SEVIERVILLE - Brandon Hyde isn't used to starting the baseball season in a suit jacket. The former minor league manager and field coordinator begins his first season as the Chicago Cubs Director of Player Development with spring training just a few weeks away. It's a change Hyde is ready for.
"It's my first time being in the office, but it's been a smooth transition," Hyde said. "There's no offseason (for me now) so that's been a lot different. When we start spring training, overseeing our development system instead of being in uniform will be a change. I'm looking forward to it."
Hyde was at Smokies Park Monday for a luncheon with Smokies season ticket holders and corporate sponsors. Hyde is no stranger to celebrations at Smokies Park. In 2009, he was the manager of the Jacksonville Suns, who beat the Smokies at home to win the Southern League Championship Series.
Hyde knows from experience the balance between player development and producing winners at the minor league level.
"We're trying to win in Chicago," Hyde said. "We're trying to put together a winning atmosphere. We're not going to sacrifice winning over hurting a player's development. We want both. Sometimes it doesn't work, but hopefully with the right pieces in place, you surround your prospects with good players, you end up with a winning club."
Hyde feels like the Smokies got it right last season with manager Buddy Bailey and pitching coach Jeff Fassero. Though Tennessee missed the postseason for the first time since 2008, they did produce the Cubs' minor league player (Logan Watkins) and pitcher (Nick Struck) of the year in 2012.
"They (Bailey and Fassero) are really about development and are baseball guys," Hyde said. "They throw their heart and soul into the players. They're both extremely organized. They understand the direction we're going in. We'd love to have this team win 100 games and the Southern League. There's a development and winning mix that you try to get."
With spring training on the horizon, Hyde already has his magnet boards set up with projections of where each prospect should go in the organization. There's a lot of movement that can happen over the next two months before the season begins in April.
"We've got player plans by me and a few other people that has (each player's) strengths, weaknesses and goals," Hyde said. "When we feel a player has reached those goals and made weaknesses his strengths, that's the time to move him. Maturity has a major impact on that. The player is going to tell you when he's ready. It's not just a stat sheet."
That movement doesn't end when the season begins. Multiple times since the Smokies have joined the Cubs organization as its Class AA team, players have made the jump straight to the major leagues. Under Hyde and Cubs President Theo Epstein, that won't change.
"Theo is not afraid to get somebody from Double-A," Hyde said. "(If you're in ) Double-A, you are on the radar. It's not that far away. If you can help our big league club and you're ready, then our guys will make the call."