SAN DIEGO -- It's not his capacity to handle a double-switch, command a clubhouse or simply his experience as a player, coach and now manager that make Bud Black the best person to manage the Padres, second baseman David Eckstein said Sunday.

"I think the biggest thing for me," Eckstein said, "is that he never shows any panic."

Don't get the wrong idea, the Padres like Black for much more than his calmness, or they wouldn't be rewarding him with a substantial contract extension.

The Padres announced on Monday that they've agreed to a three-year deal through 2013 with Black with club options for 2014 and 2015.

"This news comes at a time when the team is playing well, but my faith in Bud goes far beyond wins and losses," said GM Jed Hoyer. "He and his staff are exceptionally well prepared, he embraces the challenge of teaching young players and, most importantly, the players compete for him every night."

Last August, the Padres extended Black's contract through 2010 with a club option for 2011. But Hoyer was hired in November, meaning Black would need to build a relationship with a new GM, and, of course, provide results on and off the field.

It's been a marriage that's certainly worked so far.

"It seemed as though the communication flowed easily right from the start," Black said. "When we started talking about the team, when we started talking about the players, when we started talking about baseball philosophy, the conversation was great. I felt good as we approached Spring Training, and then as things moved forward through spring and early parts of the season.

"[Jed] knowing the role of the manager [from] his experience back in Boston, I think, put our relationship in a perspective that I think moved quickly."

Black, in his fourth season, has guided the Padres to first place in the National League West, a perch they've held to themselves for all but three days since April 20.

Pegged by many to finish last in the division, the Padres have exceeded expectations with a team built on run prevention -- pitching and defense. They had eight walk-off victories in the first half, a testament to their pitching and knack for getting clutch hits.

The Padres take a 54-37 record -- the best record in the National League -- into Tuesday's game in Atlanta.

The Padres certainly enjoy playing for Black, and not just those who are short on Major League service time. Eckstein was in Anaheim when Black was the pitching coach there, and has been with the Padres since the start of the 2009 season.

"With Buddy, he just doesn't overreact," Eckstein said. "He's always encouraging guys. Players aren't fearful of making mistakes. That's been huge for this club.

"That's huge, especially in the situation we've been in here with so many young guys. He believes in those guys. There are some managers who don't tolerate rookie mistakes."

Third baseman Chase Headley is in his third Major League season and is someone who has gone through peaks and valleys. He said he appreciates Black's honesty and willingness to stick with players, even when they're slumping.

"He's a tremendous players' manager. You feel like he always has your back," Headley said. "You always feel like he's being open and honest with you and will explain to you why he's making a move or why you're not playing. He welcomes that. Players respect that a lot."

Black said his extensive experience as a player and coach in the Majors has helped him lay the foundation for his managing style, but that the way he handles his players simply stems from his natural personality.

"Anybody in this position, or in any leadership position, has to be themselves," Black said. "I don't think that you can be anything other than that. I've learned a lot from guys that I've played for and guys that I've worked under that have sort of set the standard for what I like to do in the clubhouse and on the field."

In three-plus seasons under Black, the Padres are 281-297.

Black was hired as the manager of the Padres in November 2006, after spending seven seasons as the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Padres came within one victory of making the playoffs in 2007, Black's first season as manager.

As a left-handed starter, Black went 121-116 in 15 big league seasons with five teams.