Jayce Tingler seemed so ready.
Now he waits, doing his dream job in a surreal situation.
“We’re concentrating on our guys,” he said Monday.
It was not surprising to hear Tingler explain how he is taking in stride the departure from the norm, caused by the nation’s response to COVID-19. That is how he has approached his coaching climb for more than a decade.
“Whatever you need me to do,” is what he would tell his bosses.
He did a lot for the Texas Rangers, from coach and manager in the Dominican Republic to instructional league manager to minor league field coordinator to assistant general manager to big-league coach.
“We just felt like he was a guy who was going to make an impact in any role he was in,” Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels said in November.
It was just a little more than a year ago that Tingler was trying to figure out a way to not take a job he wanted.
Escogido of the Dominican Winter League was considering him for its managerial opening.
He was in spring training with the Rangers at the time. His two young sons were in school in Missouri. He had been working virtually year-round in one capacity or another in baseball their entire lives.
“I was looking for a reason to not do the job if they offered it,” Tingler recalled in a conversation this offseason.
He was driving in Arizona when his wife called. She suggested they should all go to the Dominican Republic if he got the job. The boys could go to school there for a few months.
“We’ve been in it so long,” Callie Tingler explained. “It seems like a lifetime. It was probably the time to go after it.”
So that’s what they were going to do, because the Tinglers have done whatever they could to make it work for so long.
Tingler didn’t obsess over becoming a manager, didn’t maneuver or manipulate, just did what he had to do to get where he was going. The son of two high school coaches, others saw in him the potential to lead a team before he did.
“He was wired the right way,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, the Rangers’ director of player development when Tingler was a minor league outfielder in the organization and one of the first people to approach Tingler about transitioning to coaching. “He looked at the game differently. He understood what went into being a successful player and teammate.”
After 13 years as a coach and manager in the minor leagues and two years spent in the Texas Rangers front office and two more as a member of the Rangers’ major league staff (and nine games as Escogido’s manager), Tingler was named manager of the Padres in October.
He spent the offseason traveling the country meeting his new players. He oversaw a lively spring training that saw players old and new responding to their new manager and new coaches. And then, COVID-19 stopped spring training and delayed the start of the 2020 season.
For the past couple weeks, Tingler has been in San Diego doing his job in a way he could never have imagined but the only way he can.
He sees some of his players and coaches at Petco Park, as they work out a few at a time while not getting too close. He talks and texts with those who are in Arizona or their various hometowns around the country. He works out and watches Netflix.
“There’s nothing else to do,” said Tingler, whose family is in Missouri.
It was apparent in spring training how much he loved being around players and his fellow coaches and his old friend and new boss A.J. Preller.
“I think the guys were ready to play,” Tingler said when asked about how excited he was for the season, a typical conveyance of focus away from him and onto his players. “That’s the hard part not to think about. You felt good with where we were at with two weeks to go. We had a lot of work to do. But our staff felt we were on pace, that we were in a good place.”
Under normal circumstances, the Padres would be playing in Atlanta this week. They would have finished their first road series, at Colorado, over the weekend.
“I try not to go there,” Tingler said of thinking what would have been. “… We’re going to play. I just don’t know when. We’re doing the best we can to stay ready.”
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