Former Commodores baseball star goes from being the talent to finding it

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:05pm
By Alexa Jenner, City Paper correspondent
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David Macias (File)

 

Craig Biggio. Jeff Bagwell. Omar Vizquel.

These were the players that David Macias dreamed he’d become one day.

Now his goal is to discover legends like them.

After four years of shuffling through Chicago Cubs farm teams, the former Vanderbilt leadoff hitter made the decision in October to hang up his cleats and join the front office as the Cubs’ player development/international scouting assistant.

“It came to the point where there wasn’t really the opportunity to play, and I had a good opportunity to be with the Cubs and stay with the Cubs as an employee,” Macias said. “It was a tough decision, but ultimately they’ve been great to me.”

Macias appeared in 357 career minor league games for the Cubs, and spent his last season (2011) with three different teams, the majority with Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League.

During that time he literally played every position except pitcher and first base. He said it was fun going to the park not knowing what he was going to play, and he utilized his college coach Tim Corbin’s advice to always fill his bag with four different gloves and be ready for anything.

The combination of his adaptability and his personality is what makes him valuable to the Cubs.

“David has always been a great organization guy, and we could move him anywhere between Double-A and Triple-A because he was so versatile,” said Alex Suarez, assistant director of player development and international scouting. “He brought a different element to the table that a lot of guys don’t have, and knowing what he could do from an evaluation standpoint and knowing he’d done as much as he could in his playing career, it was time to make that switch and bring him into the office.”

Suarez was a baseball player at the University of Tennessee when he first met Macias and later relied on him when it came to evaluation of the Cubs’ minor league players. He said that Macias’ knowledge and feel for the game are what made him that much more intriguing as a prospect for a front-office position.

Macias first developed a love for baseball when growing up in Texas. While his older brothers were busy playing soccer, Macias found his talent on the baseball field. He started out as a shortstop and stayed in the infield his entire high school career.

Corbin recruited him as an infielder, but by the fall of his freshman year Macias found a new home — in center field.

“He could have played shortstop very, very well, and I moved him to the outfield not because he couldn’t play shortstop, but because he was the best center fielder we’ve ever had on our team,” Corbin said. “To this day he’s the best center fielder we’ve ever had in our program because of his athletic ability, his throwing ability, and his fearlessness.”

Macias missed playing shortstop, but he showed he could be flexible and eventually came to enjoy the outfield. He found it similar to playing wide receiver in football — a sport he abandoned for baseball after high school.

He said choosing Vanderbilt was an easy decision because he fell in love with the campus, the city, and the staff. Here he discovered his broad potential as a player, and to this day Corbin continues to be a mentor for him.

“His work ethic is extraordinary, his demeanor is extraordinary, he’s fun to be around, and he’s just one of those kids as a coach you get every so often,” Corbin said. “He’s the reason why people coach college baseball — he’s there every day, he’s there early, he’s the last to leave, and he’s completely engaged the whole time.”

Macias earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors as a senior after batting .366 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. The Cubs drafted him in the 19th round (581st overall) of the 2008 draft–a day after the same club selected Vanderbilt teammate Ryan Flaherty in the first round.

“It was surreal,” Macias said. “I was out on vacation with my buddies on the lake, and [Flaherty] called me and told me I was drafted by the Cubs. It was really cool.”

By October 2012, however, it was time to make a decision. He could either let the Cubs shop him around to other teams, or he could take their offer to join the front office.

Now Macias has the same approach he did when he was on the field. He wants to learn a variety of positions at once before he determines where he will end up in the long run.

So far he has mostly worked on the player development side, making sure that people are in the right place and everything is running smoothly in the Cubs’ system before spring training begins at the end of the month. He will also be involved in international scouting, primarily with the Latin American countries, and hopes that his diverse playing career will help him evaluate players in the future.

“I don’t have much scouting experience, if any at all, but I feel that being a former utility player will benefit me in scouting players,” Macias said. “Having played all the positions helps you relate to various types of players. It’s well known that scouting is a very tough thing to do, that’s why I feel like if I can relate to a player and understand what he is going through, it might give me an edge over others who can’t.”

When it comes to recruiting the next generation of players, he said it’s important to really get to know athletes inside and out.

“These days, in the end, you want to find the premier athlete and hope that they will become a good baseball player, but there’s so much more than that,” Macias said. “You can’t just scout during the game, you have to scout before the game and gauge what their makeup is like and really get to know that player.”

He misses playing, but Macias said he’s been too busy learning his new roles to think about it. Like Coach Corbin, the Cubs are challenging him both physically and mentally.

Suarez said Macias has shown the same attitude and work ethic he displayed on the field. As far as where he sees Macias in the future, the possibilities range from on the field as a manager to becoming scouting director or more.

“The sky is the limit for this guy,” Suarez said. “He definitely shows the characteristics of what he needs to be successful, and he could do whatever he wants in this game if he applies himself to it.”

Corbin believes Macias made the right move. His advice right now is to not look ahead, but simply do the best he can at this opportunity and the next opportunity will follow. Whatever the role, he said Macias needs to be in baseball and around people.

“He’s a tremendous clubhouse person, and your team is going to be better because he’s in the culture,” Corbin said. “He will have as many opportunities as other people will want him to have, because he will be deserving of that.”

For now, Macias will continue to play the field and learn. Someday he might actually settle down in one position.