Sandberg Ready to Manage Double-A

SEVIERVILLE – A week ago Tuesday, Ryne Sandberg was introduced to local media as the first Hall of Fame manager in Southern League history. After two seasons as manager of the Class-A Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League, Sandberg was announced in December as manager for the Class AA Tennessee Smokies for the 2009 season.

Sandberg guided Peoria to a 60-78-1 mark in 2008. In his two seasons as manager with the club, he compiled a record of 131-146-1.

A transcript of his press conference with reporters follows.

OPENING REMARKS: "Thank you. (Applause) Well, it's a pleasure to be here. I mean, talk about great days. What's going on in this country today in Washington, this is totally a lower-scale than that, but kind of what I take from what's going on, I feel inspired by what's going on. There are opportunities out there and there is hope, and for me and what I'm trying to do and the Cubs allowing me to spend two years in Peoria managing and then get bumped up to Double-A, I'm looking at this as a great opportunity. That's the message I'll want to get across to the players. Baseball and being a professional baseball player, I think, first of all, is a privilege. Players aren't owed anything. I think players owe the game to go out and take advantage of this situation and this opportunity and make the most out of it.

"With the career that I had and the opportunities that I had and the fulfillment and just making a career of professional baseball and hopefully getting these guys to the major league level is what I like to stress to the young players because if they happen to make it to the major leagues, there's nothing more fun or gratifying than that. So I'll be on the guys constantly about that, making sure they have good work habits, helping them with pregame rituals or routines that will help them along the way, and I think that's what my job is.

"I'll be totally focused on the players and what's best for them as individuals, and also what we have to do as a team. Because, really, at the end of the day, there's nothing more fun than meeting at the center of the diamond and shaking hands after a win. That's what I've enjoyed up to this point. I've had two wonderful years in Peoria. Margaret and myself like to get out in the community, we like to do things, we like to meet people, we like to meet people at the ballpark on a daily basis, so that's what I look forward here at Tennessee. Just to be honest with you, I think this is my first time in Tennessee. (Laughter). I don't know why that is, but I think that's a fact. All the traveling that we've done throughout baseball and the minor leagues and everything, this is my first time in Tennessee. I'm really looking forward to that. I've heard nothing but very good things from players that have come through this league, players that have played here, coaches that have coached here. So I'm really excited about this opportunity and I'm very happy to be here and I look forward to making the most of the opportunity.

"I've been very impressed with everything here. I mean, first class facility, lot of fun, and I just encourage all the fans to come out, which I know that they do come out, support the team, and we'll have a lot of fun this summer. … All the players will report to Mesa, Arizona, in about four weeks, something like that, and those players will be asked to show what they can do, and they'll need to make a good showing to make this club. Two years ago in '07, I had a good group come through Peoria. We won the second half and it's kind of funny; I saw some of the guys at the Cubs Caravan and I mentioned to them that, ‘Hey, I'm catching up with you.' (Laughter) Kind of ironic, but hey, we're all in the minor leagues together here and the object is to move up, so I was kidding with them. I hope to see a lot of those guys there.

"What's very cool about Double-A, when you think about it, there's two rookie ball teams and three ‘A' ball teams for the Cubs, so there's 25 players times five teams and they all work their way to one Double-A team. So this is the cream of the crop for the Cubs. Really that's what Double-A is all about; is having the best prospects and they play Double-A. Triple-A nowadays is a little bit more of a holding area for guys, six-year free agents, guys that are anywhere from 36 years old to 24 years old. They kind of go up and down, bounce up and down with the major league club. But as far as the best talent in the organization, Double-A is the place to be.

"When I think back to my playing career, I was thrown out of one game in 16 seasons with the Cubs. Well, that first year with Peoria, I was thrown out of five games. (Laughter) And last year I was thrown out of eight. (Laughter) And I was suspended twice. (Laughter). So I've learned some things, but I don't want to be suspended; throwing out is all right but being suspended is a whole other thing. I didn't realize you couldn't bump the umpire, can you believe that. (Laughter). I'm learning some things. I stick up for my players. I want them to play with enthusiasm, play to win, play to move their way up the ladder, and who knows, from this group coming in, it's not a farce for guys to go from Double-A up to the big league club and actually help the major league club that year. That's the kind of talent that we're going to have here, so that's going to be my goal for this year; to work a little bit closer to the major league club and maybe we can get a couple of guys up there to help them out.

"I'm a guy that stresses work ethic, playing the game the right way, having respect on the field, but also playing to win on a daily basis. With all that in mind, I'll keep the guys in order and let them know what they have to do to get to that goal that they want to be."

REPORTER: Do you feel like the (time) between now and when Lou retires, do you think you might be able to slide into that role? When he retires, do you think you might be able to take over the Cubs one day?

SANDBERG: I'd love to if you have any pull up there. (Laughter) I'd love to slide right in there. You know what, I learned a long time ago that some of those things are out of your control, as it was as a player. For me, I'm trying to focus on the right things and that's the players. I have a job to do as the manager, but ultimately I'm out there to help the players and that's kind of the way I go about business. If Lou Piniella was 45 years old and he had a 10-year contract, we might have to do some talking there, but things are looking pretty good right now from where they stand. (Laughter) You know what, I'm just trying to be in the right position, learn as much as I can at what I'm trying to do and hopefully be a candidate for that some day. That would be my dream, sure.

REPORTER: You said you didn't know you couldn't bump an umpire?

SANDBERG: Yeah, I had no idea. In that first year, I bumped him … (Laughter) He didn't mention it. (Laughter) He did after the fact and after I had to sit out three games. ‘Hey, you can't bump the umpire.' I said, ‘Wow, you know I never did that as a player. I didn't know that.'… I'm looking forward to the league and looking forward to coming out to the ballpark every day and seeing everybody. Thank you. (Applause)

Northsiders Report Top Stories