San Diego Padres’ manager Jayce Tingler must be excited for the 2021 season as the team has vastly improved this winter.
In a late holiday gift to Padres’ fans, Mike Petriello of MLB.com recently declared that the “Padres just might be baseball’s best team.” But hey, no pressure for sophomore manager Jayce Tingler.
Of course, Tingler had to be feeling the pressure last year when he landed in the hot seat previously occupied by six managers—Bruce Bochy, Bud Black, Dave Roberts, Pat Murphy, Andy Green, and Rod Barajas—since 2006. At the end of the 2019 season, the front office had added to the pressure by all but guaranteeing a contending team after 14 years of futility.
Then, just when Tingler had met the team he would lead in Arizona, Major League Baseball shut down thanks to Covid-19, remained in limbo for months, and ended up playing a much-abbreviated schedule. Through all the confusion and upheaval, Tingler’s public persona acknowledged the challenges realistically but emphasized the excitement of actually getting back on the field.
Tingler also voiced his concern for keeping everyone safe, including extended family members and avoiding injuries, especially those that could keep a player out for a good part of the 60-game schedule. But these extraordinary challenges did not seem to faze him.
Of course, Tingler had the advantage of the best roster put together by general manager A.J. Preller in his time in San Diego. From experienced major leaguers like Manny Machado to newbies like Jake Cronenworth to a budding superstar in Fernando Tatis Jr., Tingler had the raw material for success. Just by appearances, the team jelled and developed a camaraderie that hadn’t necessarily been the norm in the recent past.
Major League Baseball recognized Tingler’s achievement when he came in second in the voting for National League Manager of the Year behind Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins. He guided the Padres to their first winning season since 2010 and first playoff appearance since 2006—during a pandemic. Of course, the Padres lost to Los Angeles Dodger in the National League Division Series. But, there’s no shame in losing to the ultimate World Series winner, especially without the Padres’ two top pitchers, Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet.
When Preller hired Tingler in October last year, most Padres fans hadn’t ever heard that name. A baseball junky, Tingler played minor league baseball for four seasons and reached the Double-A level. Then he moved on to coaching beginning in 2007 in the Dominican Summer League, working his way up the minor-league ladder to the major league coaching staff of the Texas Rangers. Obviously, Preller had been impressed by Tingler during his tenure in the Rangers’ front office before being hired by the Padres as general manager.
A native of Smithville, Missouri, Tingler attended the University of Missouri, where he played college ball. He and his wife Callie and their two sons still live in Smithville. He is bilingual and speaks Spanish and English, a valuable trait in an organization with Latino players at all levels.
Tingler’s only public misstep occurred in August when he criticized his own player, unleashing the clash between the traditional unwritten rules of old school baseball and the new wave of “let the kids play.” With the Padres leading the Rangers 10-3 in the top of the eighth inning, Tatis Jr. unleashed a grand slam home run on a 3-0 count.
Tingler’s criticism landed him in the middle of a national debate. It led Tatis to apologize for hitting two home runs and knocking in seven RBI, an astonishing feat for a Padre player. The next morning, Tingler backed off and concentrated on Tatis missing a sign.
By the time the Dodgers manhandled the Padres to a 12-3 loss in game-3 of the National League Division Series, the controversy had been forgotten. The sting of that defeat has receded into the background as teams turn their attention to the 2021 season.
Amid a nation-wide surge of the virus, MLB finds itself back in limbo. The good news about the development of successful vaccines must be tempered because the ultimate goal of “herd immunity” will not be reached for months.
However, when the time comes to actually “play ball,” the Padres will take the field with high hopes. Jayce Tingler’s rookie season as manager has certainly prepared him for whatever 2021 throws his way.