Brewers plotting duties for 'eye in sky' coach

Brewers plotting duties for 'eye in sky' coach

PHOENIX -- The Brewers are still discussing their plan for "eye in the sky" John Shelby, a seventh member of the coaching staff added for 2011 to coach the outfielders and aid in defensive positioning.

The job is a throwback to the days of ballparks with sunken dugouts and crowned fields that made it difficult for coaches to see where their defenders were positioned. That's why Yankees owner George Steinbrenner decided in 1979 to install a recently retired Minor League pitcher named Doug Melvin to a post in the press box, where Melvin communicated with coach Yogi Berra via walkie-talkie.

Melvin is now general manager of the Brewers, and the idea to bring back an "eye in the sky" was born during interviews with his eventual pick as manager, Ron Roenicke, who served that role for the Dodgers in 1991 and '92.

"It's no different than the NFL, where a lot of the coordinators are up in the booth and they get a bird's-eye view of what's going on," Melvin said.

The difference is that Major League rules have changed since Melvin's days in the position and now bar the use of electronic communications equipment. So Shelby will either watch the game and record data from the press box or watch the game from the clubhouse video room and send communications to the dugout when necessary.

"It will probably be a combination of both," Melvin said. "I don't think we utilize the position enough anymore. We give outfielders cards that show them where they're supposed to be positioned, but someone with John Shelby's experience, it gives you a different viewpoint. Defense is important."

Roenicke used to relay signs from his post in the press box with then-Dodgers center fielder Brett Butler, who would waggle his glove if he wanted assistance from Roenicke about where to set up.

"For me, I want John to be more a scout, to watch the ballgame and watch our overall positioning," Roenicke said.

Shelby, 52, spent the last three seasons with Baltimore as first-base coach and outfield instructor and also held those positions with the Dodgers (1998-2005) and Pirates (2006-07). The former outfielder played 11 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Orioles, Dodgers and Tigers from 1981-91.