Wagner excited to coach Generals
June 1, 2011 at 1:01 a.m.
Ryan Wagner could hardly be described as a grizzled veteran.
Wagner won't turn 29 until July 15, but he's more experienced in baseball than most people ever will.
He's helped lead Yoakum to the state baseball tournament, then became an All-American at the University of Houston.
He was a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2003 and was pitching in the major leagues the same year.
He spent five seasons with the Reds and Washington Nationals before undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder that led to his retirement in 2009.
Wagner had been working with young baseball players and coaching select teams around the area before taking a more serious plunge into coaching by becoming the head coach of the Victoria Generals of the Texas Collegiate League.
"What I offer besides the tweaks mechanically pitching and hitting wise is the mental side of the game," Wagner said. "The things that I messed up as a player in all the experiences I had. The learning part of the game where I can relay that to them and know what to look for in certain situations that can help them jump their game to the next level."
Wagner coached his players for the first time in Wednesday night's season opener against the East Texas Pump Jacks at Riverside Stadium.
He met most of them on Monday when the team got together for a brief meeting and light workout
"This is a grind," Wagner said. "It's 60 games and it's 2½ months and that's flat out getting after it. That's just like a minor league schedule and a lot of guys aren't used to that. The first two weeks it's having those guys get their bodies acclimated to playing every day.
"Basically, it's a laid back deal. A lot of those guys communicating to me. Hey do you want to take BP? Do you want to take today off? Leaving it in their hands. Obviously there's going to be times where I say we've got to take BP and we've got take in and out. Them communicating with me how their bodies feel and how they're adjusting to it and just kind of going from there."
Wagner is replacing Chris Clemons, who led the Generals to back-to-back regular season titles and the overall league title last season.
But Wagner's primary focus is to help his players develop their skills.
"Everybody wants to hear the 'I want to win,'" Wagner said. "We do want to win and we're going to win. This is to get these guys prepared for the next level. We're trying to make these kids better baseball players."
Covey Morrow played high school baseball in Yoakum before going to Texas State.
He never met Wagner, but watched him pitch on television and is looking forward to picking up some pointers after injuries forced him to sit out the 2011 season.
"He's seen a lot in the pros and he's had a lot of different coaches and he'll be able to help me with breaking pitches and stuff," Morrow said. "He can help me tone some stuff up since I haven't been able to throw this season."
Wagner has enjoyed working with younger players, but is looking forward to interacting with players on a more advanced level.
"The difference from 10 year olds to all the way to these guys is they can make the adjustment immediately," Wagner said. "They get what you're saying immediately and it's not necessarily a situation where you have to break things down multiple times for them to understand it. You let them know what you're trying to communicate with them and they get it immediately and they make the adjustment immediately.
"What I'm going to enjoy most about these guys is watching them not just one game to the next, but one pitch to the next and being able to make those adjustments."
Wagner makes no secret of his desire to coach on the college level and can't think of a better place to get his feet wet.
"That's my goal, to coach at the next level," he said. "This is a great place to start. A great place to get that experience I need with coaching.
"The game's not going to be too fast for me because I've played on the major league level and I know the speed of that game. It's also going to be a lot faster than the high school experience. I'm looking forward to it. I think I'm well prepared for it and ready to get after it."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361- 580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.