From Pawtucket To Cooperstown

This is Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown and 50 of the 65 living Hall of Famers are expected to take part in this year’s festivities, including Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg.

After spending three days in Pawtucket this week, Sandberg missed Thursday’s game at McCoy Stadium to travel to Cooperstown.

“Just going there and being amongst the Hall of Fame members – that’s still a treat for me and that will never end,” Sandberg told me.  “To sit next to Willie Mays, or Mike Schmidt, or Sandy Koufax – the names go on and on.  I go there and take it all in.  The Hall of Fame does a very nice job of making it a casual setting where all of the guys get together for golf, dinner, and parties, so we all get to hang out.  Going back is always a treat.”

Sandberg was inducted in 2005 along with former PawSox and Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs.  Is the 10-time All-Star and 9-time Gold Glove Award winner still in awe when he’s around his childhood heroes?

“To some extent, but maybe a little bit less than seven years ago because I know them now and they’re great guys,” Sandberg said.  “I’ve become friends with a lot of them – my wife and Bob Gibson’s wife got very close from going to the Hall of Fame, so now we get together and go to dinner in the off-season and stuff like that.  I never thought that I would be going to dinner a few times a year with Bob Gibson – a guy that I wouldn’t have wanted to stand in there and try to hit off – but he’s a great guy and now we’re friends.  That’s really what comes from this and it’s a very unique club.”

This is the second time in a little more than a month that Sandberg has returned to Cooperstown.  On June 15th, Lehigh Valley had an off-day before beginning a series in Pawtucket, so on the bus ride north from Allentown, the team took a detour to the Hall of Fame.

“That was organized and orchestrated by the Phillies organization,” Sandberg said.  “They want to try to get each affiliate up there within the next four or five years.  They thought it was a great opportunity since I’m the manager at LehighValleythis year to start that off.  The travel wasn’t bad and I know that once the guys got there, they saw some great stuff.  We spent about 3 hours there, had lunch, and had a great off-day.  All in all, I thought it was terrific.  Some of the players had been there, but others that hadn’t must have thought that it was awesome.”

Sandberg’s Hall of Fame plaque mentions the “tireless preparation” that helped him become one of the best second baseman in major league history.  Now he’s working toward becoming a big league skipper, and plans to use this weekend to pick the brains of some of best managers ever.   

“When I got into managing in 2007, I found myself going to the Hall of Fame and sitting at the same table with Earl Weaver and Tommy Lasorda and Frank Robinson,” Sandberg said.  “It’s pretty cool to hang out with them and see if I can pick something up.  I hope to do more of the same because I’m always trying to learn something.  Any little crumb that I can pick up along the way that will continue to help me be a better baseball man.”

* * * * *

By the way, when the Lehigh Valley IronPigs made that bus ride to Cooperstown in June, they used a bus company that causes frequent confusion and occasional hysteria when it rolls into International League ball parks.

Bieber Tourways is based in Kutztown, PA and has nothing to do Justin Bieber (although I’m sure they would welcome his business).

* * * * *

In March, I told the story of how Bubba Bell – now with the Buffalo Bisons – became friends last winter with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky (you can read it here).

Bell gave private hitting lessons this past off-season to Gretzky’s son Trevor, who was recently selected in baseball’s amateur draft.

“He just got drafted in the 7th round by the Cubs,”Bell told me before Friday’s game against Pawtucket.  “He’s really close to signing.  He’s got some shoulder issues that he’s going to get taken care of so that he can start playing next year, but as far as I know, he’s about to sign and go to Arizona.  He’s going to let his dad handle his representation which I thought was the best idea in the world.  I’m excited for him to get his shoulder taken care of and see what happens.”

The Toronto Sun reports that Trevor has in fact signed with the Cubs.  According to the paper, the fact that Chicago has not announced the signing could possibly mean that Gretzky received more than the slotted bonus money.

* * * * *

Fighting For First – The Pawtucket Red Sox will look to move into a tie for first place in the I.L. North for the first time since April 22nd as they face the Buffalo Bisons in game two of a 4-game series at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field on Saturday night..  The PawSox won the opening game of the series 4-2 on Friday as Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-4 with a 2B, HR, and 3 RBI.  That victory coupled with Lehigh Valley’s 6-3 loss to Columbus, closed the gap between the 1st-place IronPigs and 2nd-place PawSox to one game.   The series in Buffalo continues tomorrow at 1:05 pm before concluding on Monday at 7:05 pm. Pawtucket then moves to Allentown,PA for a key 4-game series vs.LehighValley. Pawtucket returns home one week from tonight (Saturday, July 30) for an 8-game homestand that features four games vs.Louisville and four more vs. the Buffalo Bisons.

I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage on Saturday beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

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