Jay Paris: Shields has had a big-time presence at La Costa Canyon

Big Game James doesn’t big time the teenagers and that’s always a plus.

“Not at all,” La Costa Canyon baseball coach Justin Machado said. “That isn’t in his repertoire. He is a class act.”

How would Machado know?

For the past three offseasons James Shields, the newest Padres pitcher, has trained with the Mavericks.

“We have a few guys that come out and stretch and throw,” Machado said. “Then once they get closer to spring training, they start throwing the bullpens and pushing the needle.’’

Over the years an impressive collection of local major-leaguers beat a path to Machado’s diamond: Stephen Strasburgh, Brandon League, Clay Hensley, Heath Bell, Justin Germano and Kevin Correia.

“I could manage those guys and win some games,’’ said Machado, who seldom scrambles for victories regardless of his personnel.

But it’s Shields that Padres fans are ecstatic about, the latest piece in the team’s amazing offseason run.

Machado said the Padres are getting not only a workhorse, but a clubhouse gem.

“He’s probably one of the greatest guys I have ever met,’’ said Machado, and he’s not prone to blow smoke. “He is just so nice and down to earth.

“You can sit down with him and talk baseball, surfing, golf…he is just always having as great of a time as anyone.’’

But those hours on the field aren’t for idle chitchat as Machado’s players mimic the pros. Everyone is there to get their work in, regardless of what level they play.

“They don’t pay much attention to them and they leave them alone,’’ Machado said. “There’s been times when James, and the other guys talk to the kids, but for the most part they are going about their daily jobs and grinding through.

“My guys aren’t awestruck because we’ve been doing this for years. They don’t look at James and say, ‘Hey, there’s the guy that just signed for $75 million!’’’

Shields is the latest San Diego addition as the culture of Padres baseball has flipped after four straight seasons of flopping.

When Shields takes the mound on Opening Day, he’ll be throwing to a new catcher in Derek Norris and backed by an outfield of fresh faces, which include Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers.

With all those players trying to mesh, the key is coming together quickly. Machado said Shields will benefit the Padres in that way almost as much as him consuming 200-plus innings.

Shields’ reputation in Tampa Bay and Kansas City, his previous two stops, was that he formed a bond with teammates in their quest of winning a championship.

“I can see that,’’ Machado said, and if he can decipher teenagers, Shields must be a snap. “You can just tell how he would be good in the clubhouse.

“It’s because you can tell how much he loves his craft and how hard he works at it. That is going to rub off on others in the Padres’ organization.’’

It’s a franchise that’s made plenty of noise since December.

“Now we get to go to some good games,’’ Machado said.

Although tickets will be tougher to obtain, Machado has a pretty good connection.

“When James used to come through with his other teams,’’ Machado said, “ he would always reach out to see if I needed anything.’’

Shields found the Padres and they’ve become his second squad in these parts.

Machado had him first and is happy he can share Shields with Padres manager Bud Black.

“We are super excited,’’ Machado said.

Big time.

 

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports and at mighty1090.com

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