A.J. Preller, the San Diego Padres general manager, took a chance on Jayce Tingler to lead his ball club, and boy did it pay off. The 38-year old rookie manager was named a finalist for the National League (NL) Manager of the Year Award by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) on Monday, Nov. 2.
If you’re just tuning in to the Padres record-breaking season, you may not even know who Jayce Tingler even is, or how he got here. Let’s look back at Tingler’s journey in baseball and how he managed to set a spark in San Diego this year.
Tingler’s Early Days on the Diamond
Jayce Tingler grew up in Smithville, MO, and played baseball for the Tigers at the University of Missouri. In his senior year he was named All-Big 12 Conference as a centerfielder. He played summer ball throughout college with several pros, including Shaun Marcum, Ian Kinsler, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols.
In 2003, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Tingler in the 10th round. Interestingly enough, Preller already came into the picture just two years later. In 2005, Preller was the director of pro scouting with the Texas Rangers. He selected Tingler as a part of the Rule 5 Draft to join Texas’s farm system.
Even though he never reached the majors and hardly took a breath in Double-A, his stats prove how often Tingler reached base. He posted a .483 on-base percentage (OBP) in four years at Missouri, then a .378 mark in four seasons with the Rangers. He also had 221 walks compared to 95 strikeouts in the minors and put up a .989 fielding percentage. Tingler was a small ball kind of guy, which many players he’d coach in the future came to respect.
Coaching Teams to Victory Isn’t New
The coaching career called in 2007, and Tingler answered. In ‘08 and ‘09, he led the Dominican Summer League Rangers to first place championships both years, finishing 46-23 and 47-15 respectively. Then he took over the Arizona Rookie League Rangers in 2010 and finished in first place there too. See a pattern here?
For the next couple of years, Tingler served as the Rangers’ Minor League field coordinator. In this role, he oversaw the training for individual players within the farm system. He climbed the ladder within Texas’s organization, becoming the Major League field coordinator in 2015. The Rangers named Tingler an Assistant General Manager in 2016. He also filled in as an interim bench coach in the ‘18 and ‘19 seasons before signing a three-year contract with the San Diego Padres.
“Jayce has extensive experience in virtually every aspect of coaching, player development, and baseball operations,” said Preller. “His multi-faceted skillset, combined with his ability to develop talent and help players reach their potential at the Major League level, were key factors in his selection as our manager.
Rookie Manager Turned Padres into Winners
With zero big-league managerial experience, Tingler led the team like a veteran. San Diego’s 37-23 record was third in the league, and their .617 winning percentage was the highest in franchise history. He brought the Padres to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. He led them to their first playoff series win since 1998.
Remember Tingler’s small ball stats? From 2014 through 2018, the Padres finished last in the league for OBP, and 26th in 2019. They finished 8th this season with Tingler in charge. Looks like his own baseball experience translated quite nicely into the Padres lineup.
Ultimately, Tingler built a team that can actually hold their own against the top-dog Los Angeles Dodgers. They can out-play any organization they face and undeniable team chemistry. The Padres are no longer considered to be easy wins for more dominant teams across the league. The year of 2020 was the year the San Diego Padres caught fire, and they have Tingler to thank for it. He turned them from a team on the verge of contention in April to a force to be reckoned with in October. And as the second-youngest manager in the majors, he has a long career ahead of him.
Tingler, along with Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth, are trio of Padres who are finalists for the BBWAA awards. With Opening Day still months away, (149 days from now but who’s counting?) be sure to watch the award announcements in the meantime starting Monday, Nov. 9 at 3 pm PST on MLB Network.
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