01/21/11 7:33 PM EST
Baseball is a family business for the Wallachs
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
He developed into an All-Star third baseman, retired and went into developing players as a Minor League coach and manager, and even launched a home-grown farm system, producing with wife Lori three sons drafted by the Dodgers.
Matt, the eldest and a 22nd-round pick in 2007, is likely to be the starting catcher at Double-A Chattanooga and was one of 16 top prospects who participated in the recent Winter Development Minicamp.
Middle son Brett, a pitcher taken in the third round of 2009, was traded to Chicago in the Ted Lilly deal last summer.
Youngest son Chad, an infielder drafted in the 43rd round last year, didn't sign and will play this year at Cal State Fullerton, the alma mater of Tim and Brett.
Meanwhile, dad has a new gig, promoted from manager at Triple-A Albuquerque to third-base coach on Dodgers manager Don Mattingly's coaching staff. The kids pick dad's brain for tips on succeeding in their budding careers and dad has tapped into his baseball network to better prepare for his new assignment as successor to Larry Bowa.
"Luckily, I know some third-base coaches in the big leagues and I've been getting information to be as prepared as I can be," Tim said. "I coached third managing in the California League in 1998 and 2001 and the last two years managing at [Triple-A] Albuquerque. You have to do it to understand what you have to do. I'm not to the point where I feel I won't make a mistake, it's like playing the game. I feel I'm prepared to do it, but until you do it at that level, it's a faster game.
"The biggest thing is to know the parks, what the ball is going to do in the corners and the alleys, know the outfielders' arms and their tendencies. And the infielders' arms, because you need to know which infielders can make a strong relay throw."
Speaking of relays, relaying Mattingly's strategy to players at bat and on the bases will be one of Wallach's primary duties.
"Right now, Donnie and I have already talked about how he wants to run the game offensively," Tim said. "When I managed [Minor League managers also coach third base], I wasn't looking into the dugout for what to do. This is a different scenario. I have to know what he likes to do and when. I need to get used to his style and be ready for him, not for him to be waiting for me. So in the spring, when we have split-squad games, I won't be managing the other team, I want to be with him."
And when he gets a chance, he'll be checking on his three sons.
"I always hoped my kids would want to play, but the game is so tough," Tim said by phone Friday while watching Chad play an intrasquad game at Fullerton. "It's a tough life. It's a great game but it's not an easy life, and if they didn't love it enough, even with the talent, I don't think they would do it."
It didn't hurt that dad had a batting cage in the backyard of their Yorba Linda, Calif., home, or that mom, having been a college softball player, could hit grounders or catch a bullpen session. Or that the kids knew their way around a Major League clubhouse while still in Little League.
"When my dad was hitting coach for the Dodgers, in 2005 and 2006, I'd go in the food room before the game and watch games with Eric Gagne and then watch him close the game," said Matt, whose high school coach was former Angels pitcher Mark Langston. "To be able to interact with the players gives you a comfort level. Last year, for the first minicamp, I walked into the clubhouse at Dodger Stadium and it's like I grew up there."
"It was lucky for me to play in L.A. for four years," said Tim. "After the games the kids would come into the clubhouse and talk to Tommy [Lasorda]. He would let the kids in, win or lose. He treated the kids like family, like they were his. There's a comfort level being around the game and the clubhouse. Your first step into a clubhouse can be intimidating."
Matt, who turns 25 next month, played most of last year at Class A Inland Empire, but wasn't overmatched during a six-week promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. He finished with a combined 11 homers in 311 at-bats and seems to be making steady progress toward what he said is his goal -- getting to the big leagues this year. It won't surprise dad.
"I haven't seen Matt play much in games," said Tim. "We hit, and I get to see all the reports and I talk to people he's played with, and everybody has good things to say. What I've been hearing is outstanding. He's always been a good catch-and-throw guy, but his bat has started coming on."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.