Without Googling the answer: Do you know which team drafted Chris Speier out of high school? If you said it was the San Francisco Giants, with whom he signed out of college after they made him the no.2 overall pick in 1970... you were wrong. Sorry. It was the Washington Senators that drafted Speier out of high school in the 11th Round of the 1968 Amateur Draft. He didn't sign though, choosing to attend college instead.
He did play for the Montreal Expos too, after they acquired him from the Giants in April of 1977.
So there are connections to the organization he's now employed by as a bench coach.
"So full circle?" Speier asked rhetorically when he met with reporters recently at Nats WinterFest.
"Full circle. Washington Senators. 1968. Couldn't have dreamed it."
Speier is returning to the major leagues after two years away from the game, during which he was a Special Assistant to the Reds' GM after he was replaced as the bench coach in Cincinnati when manager Dusty Baker was relieved of his duties in October 2013.
His duties during his time as a Special Assistant with the Reds?
"That was... in title," he joked. So what did he do between bench coach jobs?
"I haven't done a thing," Speier said. "Not a thing. My golf game got really, really good."
He's returning to the majors with one goal in mind: Helping Dusty Baker win a World Series ring.
"I have one. Arizona Diamondbacks, I was the third base coach when they won in 2001, but I know Dusty doesn't have one as a manager and that's a big, big goal for me, for him to finally get that to put that on his legacy."
"I haven't wrapped my hands around it too much yet," he said of his return to the majors, but meeting with fans and reporters at NatsFest, he started to wrap his mind around the fact that he was actually back.
"Really excited to be back in," Speier said. "I was out for about almost two years and I missed it. I missed it a lot and when I got that phone call, and he called me, he said, 'Let's go do this thing.' There's a piece of business that's been incomplete and that's the World Series and what a great opportunity with a great team, so we're excited."
What does he like about the opportunity in the nation's capital?
"Everything," Speier said. "I was just doing a little thing with [new Nats' pitching coach] Mike Maddux and he was kind of going through the pitching staff, and then going through the bullpen. We were talking about it. It may be the first time that I've ever been in a Spring Training camp where all twelve spots might already be taken. You know, we're not searching and looking and trying to fill.
"The depth that this club has, that part is exciting, from the pitching standpoint. For me, I always look at the athleticism of the team, especially from the defensive standpoint and I like what I see. And I know that [GM] Mike [Rizzo] is trying to add some pieces that are going to help us, but with a pitching staff like that we want to make sure that our defense is shored up enough to limit their outs."
Speier's duties as Baker's bench coach will include working with the Nats' infielders and setting their defensive alignments.
"There's the analytics that come into it, the percentages, and positioning the defense according to who we're playing, who's pitching for us, so that part of it will probably fall on my shoulders," he explained.
"That's the situation that I did with Cincinnati, and again, it's so much fun when you have the athletes out there that can respond to those different formations that you may pose."
Speier said he's embraced the new thinking when it comes to defensive shifts and analytics and will employ them when he's back on the bench.
"I love it," he said. "I've always been a guy that looks at tendencies, percentages, but the one thing that I like to bring into it, for me, it always comes down to the starting pitcher, or the pitcher that's at hand, and asking them, 'Are you okay with this? This is what we're going to do, this is what we'd like to do, now are you going to pitch accordingly to the shift or do we need to make some adjustments.' The analytical part, I've always been a big believer in, and basically it comes down to tendencies. Tendencies have been around since the inception of baseball. If you play those tendencies and some things become extreme then you might go to extremes. I'm on board with it, sure."
Excited as he is to return to the game, Speier said he's really looking forward to working with Baker again.
"We're both pretty in tune to what's going on," he said. "I've got a sense with Dusty. My tendency sometimes is to be a little aggressive and he's kind of more the [stabilizing] factor. He'll look at me and go, 'Great idea, but not right now,' those types of things. But there's a great mix there. I'll throw out certain situations that me, if I'm managing, I might try to do, but again, this guy's got the final word. I think it's a good mix. It really is."
There was some chatter, before he was named Baker's bench coach, that Speier might serve as the third base coach in D.C., but he said he's ready for a less active role.
"I've leaned, again, it was about whatever the organization wanted and needed, and I know that Dusty really wanted familiarity and he wanted me to be his bench coach. And I said that's fine. There was that fire that I liked and I like the activity of third base coach, I got a sense of being able to do that a little bit in Cincinnati for about a hundred games, so I got back to doing that. I was a third base coach in Chicago with Dusty and I was a third base coach with Arizona and that activity and that level of interaction that you have during a game, the decisions and all those things that go into it [are] fun, but I'm getting older now, I don't know if I need that headache."