Always a winner

Photo Credit: David Scarnato Sr.
Ryne Sandberg, former Phillies and Cubs Hall of Fame Second-Baseman and current Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager, sat down with the Wood Word for an interview

Dave Scarnato
Sports Co-Editor

Ryne Sandberg may possibly go down as one of the best second basemen of all time.

In a career that spanned sixteen years with the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, “Ryno” was a ten-time All Star, making the mid-summer classic annually from 1984-93, as well as a perennial Gold Glove Award winner from 1983-91. Sandberg also won the Silver Slugger Award seven times, along with taking home the 1984 National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. In 1990, Sandberg won the Home Run Derby, the same year he hit forty home runs, a career best. His number “23” is retired and flies on a flagpole in centerfield of the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs.

Those accolades were recognized in 2005, earning Sandberg the right to be en- shrined in Cooperstown with the rest of baseball’s immortals. That year, Sandberg and Wade Boggs were voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the Class of 2005.

In an interview with The Wood Word, Sandberg reminisced about the day he got the call of his dreams and what it is like to be part of one of the most elite clubs in professional sports.

“Rumors were that I was going to get the call,” Sandberg said. “I was in Arizona and they told me to sit by the phone and wait. To actually hear that you are getting inducted on the other end of the phone is pretty unbelievable. I’ve been able to make it to Cooperstown every year for the ceremony and each year it gets better and better. There is a strong bond among the Hall of Famers, great friendships. It is a tremendous club and an unbelievable honor to be a part of.”

Being enshrined must have given Sandberg the itch to return to the game that was so great to him.

In 2006, Sandberg returned to the baseball scene. This time, he became the teacher instead of the student.

Just like his playing career, Sandberg’s managerial career has been nothing but successful. After a season as a coach in Spring Training for the Chicago Cubs, Ryno became the manager of the Cubs class A affiliate, Peoria Chiefs. In two seasons, success got him promoted to the AA Tennessee Smokies. The following year, he was named manager of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. With Iowa; he won Manager of the Year in the Pacific League for the 2010 season.

Some may believe that the manager’s success stems from his Hall of Fame status, but Sandberg believes otherwise.

“I think the Hall of Fame status goes to some extent,” Sandberg stated. “But I think it’s what I do on a daily basis which backs it up. I don’t try to hang my hat on the Hall of Fame status, but I take pride in what I do, by coming to the ballpark prepared, ready to work with the players. I think they see that I’m behind them.”

His hard work almost got him a promotion to the big leagues.

In 2010, Cubs manager Lou Piniella retired during the middle of the season. Reports were that Piniella heavily suggested that Sandberg be his replacement. The Cubs took a different route, passing the managerial baton to Mike Quade.

After the 2010 season, Sandberg left the Cubs organization to take a managerial position with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, Sandberg’s first team during his playing days. In his first season with Lehigh Valley, Sandberg led the IronPigs to a wild card playoff berth, going 80-64 in the International League.

It is no doubt that Ryno is one of the top managerial prospects in all of baseball, just like in his playing days where he was one of the best players in the game. With continued success, there is no doubt that Sandberg would most likely be a top candidate to succeed current Phillies manager Charlie Manuel when the time comes.

Obviously, this is Triple-A baseball, where getting that call to the show is every pro ball player’s dream. Sandberg’s main goal other than winning is getting every one of his players a taste of MLB experience.

“I often tell them that my number one goal is to get each and every one of them to the big leagues,” he said. “I want them all to experience what I experienced.”

When all is said and done whether any of Sandberg’s players make it to the big leagues, they still have had an opportunity of a lifetime, playing for a Hall of Famer.