Former Giants’ minor league catcher turns to coaching

After 10 years in minor league baseball, nine of which he played in the San Francisco Giants’ minor league system, new SF State assistant baseball coach Tyler LaTorre is thrilled to begin a career in coaching.

Just last March, LaTorre signed a one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers and was playing for the Biloxi Shuckers, the Brewers Double-A team. Five months later, he got the call he had been waiting for. It wasn’t a call up to the majors, but it was an offer to start coaching, something he had always wanted to do.

“When you get to play 10 years, you always wonder what’s next,” LaTorre said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to get in college coaching.”

LaTorre, who’s played with Giants pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum, among others, got the call from new head baseball coach Tony Schifano. Schifano and LaTorre are both former UC Davis Aggies and have cultivated a relationship over the years. 

“Tyler has always been in the back of my mind as a guy that I could offer a coaching job,” Schifano said. “However, he’s been busy playing professional baseball.” 

SF State assistant baseball coach Tyler LaTorre poses for a portrait on SF State campus Thursday, Feb.11. (Qing Huang / Xpress)

SF State assistant baseball coach Tyler LaTorre poses for a portrait on SF State campus Thursday, Feb.11. (Qing Huang / Xpress)

At age 32, retiring from baseball was a tough choice, something LaTorre said he had to discuss with his wife and family.

“When he offered me this opportunity, he didn’t put any pressure on me,” LaTorre said about Schifano. “I don’t want to look back and regret I stopped playing.”

Whether or not LaTorre will fit into Schifano’s team, he certainly has the experience to succeed.

In 10 years of professional baseball, LaTorre played for seven different minor league teams and appeared in 455 games, 305 of those at catcher, his main position. On offense, he batted .243 with 292 hits, including 60 doubles and 14 home runs.

LaTorre played in every minor league division, including his last four years in Triple-A, the highest division of minor league baseball. Playing in the Giants minor league system, he was able to play with several famous Giants before they became superstars.

In 2006, when the Giants signed LaTorre, they also drafted Lincecum in the first round. Remembering his first year, LaTorre chuckled when talking about Lincecum.

“Lincecum and I were drafted in the same year, so we were teammates all the way from A-Ball,” LaTorre recalled. “He went up to the big leagues a little quicker than I did.”

LaTorre has caught pitches from Lincecum, Bumgarner and Matt Cain, learned from storied catchers like Bengie Molina and helped mentor younger catchers like Buster Posey.

“He was rookie of the year, won a world series, and then next year in spring training he’s asking me questions about the catcher’s position,” LaTorre said about Posey. “He obviously knew – he was humble enough to know that he wasn’t as good as he wanted to be.”

LaTorre’s time with those athletes in the minors before they became superstars has caught the attention of Gators baseball. Peter Reyes, a fifth-year pitcher, is glad to have LaTorre on the team.

“It’s pretty cool, knowing that he caught those guys,” Reyes said. ”He got to catch some of the best pitchers in the world, and now he’s teaching us.”

LaTorre said he is able to pass on invaluable lessons to his players.

“I’m not going to teach a kid to hit like Buster Posey,” LaTorre said. “But I sure am going to show him some techniques that Buster uses by video analysis or just by telling him Buster would do this, or Brandon Crawford would do that.”

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