Wallace happy to be a Captain again
Sometimes you can come home again, and that is exactly what Lake County Captains manager David Wallace has done this season.
Wallace, 32, is in his first season as the manager of the Captains, but nine years ago he was a 23-year old catcher when the Captains debuted during their inaugural season in 2003. He was one of the main leaders of a memorable team that went on to go 97-43 in their first season as the Single-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
Fast forward nine years later, and Wallace is back with the Captains and is excited to be back.
“I try not to put too much into where I am going,” Wallace said. “I trust [Farm Director] Ross Atkins and those guys to put me where they feel I will best serve the organization, but am I excited to be here in Lake County? Absolutely.”
Wallace enjoyed a seven year pro career that spanned from 2002-2008, six of those seasons in the Indians’ organization before playing in the Nationals organization for one season in 2008.
After Wallace retired at the end of the 2008 season he signed on to be the bullpen catcher for the Cleveland Indians for two years from 2009-2010. He always had a dream to get into coaching, and the Indians gave him that opportunity last season when they assigned him as the manager at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley. He also served a dual role last season as the organization’s minor league catching coordinator.
After a successful foray into coaching last season and a 41-34 record with Mahoning Valley, the Indians pushed him up to Lake County this season. In all of his minor league stops over his career – and there were many – the best stop he had was in Lake County for the first half of the 2003 season where he was named a South Atlantic League All Star after he hit .291 with six homers, 36 RBI and a .866 OPS in 64 first half games.
After the All Star break Wallace was promoted to High-A Kinston and never saw Lake County again until this season.
“It is weird to be back, but in a good way,” Wallace said. “I knew early in my career that I wanted to manage when I was done. I would have liked that to have been after a 15-year Major League career (laughs), but it did not work out that way. I am fine with that and I am very happy with what I am doing now. It is pretty special to be back here. There are a lot of good memories and a lot of those memories are from the relationships built here in 2003.”
This season is Wallace’s second go around as a manager, so he is still learning on the go. With a roster full of so many young and inexperienced players he is learning how to manage them and know when they need a break. When he played with the Captains back in 2003 it was his first full season - just like many of the players on his roster now - so he understands how tough it can be for his players to make that adjustment to playing every day for six straight months.
“We just make sure there is constant communication,” Wallace said. “As a staff we pay attention to not only the performance on the field numbers-wise, but we pay attention in normal conversations if they are tired. Until you do it you don’t know it, but that is part of what this level is about. You learn and then you make adjustments throughout the season and throughout the next year.”
Wallace’s youth certainly works in his favor as he has only been away from the game as a player for a little under four years.
“I have been fortunate as I have gone through many seasons of this length as a player, so as a manager I think it is a natural adjustment in helping these guys understand and what it takes to get through a full season,” Wallace said. “How to take care of their bodies, what they eat, and how important sleep is.”
If there is one thing that players really respect and admire about Wallace it is how honest he is with them and how much he understands the difficulties they face as prospects day in and day out. They know that he struggled through a long minor league career, and he is doing his best to help them learn from them.
“One of the things as a manager that is very important is to not forget how hard this game is,” Wallace said. “It is easy for me to remember that because it was not long ago that I was going 0-for-4 every night. I still vividly remember the feeling so I think it helps me relate to the guys when they are struggling. This is the last place that I did well, but I remember the struggles about how hard this game really is.”
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.