Q&A with Ryne Sandberg

NEW ORLEANS -- Hall of Fame second baseman and Iowa Cubs manager Ryne Sandberg met with the New Orleans media Monday and had this to say about his first season managing at Triple-A.

Q: How much of a balance is it between being a minor league coach in Triple-A and trying to get this team improved to help the major club? Is that something you've gotten used to?

A: Yeah, I've gotten used to that. This is somewhat development first and getting the guys prepared and ready if the big club needs somebody, so that's the main thing that it's all about. It's also about development throughout the organization and I think winning is part of that. If you develop winning at this level and have players play in winning situations and come up with the big hit or the big play or the big pitching performance for a win and a winning season, I think that plays hand in hand with the development side of it. I think there is some balance there, but I look at it two ways: as a group effort as a team and then I also pick it apart and look at each guy individually to see what they need to work on to really get them ready in case the phone rings for them.

Q: Talk about Thomas Diamond and his development and how he's come along. This was a kid that was really on the fast track to the majors when he came into the minors. He was playing so well and then had some injuries that set him back and has to kind of start all over again.

A: Yeah, Thomas has really come a long way. I saw him in the early spring when he was throwing and just getting his arm in shape, but he's done a fine job for us. He's been one of our better starting pitchers and his numbers show that. I think he's getting healthy, he's building up the arm once again, and he's probably not to his potential yet. I think he's got maybe just a little ways to go with what he can do with maybe his best fastball and everything. But right now he's pitching very well and he's been effective, so he's on the right track. He's a great guy to have around, a good guy that works hard and he's a guy that has a legitimate chance to get to the big leagues.

Q: Not that injuries are ever a good thing, but can injuries sometime be a good thing (in the sense that) kids sit back and think, "It's not going to be as easy as I thought it would be?"

A: Well, if you have an injury, I think you can put some things in perspective and work your way back and maybe get a little more hungry for it being away from it a little bit. I think each guy is different as far as that goes, but the main thing is having an opportunity like this. A guy like Thomas being in Triple-A right now, he puts two months together and who knows if he's the next guy that goes to Chicago?

Q: Your first year in Triple-A, has it changed any from the ranks that you've gone up managing?

A: It sure has. My first two years, 2007 and '08, being in Peoria, Illinois with A-ball guys just out of the draft and out of college, and getting them to look at it professionally and teach them the professional way of baseball ... because I think there is a difference between college baseball and professional baseball. Aluminum bats is one thing, but now being here at Triple-A after one year last year at Double-A, it kind of reminds me of what I was like when I was in Triple-A; a guy that felt like he was knocking at the door. These guys are looking for any little crumb to maybe make a big difference in what they do on the field. It's a good group, a talented group. It's a mixture of veteran guys with some young guys. All of them are right there. It's up to them to work hard and perform, and who knows who might get the call to Chicago?

Q: Maybe you're going through a similar process as far as jumping up levels?

A: I'm just taking what the Cubs give me and so far, so good as far as moving up the ladder. I enjoy helping out the organization in this capacity with the young guys, maybe future guys that will be there at Wrigley Field. So that feels good and still wearing a Cubs-affiliated uniform feels good. That all makes everything icing on the cake and better, along with learning the trade and gaining experience.

Q: Kids coming up obviously watched you play in your great career. How quick does it transition to, "All right, I'm the manager. Get over the fact of who I am. I'm here to teach you guys and help you guys improve?"

A: I don't know how many of these guys actually watched me play, but they probably pulled up some old videos on the internet, because the comment that I get for the most part is, ‘Hey Ryno, you were my parent's favorite player.' So I get a lot of that and I've been around a lot of these guys for three or four years now. We all work together in spring training. All the different levels do. I think I'm (just) one of the guys in the organization. That's how I look at it. I'm not sure how they feel, but that's how I look at it. I do enjoy coming out here every day. I like the hard work and the pre-game preparation and playing the game, and I like the guys to have fun. Of course winning some games is a bit part of having fun. All that works hand in hand and I'm enjoying what I'm doing.

Q: You saw guys that you played with in the minor leagues go on to play with you in the big leagues. How much does it mean to you to see guys that you've now coached go on to the big leagues – guys like Tyler Colvin?

A: Sure, that makes it all worthwhile and that's my ultimate goal doing what I'm doing now at this level. To see a guy advance up and make it, that's cool. I spent 16 years in the major leagues and I felt like that was a treat and a blessing. That was a great time and a great experience, so I wish that upon all of these players: to have that same experience at whatever level. If it's for four or five years or 10 years, whatever it might be. It's a lot of fun, so for me to be here and kind of help them gain that goal, it's really amazing to see it happen.

Q: What do you think of this team? They started 0-4 and have since played about .500 ball.

A: We have some veteran guys here and we sprinkled in some players that I had in Double-A last year. I think some of the younger players are making that adjustment to Triple-A. I do see a difference in the way that the game is played and the quality of play at this level compared to last year at Double-A. There are some adjustments to be made. I think we're only 23 games into the season, but the main thing is the guys continuing to work and improve as the season goes on. It's a long haul and a long season but then again Chicago could need a player within one day so that's the other side of the coin: having the guys ready for that.

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