In his second major league camp, San Diego Padres’ infielder Ty France was attempting to secure a major league job. The pandemic put an end to the spring, but France is still focused on the future.
The world is in the grips of an unprecedented time. Baseball is not a huge focus currently, as the health of the planet takes priority.
For Padres’ infielder Ty France, there will be a wait to see what his 2020 season has in store for him. The former SDSU Aztec broke-out in 2019, hitting .399 in 76 games in the Pacific Coast League. The right-handed hitter made his debut for the Padres and put up a respectable .696 OPS in 184 at-bats. In Peoria, this spring, France was 4-for-17 with a 1.005 OPS.
In major league camp for the second year, the infielder came in with a certain amount of comfort. “Coming in this year, I have a lot more familiarity with the guys. It makes this second spring a lot more comfortable for me,” France said last month in Peoria. “I am still doing what I can to try and win a roster spot, whether it is as a utility bat off the bench or a starting job. I am coming in with the understanding that this is what my role will be. I am just running with that,” France said.
Early in camp, France worked with Austin Hedges and a few of the catching instructors behind the plate. The versatile right-handed hitter is eager to prove his worth. He explains that catching is not a new position for him, though he needs to work on the craft. “I have caught almost every year in pro ball. It is just getting the rust off. I have caught almost my whole life. They told me it is not a position change. It is just about adding another tool in my belt,” France said. Being able to play four or five positions on the field will ensure a long-lasting career for this young ballplayer.
When questioned about the number of gloves he carries with him on a road trip, his answer came after a short pause. “I have four different gloves. Second, third, first, and catcher. I use a smaller glove for second base,” France said. The California native knows to be prepared as he could be called upon at any given moment to play on the field.
The 2020 season is the dawn of the Jayce Tingler era for the San Diego Padres. The youthful manager comes with the personality of a leader, though he has not had the pleasure of doing so at the major league level. Baseball development and getting the most out of young players will be his greatest asset. There is the feeling that Tingler will relate to his whole roster. Several players indicate that the new manager reached out immediately after being hired by the Padres. No matter if the player was a star or a man at the end of the roster, Tingler made it a point to communicate with them. “He is an open book. Just go to him if you need anything,” France said.
His leadership skills are evident as the first-year manager will get results. There is no doubt that Tingler brings that to the table, but will he be able to lead a whole roster and make tough decisions when the game is on the line? The players have bought into the fact that Tingler is there for them. France is no different. “Obviously, we are starting a whole new year with a new club and a new staff. Having Jayce as a leader is great. He seems like he is here for us and ready to run through a wall for us,” France said. With a manager on their side, the players are prepared to enjoy a great 2020 season when it begins. “That motivates us and fires us up. Just ready to get the season rolling,” France said.
In spring camp, the coaching staff drilled the players continually. “There was a lot more intent and focus behind the little things in camp. They really harped on taking care of the little things this year. Doing it with intent and purpose,” France said. Jayce Tingler and his staff vocalized this throughout the team’s time in Peoria last month. From fielding bunts to working on lead-offs and baserunning, the Padres improved their ability to play “small ball” and compete with the larger market teams in the division.
Ty France has worked hard to get to where he is presently in his baseball career. When a player like Tommy Pham joins the clubhouse, players like France take notice. Pham battled for playing time and recognition throughout his whole career and is very vocal about that fact. Pham enjoys winning and brings a feeling of competitiveness to a clubhouse that, at times, was complacent last year. “He is a worker. He grinds. He is super intense and definitely looked at as a leader in this clubhouse. Not that we didn’t have any leaders before, but he is a different type of leader. A work-first kind of guy,” France said about Pham. There are many ways to lead a team. Pham is not opposed to doing what it takes to succeed. “He will let you know if you are falling out of line and has no problem in jumping down your throat. That is going to be very good for a young club,” France said.
Greg Garcia took France under his wing last year and really helped out the young player. Having Garcia around is terrific for young players who are attempting to make sense of the game and find their stride on the team. “It made a huge difference in my season (having Garcia). Especially going from being an everyday player in El Paso to a bench role in the big leagues,” France said. The communication is about the fact the two men relate to each other. “He has done it the last few years (played a bench role), and he showed me his routine of how he handles it. I just kind of picked his brain. He is super knowledgable, and I am very grateful for having him around,” France said of the veteran infielder. San Diego is doing well to team their seasoned players with young prospects. This is a common theme in and around the franchise.
Staying sharp can be an issue for bench players. When speaking about keeping his hitting skills sharp, France was clear what he does. “For me, the more velocity I can see. Whether it is a machine or live pitching, I think that is the biggest thing,” France explained about his hitting craft. The right-handed hitter produces off of the fastball, so keeping his timing sharp is always his primary concern. “I need to keep seeing the firm heaters coming in and try to time them.”
In time, once the season starts, we should further see this infielder establish himself in the league. The versatility he brings is very welcoming, but there is still the belief that the right-handed hitter could handle an everyday job in the majors. Ty France just needs an opportunity.