New manager Jayce Tingler sent the San Diego Padres to the playoffs last year. That hadn’t happened in 14 previous seasons. Before landing with the Padres, the 40-year-old skipper had never been a Major League Baseball manager. However, Tingler did spend the previous 12 years (2007–2019) in a range of coaching and executive positions for the Texas Rangers. Last season was a pandemic-shortened, 60-game mini-campaign. For what it’s worth, Tingler’s 37-23 record created a .617 winning percentage, the best single-season mark in team history. Charging into 2021, the Padres are loaded with high-paid talent like Fernando Tatís Jr. and Manny Machado. Tingler talks about the pressure to produce, how to leap over the Dodgers, and what it was like to play for cardboard cutouts.
You were plucked from relative anonymity to be the Padres manager. Does San Diego know you yet?
With the pandemic and not having a lot of access, probably not. There was definitely a lack of face-to-face availability with media. And I’m a reserved person in general.
What should we know about you?
I’m a pretty simple person. I was raised in the Midwest by two loving parents who were both teachers and high school coaches. I’ve grown up in baseball and had some unique jobs. I was a coach and a manager in the Dominican Republic.
Point to three reasons why the Padres made the postseason last year for the first time since 2006.
First and foremost, we have a talented group of players. They prepared and trained for the season, and they also played unselfishly, for each other. Those are the biggest factors.
What was it like playing for cardboard cutouts instead of fans in 2020?
(Laughs) The cardboard cutouts and the artificial noise were different. We got used to it quickly. We were grateful at the time just to be playing. It did mean something to the guys to have family and friends on cardboard cutouts. At Petco Park, I had my two kids and my wife on cutouts.
When you beat the Cardinals in the playoffs at home last year, could you hear fans outside Petco Park going crazy?
Yeah, we could. I stayed late that night. I was aware of the electricity in the city.
Did losing to the Dodgers in the playoffs intensify the rivalry between the teams?
The beautiful thing about that question is that it’s not for me to decide, it’s for the fans. Whatever that rivalry is, that’s up to the fans.
What has to happen for the Padres to surpass the Dodgers this year?
No doubt, they’re the champs. We have to continue to grow. We have to be dominant on the mound and be incredibly aggressive in the zone. We have to play great defense—not just the spectacular plays, we have to be efficient and clean at making routine plays. The Dodgers have great arms on the mound. On offense, we have to control the strike zone and get the ball in play. We have to be an athletic group that runs the bases aggressively but intelligently. And we need to stay healthy.
You’ve got some high-paid talent on your team now—Tatís, Machado, Eric Hosmer—is there added pressure on you now to succeed?
The thing to do is look at pressure as opportunity. We’ve got a talented team. All we can control is how we prepare and play every day.
Is your coaching style based on examples set by your parents?
My mom was the all-time winningest female high school coach in the state when she retired. She’s in the Missouri State Hall of Fame. My mom is known for her intensity, focus, and work ethic. My dad has always been good on perspective—taking negatives and spinning them as positive. I’ve got a little bit of both of them in me as a coach.