Matt Blood was named the Orioles’ director of player development in September. Blood came from the Texas Rangers, where he was their director of player development before becoming their director of innovation just before joining the Orioles.
He spent three years as the director of USA Baseball’s 18-and-under national program and seven years as a scout with the St. Louis Cardinals. It was in St. Louis that Blood worked with Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and assistant general manager of analytics Sig Mejdal.
Question: How does your role differ from a traditional farm director?
Answer: “I think that role has changed a little bit over, I don’t know how many years. It’s a combo-type job where you’ve got, for example with us, Kent Qualls, who is director of minor league operations and myself who’s director of development. You can consider us both farm directors.
“They both fit under that same umbrella, but the roles are just a little different where Kent is more handling logistics, budgets, administrative-type stuff, some player movement and whatnot during the season, and I’m more focused on the hiring of coaches and the setting of curriculum, the actual setting up of on-field instruction. He and I work very closely on everything together. We kind of lean on each other for ideas and support. We work very well together on everything.”
Q-This offseason, you’ve hired several hitting coaches for minor league teams that don’t have traditional backgrounds. How did you come to hire coaches without experience in professional baseball?
A-“What was once considered traditional or what was considered the requirements for a hitting coach have changed a little bit over the last, I don’t know how many years. These guys that we hired are exciting guys. They’re highly intelligent. They’re highly practiced in the development of hitters. They have experience using data and technology, but as well, they have experience just working with and connecting with players, so I don’t really see them as non-traditional. I see them as highly capable in terms of their skillset and the experience they’ve gained on their own through the private sector.”
Q-What are some of the things that these new hitting coaches do that are different?
A-“I don’t know different. There’s a wide number of hitting coaches across the industry. They’re all a little different. These guys, they’re intrinsically motivated. They have a good mindset. They are driven to collaborate with the rest of the coaches.
“We don’t have a [minor league] hitting coordinator, and that’s by design, and it’s because we’ve hired a bunch of guys that are humble, low ego and want to collaborate with each other and learn from each other and everyone else out there that has good information. These guys are very capable in using technology as well as old school techniques.”
Q-Last season, Justin Ramsey, who didn’t have professional experience, had an excellent season as the pitching coach for Delmarva. He’ll move up to Bowie for 2020. What do you see that makes him so effective?
A-“A guy that’s very intelligent, is intrinsically motivated to learn and to be just evidenced-based in his processes. He’s got great aptitude and desire to be great. I think he connects with players really well. That’s what I have heard. I think he’s in the same mold as the other guys that we’ve hired. It’s pretty exciting to know that our staff is going to be filled with people of his mindset.”
Q-How much pressure do you feel, taking over a minor league system that’s filled with prospects that are highly thought of?
A-“How much pressure? I don’t think of it that way. I think of it as an opportunity for us to create one of the better farm systems in baseball. That’s what our goal is, so I don’t really think of it as that. If we hire good people, and we set up good processes, and we give them the resources they need, then I think it’s going to be pretty exciting to watch them work and see this development system just continue to improve.”
Q-You first got to know Mike and Sig in St. Louis. When you first knew them, did you ever imagine you’d get to work in top positions together and implement your ideas on a ballclub?
A-“We created a relationship, naturally through being colleagues and co-workers and being of similar age, Mike and myself. Sig and I also happened to live in the same region for a little while and were able to spend some time together. I think we just realized we were on the same wavelength about a lot of things. As time passes, and as you get to know people and how intelligent and talented they are and how exciting their ideas are, then, sometimes you start to think: ‘Man, these guys are going to do really great things, and it would be inspiring to be a part of that with them.’
“Those thoughts probably did go through my mind at some point, but to be here now, it’s been great. Us three working together has really been productive so far.”
Q-You came from the Texas Rangers, and you worked there for less than a year. What do you take from that time there?
A-“It was a great experience for me. It was probably the greatest learning or professional development experience that I could have ever hoped for. There’s a lot of great people there, in Texas, and I was very thankful that they took a chance on me, to bring me over and I was exposed to everything there is inside of professional baseball, the good and the bad on the player development side. Just learned a lot about the lines of communication and what to do, what not to do, and just a ton about leadership.
“I was very fortunate to get that opportunity, and when this one came along, I didn’t want to leave the Rangers so quickly, but the opportunity to learn with Mike and Sig in this situation here in Baltimore with where we are in the stage of the game and where the division is, it was too good of a fit, too good of an opportunity for me not to be interested in. It was going to take a perfect scenario to leave, and this was it. That’s how it kind of came about.”