Title: Marlins' Boles likes to get close to the action with Cougars.(Sports)
Date: July 22, 1997 Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Author: Bush, JoeByline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
Florida Marlins vice president of player development John Boles was in Geneva for the Cougars' four-game set with Cedar Rapids last weekend.
It was business as usual for the 48-year-old South Side of Chicago native who oversees the Marlins' minor-league system, one of the best in the game.
Boles met with Cougars manager Lynn Jones and his coaches and players before the games, watched the games like a scout, then visited with the team afterward.
Every minor-league coordinator follows the same routine, but very few can give what Boles does during batting practice and infield two hours before gametime.
Boles, who until this season did double duty as the Marlins' minor-league field coordinator (a roving coach), dons a practice uniform and hits fungoes and grounders and works individually with players.
If Boles is a suit, that suit has a cap, stirrups and cleats.
"He's one of us," Jones said.
Boles can think of just a few other men in his position who participate with his charges. Maybe more should - the Marlins' farm system was ranked third by Baseball America.
"I really like it that way," Boles said. "When you're out there working with somebody with their bunting or their outfield play, they look at you as a uniformed guy and not an office guy.
"If you have the ability to instruct and get in the uniform, I think it's beneficial."
The Lewis University grad can boast of one more thing his peers can't - major-league managing experience. After the Marlins fired Rene Lachemann on July 7, 1996, Boles guided the squad to a 40-35 record. Boles had last managed, at the Triple-A level, in 1986.
He doesn't think it lends him much credibility with his minor leaguers - he and Jones agree today's ballplayer doesn't love the game and its tradition - but he thinks it improved his player-evaluation skills.
"When you're up there on a regular basis, you can really see who can (play) and who can't, and it gives you a good indicator as to what certain guys in your system have to do to measure up with that level of play," Boles said.
It has been quite a year for Boles and the Marlins, who hired Jim Leyland as manager, spent $89 million on free-agents and recently were put up for sale.
Boles has been busy preparing for the November expansion draft, from which each major-league team can protect 15 players with at least three years' minor- or major-league service or who are on the major-league roster.
After a player is taken in each of the draft's three rounds, a team can protect three more of its players.
Boles' protective priority is his prospects, and that job is made easier because many of them - like 1996 Cougars Jaime Jones and Nate Rolison - have played less than three years and so are exempt from the clutches of Tampa Bay and Arizona.
Nevertheless, many other prospects - like ex-Cougars Todd Dunwoody and Ralph Milliard - are not exempt, and tough decisions have to be made.
"We're not going to trick Tampa Bay or Arizona," Boles said. "Ourselves and a couple other organizations are really being zeroed in on because we've got some pretty good players.
"We know we're going to lose three quality people, we just hope that they're not the people we really want to keep. It's a crapshoot, really.
"I've come up with seven different lists, and it's amazing how your lists change from spring training to this current date. I just did one the other day, and it changed dramatically from the beginning of the year."
When all facets of Boles' duties are considered, it's no wonder a trip to Kane County is something less than a homecoming.
"There's just no time to do anything special," he said. "Friends will say, 'Oh, I heard you were in town and you didn't call me.' There's just no time.
"There's a misconception - people think you get (to the park) five minutes before the game, and you go get 'em. We're here early, and after the game you're talking to staff members late. It's very busy.
"The only time I'd have to socialize would be coming back to Chicago during the off-season because during the season it's just impossible."
Boles graduated from Lewis in 1970 and served as the school's baseball coach from 1973-79. He began his pro baseball career in 1981 as a manager in the White Sox system and earned Class A manager of the year honors in 1983.
He was hired by the Kansas City organization and managed at Triple-A Omaha until being promoted to the Royals director of player development post in 1986.
In 1989, Boles joined Montreal as minor-league coordinator before being
boosted to director of player development in 1990.
He joined the expansion Marlins in 1991, coming over with current Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski among other Expos front-office staff.
The coaching and managerial background is what enables Boles to literally mold the Marlins of the future.
"He gets to know each and every one of us on a personal basis, and it makes it that much better," said Cougars first baseman Jason Garrett. "He has total power over everybody's career in this room. It's kind of intimidating at times, but he does his best to not be as intimidating as you sometimes believe it could be.
"You would be a whole lot more tentative if you looked up and your head of the minor leagues was just in the stands writing the whole time and you never got to talk to him, never got to interact.
"Bolesy's always in the clubhouse and he's always out on the field with us. He's a real hands-on kind of guy. I think it's awesome."
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COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
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