Jay Bell has worked in professional baseball as a player, coach or manager for more than 30 years. He spent 2017 managing the New York Yankees Advanced-A affiliate in Tampa and is currently coaching the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. We spoke with him to discuss his Fall League experiences and his work-family connection with his son.
Bell’s professional baseball career has stood the test of time and spanned more than three decades. His 18-year big league playing career included a 2001 World Series ring with the Arizona Diamondbacks, two All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award. His coaching resume includes serving as a bench coach and hitting coach in the majors, as well as a hitting coach and manager in the minors. As a Fall League manager, he sticks with what has worked in his coaching career.
“I manage them like any other team that I’ve managed. I talked to them about early on was that we’ve got five different organizations being represented here. I didn’t know their organizational rules as a team and didn’t care to. I wanted them to hold each other accountable for representing their organizations well.
One of the things that I really like is whenever guys care about their teammates and their successes as much as they would their own. This group of guys in this locker room have been phenomenal. I’ve really enjoyed watching them come together as a team. Whenever you have the first few days of workouts you look out on the field and see the Angels here, Yankees here, Mets here and as I walk around the outfield I say, ‘listen, that’s your teammate. Feel free to go and chat with him too.’ They’ve done a really good job becoming a team.”
The AFL is filled with talent, different philosophies and different personalities. Bell is quick to credit his staff for staying on the same page and for delivering the same message that he is conveying to the players.
“It’s not a huge challenge if you have the right staff. Gooky Dawkins has done a great job with the hitters. Jonathan Hurst and Mike Couchee have done a phenomenal job with the pitchers. They’re being inclusive as well. As long as everyone is on the same message, it’s a good thing and it works. I can’t tell you how much fun we’ve had as a staff pushing that agenda with the guys.”
Much attention is paid to the players and their performance on the field. That’s just one part of the equation. Bell places a high value on them being good citizens off of the field as well.
“I think the AFL has some really talented players. There’s some guys that have really stood out and have made an impact with the coaches and managers around the league. It’s not just talent, it has to do with the person also. With the Yankees, we talk about we want to win, we want talented players, but we want good citizens too. Whenever you have that good combination it’s really enjoyable to manage.”
The Arizona Fall League will officially conclude at the completion of their Championship game on Saturday, November 18. As the players depart and head for the offseason, Bell hopes that they are even better equipped to better themselves.
“I hope they enjoy the fact that they came with the understanding that they had a group of coaches that were about their better interests. I always talk to them about figuring out different ways to find more tools for their tool belt. If they can walk away with one thing that they’ve heard or done, it’s going to be a positive thing. I think that they’ve done that. I know for a fact that the staff that has dealt with them daily, has impacted these guys. They have given them something that they can bring into the offseason and hopefully use to better themselves in the future.”
Bell and his coaching staff have worked hard to leave their impact on the talent that has played on the Scorpions this Fall Season. Managing the team hit close to home for Bell. It allowed him to work with his son, Brantley, just as his father and brother did in the real estate industry.
“I coached him whenever he was in high school, travel ball and Little League. I really enjoyed that. That was a ton of fun.
My dad passed away nearly 10 years ago, he said there were two joys in his life that he really, really thought about constantly. One, he had the opportunity to see me play. He took pleasure in that. The other thing he said, my brother, he got to work alongside. Both of them were in real estate. They got to work together. The combination of those two things, I’ve been able to do. I’ve enjoyed him playing baseball and we’ve been able to work together too. It’s really a cool thing.”
Brantley is young and working hard to reach the big leagues just as his father did. Part of growing as a player is not letting pressure become counterproductive. Jay has encouraged Brantley to do everything that he can to be successful.
“Just prepare for excellence and live with the results one way or the other. If you’ve prepared well, you should never be satisfied with the results, but content with the fact that you’ve done everything that you could to be successful.”