This is not Eric Farris’ first go-round in Charleston. It’s not even his second.
When Farris stands in the Appalachian Power Park home dugout this spring as the West Virginia Power’s new manager, he will do so with plenty of experience in that park. Not only was he the Power’s hitting coach last season, but he also was a player there when the current Seattle Mariners affiliate was affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers.
He’ll bring all that institutional knowledge to the job this year. That’s a luxury few new managers get entering a minor league ball club. Often, they fly in blind. Farris’ sees things clearly.
“It’s definitely an advantage for myself, and I’d say for the players and staff,” Farris said in a Tuesday conference call. “It’s not just the familiarity with the town and the people, but with the stadium and how the front office people at the park like to work with the team.
“I’m also familiar with the scheduling, the travel in this league and everything from what hotels we’ll normally stay in to how long the bus rides are going to be.”
Farris’ first stint in Charleston came in 2008, when he was an outfielder playing his first full season of professional baseball. He played in 103 games that season, batting .293 with 54 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. The Brewers’ fourth-round pick moved through the organization and ultimately played 14 games with Milwaukee, one in 2011 and 13 more in 2012.
He moved to coaching in 2017, starting in player development for the Mariners before serving as the hitting coach of the short-season Evertt AquaSox in 2018 and as Power hitting coach in 2019.
Farris wants to take all those experiences to help young players become better not just on the field but as professionals overall.
“A lot of this job is to teach guys how to be pros at this early level,” Farris said. “So when they get to the highest level and they’re older players, they understand not only how the game should be played, but how to respond and how to be a pro during the course of a six-month-long season when there are very few days off.”
With a playing career that spanned nine seasons at every level of pro baseball, Farris has worked under several managers. He doesn’t point to one as inspiration for his managerial style, but will look to his experiences with all of them to mold that style.
“Over the offseason as I was preparing for this opportunity, I tried my hardest to relive some of the moments and some of the things I’ve learned,” he said, “and pulled a little bit from everybody that I’ve been able to learn from and use that to my advantage.”
Farris got to work with some standouts last year as hitting coach. Two of them, outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, were listed among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects for 2020, Kelenic at No. 11 and Rodriguez at No. 8.
Farris isn’t sure who he’ll have on the roster for 2020, but his mission will be to get them closer to the level Kelenic and Rodriguez enjoy now.
“My job is, overall, to make sure these players get better,” Farris said. “And when they leave my hands, they’re better players than when they got there.”