Dancy Has Another Winner in Smokies

SEVIERVILLE - The 2010 season marked the beginning of the Bill Dancy era for the Tennessee Smokies. Throughout his managerial career, Dancy has never failed to do one important thing: win. He has accumulated over 1,500 wins in his 21-plus seasons as a minor league manager and led three of his teams to championships. This is his first season in a managerial position since 1999.

With the success Dancy has had in his career as a minor league manager and coach, his hire was a slam-dunk choice, said Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita.

"Experience, experience, experience," Fleita said of what made Dancy an attractive hire over the off-season. "He served 35 years with the Phillies and has probably forgotten more than most in this business will ever know."

Whatever the formula for winning is, it seems Dancy has figured it out.

He has an immense amount of knowledge for the game and no matter what team he is in control of, he has been able to get the most out of his players. Dancy inherited a talented group of Cubs prospects on paper this season, but could he get that talent to translate to success on the field? That question was answered right away as Tennessee got off to a 15-3 start, the best in all of minor league baseball.

The Smokies currently hold a modest 3.5-game lead over West Tennessee in the Southern League North Division.

"With the number of veteran guys we have on the team this year, we felt like we had the opportunity to have a strong season. Together, we're a team on a mission, and it takes each guy pushing himself every game to make that mission successful," Dancy said.

Veteran players such as catcher Robinson Chirinos and first baseman Blake Lalli stepped up to fill leadership roles on the team this season, setting an example for the younger players, and the outcome has been a club playing as one.

Dancy's ability to keep the team playing with intensity and desire is derived from his approach to the game during his days as a player in the Phillies farm system.

"I don't try to approach my team with a specific coaching style or philosophy. If anything, it's more of a state of mind I want each player to have," Dancy said. "Playing sound and aggressive baseball is what I want to see when they step onto the field, but most importantly they should be having fun. As soon as they hit the field, I want them to feel like they are on stage performing."

Although there have been changes in the game over the years, Dancy's approach has remained constant. He believes that having fun is a crucial aspect in the development of his players. Development leads to more opportunity and ultimately increases the chances for a player to make it to the next level of their career.

When he sees one of his players called up to the majors and having success at the big league level, he takes pride in the fact that he took part in their grooming -- but without taking all the credit.

"It is a rewarding feeling seeing a player do well at the next level, but I do not view it as something I did as an individual," the manager said.

"When a player does well, it is rewarding for our whole organization because we are all involved. We're like a family, and whenever a member of that family does what it takes to achieve that accomplishment, we all feel rewarded knowing we had a small part in helping him get there."

The organization has already sent shortstop Starlin Castro to Chicago this year, and in his first big league game, he set a major-league record with six RBI. The next likely call-up is pitcher Andrew Cashner, who has already found his way to Class AAA Iowa after starting the season at Tennessee.

"Andrew, No. 1, he's a good power pitcher, he's very fluid on the mound, and he'll go anywhere from 92 (mph and up) on his fastball. When he needs that little extra, he can reach back and get it," Dancy said of Cashner, who was 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA in six starts for Tennessee. "He's come up with a good breaking ball and just needs a little better touch with his changeup. From talking to a lot of the guys who were here last year, he's matured a lot."

The season has started off just as the Smokies had hoped for, and each win brings them one step closer to clinching the first-half division title and a berth in the Southern League playoffs.

Tennessee's players have bought into what Dancy preaches.

"I've absolutely loved playing for Bill Dancy. He's a great manager and just his overall attitude day in and day out toward the game and toward the team goes into a lot of the reason why I love being back here in Double-A – because I love Bill Dancy," said outfielder Ty Wright, who leads the Cubs system with eight home runs and 42 RBI in 48 games.

"I feel like he's just handled every situation and as a player, one on one with him, he's been great. I could go on and on with him, but I really have enjoyed playing for him and am really looking forward to being with him and getting into the playoffs."

Guarantees are not normally a luxury involved with baseball, but Dancy seems to be an exception to the rule. Wherever he is, success and winning aren't far behind.

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