David Wallace is no stranger to Akron Double-A baseball or being a minor-league manager.
Put the two together, and you get a new experience to which Wallace is still adjusting.
Wallace played three minor-league seasons in the Indians’ organization from 2005-07, including two in Akron with the Aeros. He has spent the past three as the manager of Indians minor-league clubs in Mahoning Valley, Carolina and Lake County. This year, Wallace embarked on his first season as the manager of the RubberDucks.
Wallace got his first taste of coaching in 2007 when he was still on the Aeros’ roster as a catcher. Indians bullpen catcher Danny Williams went down with an injury and the Indians called upon Wallace to fill in for a couple of weeks, knowing his desire to coach once his playing career was over. When that time came in 2008, the Indians named Wallace their full-time bullpen catcher, where he spent two seasons.
Wallace used his time in the big leagues to pick the brains of everyone from Indians managers Eric Wedge and Manny Acta to bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and former Detroit Tigers manager and World Series winner Jim Leyland.
“The main advice was just to be yourself and be honest with the players,” Wallace said. “They told me, ‘Do it your way. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t do it the exact way that [Eric] Wedge did it or Manny [Acta] or [Jim] Leyland.’ And Leyland told me that, too, he told me to manage the way you want to manage. Don’t worry about having to answer questions after the game or what someone else might think about your choices. Do it the way you would see as the best way to manage the game and help your team win.”
These concepts are the ones Wallace brings to Akron, now 25 games into his Double-A managerial career with his RubberDucks sitting a half-game out of first place in the Western Division of the Eastern League with a record of 14-11.
Wallace, still just 34, looks like one of the guys in the clubhouse. Just six years removed from his playing career, he stays in great shape — evidenced by pictures of him doing CrossFit with the players on social media. Wallace says it’s important to be a friend in addition to a manager, but that the latter still holds more weight.
“I’m here to help these guys reach their potential as baseball players,” Wallace said. “I want them to feel comfortable around me, definitely, but I need to be honest when the time comes to say something that’s difficult for them to hear. These guys have been so good as far as they don’t try to take advantage of my style, which can be a laid-back style. I want our clubhouse to be loose and a fun place to show up every day. But sometimes that can turn into some laziness and overlooking some of the work that needs to be done.”
Being a young manager, Wallace feels blessed to have two players with major-league experience to serve as leaders — Kyle Davies and Bryan LaHair. But he also notes top prospect Francisco Lindor and the red-hot Giovanny Urshela as two of the younger guys who have stepped up and emerged as clubhouse leaders.
When asked about the importance of winning versus player development at the Double-A level, Wallace said the goal is to get every player closer to Cleveland in an attempt to bring the city its first World Series Championship since 1948, and that starts with winning.
“Within that, though, we’re going to ask the guys to do some things that they might not be extremely comfortable with at the time,” Wallace said. “For example, a pitcher developing a change-up. We know he’s going to need that change-up in the big leagues one day. He might be able to throw six or seven innings at this level with just a fastball and a curveball, but we’re still going to ask him to throw 15 change-ups that game. We still all try to go out there and try to win every single game, but there is a balance. What the perfect balance between winning and player development is, I don’t think there is one.”
With two first-round draft picks and the kind of big-league experience this club has, RubberDucks fans might be treated to both this season.
Game rained out
The game between the RubberDucks and Binghamton Mets scheduled for 10:35 a.m. Wednesday at Canal Park was rained out. The Ducks and Mets will play a doubleheader with two seven-inning games on June 10. First pitch is set for 5:35 p.m.
The RubberDucks, who have a four-game winning streak, return to action at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Altoona to play the Curve.
Read the RubberDucks blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/rubberducks. Follow August on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AugustF_ABJ.