Catching Up with Chad Allen
Image courtesy of John PatriquinChad Allen was the Minnesota Twins fourth-round draft pick in 1996 out of Texas A&M University. After playing for Team USA, he signed late and spent the final week of the season in the Midwest League. In 1997, he started at Ft. Myers but finished the season in AA New Britain. That’s where he spent the entire 1998 season. He hit .262/.344/.399 with 31 doubles, seven triples and eight home runs.
He came to big league spring training in 1999 and played so well that he was the Twins Opening Day starter. His greatest memories of that team involved playing with a bunch of his friends.
Allen recalled, “I think the best thing that happened to the 13 guys who made it in ’99 is that we were all able to play with each other before we got to the big leagues.”
Those guys had quite a bond. He continued, “To have them be able to know when you’re down, to know how to pick you up, to know if you need something, or that a guy will always have your back. That’s a special feeling. That’s something that I think all 13 kind of helped each other out with. We were always there to pick each other up, to have each other’s back.”
1999 was the best season of Allen’s career. He played in 137 games and hit .277/.330/.395 (.725) with 21 doubles, three triples and ten home runs. He spent parts of the next two seasons with the Twins.
Some fans reading this may remember the final play he made for the Twins. Playing right field in a mid-August game in 2001, Kenny Lofton hit a ball to the wall. Allen took off for it, but a cleat got stuck in the grass and he tore his ACL. Somehow, Allen got to the ball and side-armed it back toward the infield, keeping Lofton from scoring. That was the type of player he was. He worked for everything and even in that moment,his playing was with maximum effort.
It may not have been a long time, but Allen says that his bond to those teammates remains strong. He keeps in touch with several of his former Twins teammates from time to time.
“(Doug) Mientkiewicz is managing in Ft. Myers. One of my best friends to this day is Mike Lincoln. He was my roommate my first, second and third years. He’s a great friend of mine. I stay in contact with him to this day. AJ Pierzynski? I saw this year at spring training when he was playing with Boston. He came over to the clubhouse and still says hello to all the coaches. Just a great teammate. Torii Hunter still lives in Dallas. I saw his wife and kids in Dallas a couple of times. It’s just like I say, when you play with guys for two or three years, even though you may not talk to them more than a couple of times a year, there still is that special place in your heart for them because you grew up with those guys, and it was a special time for us all to be rookies in the same year.”
He remained in the game, spending parts of 2003 with Cleveland, 2004 with Florida, and 2004 and 2005 with the Rangers. He was with the Royals AAA team for 2006.
So, what became of Chad Allen after his playing career?
Allen told me, “Honestly, I left the game in 2008. For about two years, I actually went back to school, got my degree and got away from the game. Well, not really got away from that game, but really concentrated on getting my degree so I could get back into the game.”
And then it took a bit of random luck for him to get back with the Twins. As Allen recalls, “It just so happened that I was actually coaching at a high school in Dallas, and we were playing a team in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was at third base, and I heard my name called. It happened to be Bill Springman who is now our minor league hitting coordinator. Spring yelled at me, and I looked up. I hadn’t seen him in probably ten to twelve years. So, we started to talk, and I said ‘Spring, I’d love to get back in the game, if there was ever an opportunity for it, I’d really appreciate it.’”
It was left at that until the following year when an act of providence occurred.
“Ironically enough, his son was actually playing football against our school. I was on the sideline as the sideline referee. He walked up behind me during the game and said, ‘Chad, what are you doing here these days?’
I said, ‘Spring, I’m still coaching here at the high school and would love to get into the game.”
He said, ‘Well, you know, I think you might be a guy that we’d like to interview.’
I said, ‘Yes, sir, any time you would like, I’d be willing.’”
Chad Allen flew up to Minnesota and interviewed with Terry Ryan and Brad Steil. Soon after, he was named the hitting coach of the New Britain Rock Cats. He has served in that role the last two seasons (2013 and 2014).
He remains very thankful to Bill Springman for the opportunity. “To this day, I thank him all the time that he gave me this opportunity, and the Twins gave me this opportunity. It’s a blessing. I just pray to God that I can help develop these guys and get them to the big leagues and that they go on and have great careers.”
So what brought him back? I don’t think the reasons will surprise you.
“To me, it’s the love of the game. Even though I went to school for two years, the desire and the love of the game never left me. Even though I’m not playing anymore, I still have a passion and a love to see these guys go up and have the opportunity to go to the big leagues. You have the relationships that you build with these guys. You have the clubhouse atmosphere that you rarely get to see. Obviously I was fortunate enough to play. And now, to be able to again develop those relationships with players and our coaching staff. To me, it’s the best job in the world to have.”
Do his players know that he spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues? Does it give him any credibility with the players?
“I think the majority of the guys know that I did play in the big leagues, but no matter if you played zero years in the big leagues or if you have ten, the biggest thing I wanted to do when I became a coach was to gain the confidence of my players. I have to learn as a coach how to gain their confidence and I do that by learning not only what those guys do on the field mechanically and mentally, but what’s going on in their lives off the field. I think if I can gain their trust on and off the field, that’s going to help me in the future.”
Allen looked back at his career and the type of coaches that he had and that he enjoyed playing for. “I think the greatest coaches I had were the ones that truly cared about me. If I was up or down, those guys were always behind me, always upbeat. That’s the kind of coach I want to be. No matter how things are going at the plate, I’m behind you and I have confidence in you. That’s just something that was most important for me when I was playing was I wanted my coaches to have confidence in me so I think by gaining their trust, knowing what makes them go is the most important thing for me.”
The Twins coaching staff in his minor league days were the guys who became his coaches at the big league level with the Twins. The obvious question remains. Is getting to the big leagues as a coach a goal for Chad Allen?
“Obviously that would be a phenomenal gift from God to be able to get back up there. Obviously I can’t tell the Twins that I want to go to the big leagues. That’s a decision that they’re going to have to make. But again, if I made it to the big leagues, would I thoroughly enjoy it? Absolutely! 100%. I think the most important thing for me is the passion and the love for the game is still there. Whether I’m in the big leagues or the minor leagues, I’m going to give my guys everything I’ve got. That’s just something that I… That’s how I played. I played as hard as I could. That’s something that I want to give my players. Whatever they need, I’m going to do the best I can for them.”
There is one trait that I have seen from Twins minor league coaches that I have met and talked to. They have tremendous passion for the game of baseball. Chad Allen fits that mold. If you remember his playing days, you remember that he was a max-effort guy, always going at 100%
It sure appears that his passion and love of the game has transferred into his coaching career. He has worked with Kennys Vargas this year and Miguel Sano last year. He credits Reynaldo Rodriguez for being a great on-field mentor for Vargas and Eddie Rosario. Starting on Tuesday, he will get the opportunity to start working with top prospect Byron Buxton in an attempt to get him ready for the big leagues.
Thanks to the Twins win against the Houston Astros on Monday night, it means that on Tuesday you can get 50% off a Large of Extra Large pizza for the second straight day when you use the “TWINSWIN” promotion code at PapaJohns.com.