(Editor’s Note – We’ll have some content from Wednesday’s Phillies Winter Banquet held at Woodlake Country Club that will be rolled out here over the next few days. We’ll start with our chat with Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.)
Ryne Sandberg was playing winter ball in Venezuela when he found out he was leaving the Phillies. He had been traded to the Cubs with Larry Bowa in exchange for Ivan DeJesus following the 1981 season.
“At the time I was bit surprised because Larry Bowa was a shortstop and I was a shortstop at the time,” he said at the annual Phillies Winter Banquet at Woodlake Country Club. “But I was going to a place where I was going to get to play a lot at 22. I went to spring training and started my major league career.”
It’s all come full circle for Sandberg in the last 23 years. His boss now of course is Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. His manager in winter ball when he found out he was traded? Ruben Amaro, Sr.
Sandberg, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 after a stellar 17-year career, will lead the Phillies at spring training for the first time starting next month. It’s the first time he’ll be a big league manager at spring training (after serving as interim manager for the Phillies over the last six weeks of last season), but it’s something he’s prepared for since his retirement.
“The smartest thing I did was go to spring training with the Cubs to serve as a guest instructor, which I did for nine years,” he said. In 2007, he started out as manager for the Cubs Midwest League affiliate in Peoria and was with the Cubs for four years before joining the Phillies again with Lehigh Valley in 2011.
“I was able to learn my style of managing while actually managing games,” he noted. “Then last year at the big league level as the third base coach and as the interim manager I was able to give the guys a feel of what I’m all about. I think being with these guys will go a long way entering the season.”
He’ll also make a point to make the younger players on the team feel as comfortable with the big league environment as he can.
“Larry Bowa [who will serve as Sandberg’s bench coach] helped me in that route both on the field and off the field,” Sandberg said. “We’d go to lunch and he made me feel I belonged. ‘I’m talking to Larry Bowa about who’s pitching today.’ Then once you’re comfortable, your natural tools will take over.”
He had to leave the Phillies to get his shot as a big league player, but now he’s come back to the Phillies to get his shot at managing, and Ryne Sandberg could not be more excited.
One other thing Sandberg talked about that we wanted to mention here was the different chances players have to break into the game now compared to back then. Sandberg:
Triple-A is now different. It’s more 6 year free agents and a handful of prospects. Now, if you have a prospect at Double-A, he can make the jump straight to the big leagues. Then, you had to graduate Triple-A to get to the big leagues. Back then, you had to have a good Triple-A season and go to spring training and maybe break in. I think the movement of players now allows the players to go from Double-A to the big leagues but back then you had guys that played together for 10 years.