Ryne Sandberg reached the pinnacle for a baseball player with his Hall of Fame induction in 2005.
Now he is enjoying his climb up the ladder in a different role – as a manager for the Iowa Cubs.
“I find myself still learning as I work my way up through the ranks in the minor leagues, and hopefully I’ll have a shot to do this at a Major League level,” Sandberg said.
His current position brought him to town over the weekend.
After eight straight road contests to open the season, the Nashville Sounds played their first four home games of 2010 against Sanderberg’s team. They won seven times on that road trip but just once in the four-game set with Iowa. The series concluded Monday with a 2-0 Sounds’ loss as they managed just two hits.
Sandberg became a fan favorite during 16 seasons at second base with the Chicago Cubs. Being with the same franchise as a manager makes the job “special”, but also gave him the right connections to get the ball rolling in his new career as a skipper.
“When I retired in 1997 I was able to kind of keep a foot in the door being a spring training instructor for the Cubs,” he said. “I got to work under two good managers, Don Baylor and Dusty Baker, and after doing that for eight years and getting my kids through college I showed interest in taking a position like this.
“The opportunity came in 2007 and I started off managing in A-ball in Peoria, Illinois.”
Sandberg’s rise through the Cubs organization as a manager has been steady. After two seasons in single-A, he spent 2009 in Knoxville managing the Cubs’ double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. He led them to a winning season and a place in the South League Championship series.
Though he is invested in winning, Sandberg understands his primary job in the minors is to help the Cubs of Chicago by developing talent.
“I want to help that organization out as much as possible,” he said. “In this position, that means my daily routine is to work with these players to get them ready for the phone call.”
That job is much easier for Sandberg because he spent so many years on the other side of the game as a player.
“I know what that’s like, what a terrific vocation that is, what a terrific way of life that is,” he said. “So it’s development first on my staff, winning is a close second. Winning is important on the minor league level to teach these players what it takes so their caliber of baseball is top notch when they do get to the major leagues.”
Sandberg seems diplomatic in the world of baseball in a non-playing role. In regards to the state and integrity of the game looking forward he is optimistic. He feels the tarnished steroid era is “taken care of with testing” and has no opinion on the proposed ban of tobacco in the big league, noting that “it’s all individual.”
Being a Cub has done more than just tie Sandberg to the organization he works for. He still yearns to fill a void left from his playing days by reaching baseball’s biggest stage.
“As a player I never had a chance to be in a World Series all those years with the Cubs,” he said. “I think that’s another thing that kind of keeps me going and striving. Maybe that’s something I can do in this capacity.”
Sandberg appears to be on the right track, but did not get a great effort from his team on Saturday. The Sounds rallied for 6 runs in the second inning and mopped the Cubs 7-1 for the win.