Brundage a Prospect in His Own Right

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Dave Brundage has seen his share of Mariners prospects pass through the Alamo City: Chris Snelling, Felix Hernandez and now Yuniesky Betancourt. After almost five full seasons as the Missions' manager, Brundage says he is thinking about moving up himself.

"You always think about (being promoted). Everyone looks to move up in life, whether it's in baseball or something else," Brundage said. "Until you reach your pinnacle, it's something you dream about every day."

"Brundy," as the Portland, Ore. resident is known around the clubhouse, has put together quite the managerial resume since debuting as a coach/skipper with Calgary in 1993.

"I love being around baseball, and certainly enjoy learning every day," Brundage said. "The last few years of my career as a player and pitcher, I realized I wanted to make coaching or managing a career; I wanted to understand and learn more about the game."

The list of accomplishments includes back-to-back Texas League championships with San Antonio beginning in 2002, and a Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year award for his work with the 2003 club.

Brundage is at it again this season, after a disappointing 2004 campaign, leading his club to a 31-26 record, just one game behind first-place Midland in the race for a playoff spot.

This year's job is especially remarkable considering the number of departures Brundage had dealt with: the best defensive player in the league (Betancourt), the staff ace (Bobby Livingston), the starting catcher (Rene Rivera), the top middle reliever (Jeff Harris) and top two closers (Sean Green and Emiliano Fruto).

Brundage started his career as a position player within the Phillies' organization, but spent seven years in the M's farm system, where he made the switch to pitcher.

"Being a pitcher probably helps me more now as a manager," Brundage said. "That's why catchers often times make good mangers. They understand both aspects."

Brundage is able to get the best from his players by using an even-keeled approach to managing. You never see him waver, taking each loss with a grain of salt. Brundage chooses to look forward to the next game at hand, rather than the latest one-run heartbreaker.

"I love to teach aggressive baseball," said Brundage. "You can take something from it, whether you fail or succeed. It can only help you in the long run. One of the biggest things I pride myself on is that I used to be a player and pitcher. It's something you don't ever want to forget as a manager."

Such an attitude allows Brundage to easily garner the admiration and respect of his players, who trust the manager to stay the course through the good and bad times.

"Everything you hear about the guy is true," said outfielder Jon Nelson. "He's a level-headed guy, and he doesn't get too high or too low."

Watching the team before the game, one gets the distinct impression the players are at ease around their easy-going skipper. Brundage throws his own batting practice rounds, and routinely plays catch with his players.

"I don't think the relationship is any less businesslike (in the minors)," Brundage said. "But you're going to develop a relationship with each and every player, whether it's good or bad. You're with them so many hours out of the day; you're going to get close to them."

On the verge of a fifth playoff appearance in as many years, it is obvious Brundage knows a little bit about managing, and should be in line for a promotion next year. For the past few seasons, however, people within the organization have been saying he's in his "last year" with San Antonio.

"If he comes back next year, I will be shocked," said Missions radio voice Roy Acuff. "(Seattle's) got to find a place for him. The man's earned his shot."

Before joining the Missions, Brundage worked as a hitting coach in Tacoma from 1998 to 2000, and last year spent the month of September traveling with the Mariners. The father of three said he would jump at the chance to do so again.

"You take nothing for granted, and that was one of the best experiences in my life," Brundage said of traveling with the big league club. "You certainly have wishful thinking, and that goes back to having goals and high aspirations. Making it to the big leagues is everyone's goal. I didn't make it as a player or pitcher, but I just tried to learn as much as a I could when I was there (last year)."

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