Travels With Bill
Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom is learning about his club the way a mechanic learns about a car: Examining every component, determining how each part functions, gauging the need for repairs and replacements.
To him, that means visiting every minor league operation, a plan that began in San Jose in the fall and continued this month with a trip to the Dominican Republic. He returned from the Dominican, he said, with a much deeper understanding of what baseball means to the country.
“We visited Felipe Alou’s Junior Giants Field,” Neukom said by phone from his office this morning. “It is used every daylight hour of every day. At every major-league complex, you see remarkably athletic, earnest young men trying to hit and pitch their way off the island.”
He was impressed with the Giants’ system of finding and developing talent. It’s a lean and mean operation, with most of the team’s resources going into the actual teaching of skills instead of into luxurious facilities. Neukom does, however, want to improve the fields and buy equipment for a good weight room.
One highlight of the visit was getting his first glimpse of Rafael Rodriguez, the 6-foot-5-inch outfielder the Giants signed last year at the age of 16.
“Very impressive,” Neukom said. “Standing behind the batting cage, you just hear the ball off his bat. The ball just carries.”
For Neukom, though, these visits are more than opportunities to learn. They’re also opportunities to teach.
“Part of the purpose is observation, and part of it is evangelizing,” he said. “I want everyone in the organization on every level to understand the Giants’ way. We want to start right there with the prospects, even before they sign.”
Next stop: the Single A club in Salem, Oregon.
Neukom flew there this afternoon.