CEDAR RAPIDS — Toby Gardenhire has fallen behind, and his baseball season hasn’t even begun, yet.
The first-year Cedar Rapids Kernels Manager trails his father, Ron, in number of 2018 ejections. Ron Gardenhire was the longtime skipper of the Minnesota Twins and is in his first season with the Detroit Tigers.
He was tossed on opening day last week after a video review of a play at the plate that would have won the game for his team was reversed.
Gardy always has been known as a fiery guy on the field. It remains to be seen what is his son’s managerial temperament.
Toby Gardenhire was asked if perhaps he had some sort of friendly wager going with his pop this season on who would have the most ejections.
“I don’t know about that,” he said, with a smile. “I mean, he’s already ahead of me, 1-0.”
This is Toby Gardenhire’s first experience as a professional manager, but the 35-year-old is hardly a baseball novice.
There are his familial ties, of course. Then there are the seven minor-league seasons he played as an infielder in the Twins system.
Gardenhire spent five years as head coach at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Stout before deciding to get back into pro ball as hitting coach last season for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins. Now here he is calling all of the shots.
“The most exciting thing, I think, is I’ve got my own bathroom, my own office. I’ve got a chair I can sit in,” he joked. “I’ve been around baseball my whole life. I love this stuff. So getting an opportunity like this is just awesome for me. I’m looking forward to being out there. I love managing baseball games, done it a few times. I’m really looking forward to this year.”
The Kernels open the Midwest League season Thursday night at Quad Cities, with the home opener at 5:05 Saturday afternoon against the River Bandits. They are a prospect-laden club, with eight players included on Baseball America’s list of top 30 minor-league prospects in the Twins system.
That includes a pair of first-round picks in shortstop Royce Lewis (first overall last year) and outfielder Alex Kiriloff (15th overall in 2016). It’s a young group position-player wise, with an 18-year-old (Lewis) and two 19-year-olds (outfielder Akil Baddoo and second baseman Jose Miranda).
“To me, that’s the fun of it,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the beauty of A-ball. You get guys who are 19, 20 years old, and you kind of get to show them the way. They learn as they go. So I’m sure early, we’re going to see some things that you’ll go ‘Whoa.’ But you’re also going to see some things as you go where you’re like ‘Whoa,’ in a good way. It’s going to be a lot of fun. The young guys are exciting, and we’ll have some excitement.”
Gardenhire was asked if he’ll have a particular managerial style. Strategically, A-ball managers are limited because certain guys need to get a certain number of at-bats each week.
It’s about individual player development more than it is wins and losses. And if he ever needs any advice, dad is just a phone call away.
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“It was cool being a kid, and my dad being a manager, a baseball guy,” Gardenhire said. “That meant I grew up around the game of baseball. I took it as a learning experience. I got to meet a lot of people, do a lot of really cool things, experience a lot of things not many people get to experience.
“I try to use all of those experiences where I’m at now. It’s really nice that a guy who has been there and done that, I can always call and ask questions. He managed his way through the minor leagues, too, so I ask him questions about how he did things. He asks me about things that I’m doing now, too. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a baseball family, and we have a lot of fun with it.” l Comments: (319) 398-8259; firstname.lastname@example.org