Former Tennessee Smokies manager and Chicago Cub Ryne Sandberg will make his second debut with the Philadelphia Phillies this April after the club announced in early October that Sandberg would serve as the organization’s third-base coach and infield instructor.
The move came a day after the Phillies lost to the Washington Nationals by a score of 5-1, capping off a 2012 season that saw the club finish 81-81 overall and 17 games behind Washington in the N.L. East standings.
“When the train got back from Washington D.C. after that last game of the year, I was told that (manager) Charlie (Manuel) and (general manager) Ruben (Amaro) wanted to meet with me in Charlie’s office,” Sandberg told the Philadelphia Inquirer in October. “Charlie told me he wanted me on his staff next year and Ruben confirmed it. It was a great feeling because I had been working to get back to the major leagues.”
Sandberg managed four seasons in the Cubs’ organization, including a one-year stint as the Smokies manager in 2009. Viewed by fans as one of the more popular Smokies managers in recent memory, Sandberg led the club to a 71-69 record. The team ultimately fell to the Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League Championship after winning only one game during the series.
Sandberg returned to the Phillies organization in 2011 after the Cubs promoted then-interim manager Mike Quade to replace the retired Lou Piniella at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Sandberg has spent the past two seasons as manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A-affiliate, and was passed over by the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason when they chose Mike Matheny to replace Tony LaRussa as manager.
“I think it was time well spent,” Sandberg said regarding his time as a minor league manager. “Six years could seem like a long time, but now I look back and it doesn’t seem long at all. I just know I learned a lot each and every year.”
Some in the baseball community believe the Phillies’ promotion of Sandberg to the major league level means he will become the heir apparent to current Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Manuel is entering the final season of his contract, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. says no decision has been made regarding Sandberg of Manuel’s contract.
“The fact of the matter is he’s not the heir apparent,” Amaro said at a press conference in October. “Ryne Sandberg is part of this coaching staff and we’re happy to have him. I think Ryne is going to get an opportunity to be a major league manager at some point, whether it’s with the Phillies or with another club, we don’t know.”
Manuel said that he is happy with his current contract and will sit down with the club at the end of the season to determine where both sides are at and what direction needs to be taken. As for his relationship with Sandberg, Manuel said he likes “everything about him.”
“I’m looking forward to working with him. In the dugout, he’ll be our defensive guy. He’ll work with our infielders and he’ll move the defense. His responsibility will be a lot more than coaching third base,” said Manuel.
Sandberg began his major league career with the Phillies in 1981 but was then traded to the Cubs as part of a trade that sent shortstop Larry Bowa to Chicago in exchange for shortstop Ivan DeJesus.
Sandberg was voted the 1984 NL MVP, made 10 All-Star appearances and was inducted into Cooperstown in 2005.
Nick Roark is a Broadcast & Media Associate. Follow him on Twitter @NickRoark4.