PEORIA, Ariz. -- For the past three years, Brad Ausmus has spent time in Padres camp, working with the catchers. He continued that work during the regular season, visiting Minor League affiliates to continue working with young catchers in the system.
But Ausmus is nowhere to be found this spring, as he's in Florida as a first-year manager of the Tigers.
"I was absolutely ecstatic when he got the job," Decker said. "I was jumping up and down, going crazy."
In the fall of 2011, Decker played for Ausmus, who was managing Team Israel during the World Baseball Classic qualifier. Last season, Decker, a converted first baseman, worked closely with Ausmus in Triple-A.
"His biggest thing about that was he didn't mind me being sloppy [mechanically]," Decker said. "But he wanted me to know what I was doing, to make sure I was up for helping the pitchers and was always on the same page as them. That is what he preached."
This is why Decker is so sure that Ausmus will be a hit as a Major League manager despite never having managed at any level professionally.
"Watching him handle players, handle the game … he's not very high strung. He's laid back but he's also very understanding of his players needs," Decker said. "He was fun to play for."
Like Decker, Hedges -- regarded as the top defensive catcher in the Minor Leagues -- believes managing is the perfect fit for Ausmus, who still makes his home in Del Mar.
"He had a good idea how to control a game and run a pitching staff. I think for almost any organization, the pitching staff is going to win you games," Hedges said. "He has a really good baseball mind. I think the sky is the limit for him."