — not just scores but full stories about each of the soccer games that had been played.
“I knew [soccer] was big, but I didn’t know it was that big.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected].