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Black has enjoyed his opportunities in baseball

Former Padres skipper now working as a special assistant with the Angels
MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bud Black is back at Tempe Diablo Stadium as a special assistant with the Angels, who have him in uniform this spring helping manager Mike Scioscia get the team ready for the start of the season.

"There are a lot of memories here," Black said. "This was where I came to my first big league Spring Training, with the Mariners. One day, I was throwing in an intrasquad game and my manager, Rene Lachemann, was catching me. Two days later, I was traded to Kansas City."

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bud Black is back at Tempe Diablo Stadium as a special assistant with the Angels, who have him in uniform this spring helping manager Mike Scioscia get the team ready for the start of the season.

"There are a lot of memories here," Black said. "This was where I came to my first big league Spring Training, with the Mariners. One day, I was throwing in an intrasquad game and my manager, Rene Lachemann, was catching me. Two days later, I was traded to Kansas City."

But then there are more than a couple of baseball memories for Black. As a 17th-round Draft choice of the Mariners in 1979, his senior year at San Diego State, Black wasn't sure he could make it in pro ball. But he figured he might as well give it a try.

Black made the most of his opportunity. Thirty-seven years later, he is still making his living in Major League Baseball.

Black played 15 seasons in the Majors, including being a member of the World Series champion Royals' rotation in 1985. He was pitching coach for the Angels for seven years, including the 2002 season when the Halos won the franchise's only Fall Classic. Black managed the Padres for eight-plus campaigns, before being dismissed in the midst of last season -- after five times receiving votes for the National League Manager of the Year Award, including winning the honor in '10.

When Black retired as a player, he initially was a special assistant with the Cleveland Indians.

In this week's Q&A, Black reflects on the road he has followed in baseball.

Video: Angels name Bud Black as special assistant to GM

MLB.com: Is it hard to believe you have never had a job in your adult life outside of baseball?

Black: You mean being a 17th-round [draftee as a college senior]? I had been drafted a couple times earlier, but I was an undersized pitcher out of the Pacific Northwest. You grow up dreaming about being a Major League pitcher, but the harshest reality is it is not really something to pin your hopes on. But I was drafted and signed -- and when I got into pro ball, I sized up the competition and fairly early on I sensed there might be a chance. I got bigger and stronger, and my stuff was improving. I was, in the truest sense, a late bloomer.

MLB.com: A late bloomer, maybe, but you were in the big leagues by the end of your second full season in pro ball.

Black: In 1981, out of Spring Training, I was ticketed to go to low [Class] A Wausau in the Midwest League. I had a discussion with [Mariners farm director] Hal Keller and worked my way into going to Double-A [Lynn] to start the year. And by the end of the season, I was in Seattle. It taught me that once you are in an organization, you are on the radar -- no matter when you were drafted.

MLB.com: There was some emotion when the Mariners traded you to the Royals the following spring, but no complaints after you got there?

Black: I had grown up in the Pacific Northwest. The Mariners were my team. I didn't know things were different anywhere else. Turned out [the trade] was very important for me. I was a young player who had a chance to play with a great group of veteran players. Players like George [Brett], Hal [McRae], Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff, Dan Quisenberry, Vida [Blue] and [Larry] Gura. It was a tremendous learning experience.

MLB.com: And manager Dick Howser?

Black: From a managerial perspective, how he managed, ran the team, [cultivated] relationships with players, was very influential. He was patient and had great conviction in his players. He believed in them. Early in my time in Kansas City, there were some rough spots. He could have easily moved me to the bullpen, but he showed faith in me. He [said], "If you feel strongly about a player, don't let those feelings waver."

MLB.com: Safe to assume he impacted your managerial attitude?

Black: Sure. He was a bright man. He had great self-assurance. He felt a manager had to have strong convictions and confidence in what he did.

MLB.com: How tough was it to deal with being let go by the Padres in the middle of last season?

Black: It's never easy. You want to fulfill the challenge to helping the organization reach the ultimate goal of a World [Series] championship. We had some good seasons, but we didn't get where we wanted to be. You become conditioned for that day when you first sign your contract. It's going to happen at some point to most managers. In San Diego, it was probably good for both of us. My only regret was we didn't have a better season last year.

Video: MLB Now on the Padres relieving Bud Black as manager

MLB.com: That first year, 2007, came down to a 163rd game, winner-take-all for the NL Wild Card against the Rockies at Coors Field, and the Rockies coming up with three runs in the bottom of the 13th for a 9-8 victory. Did that sting?

Black: There are games [like these] over your career as a player, coach and manager. There are good ones and bad ones. That game stays with you. It was a great game. I don't think it gets enough credit for being such a great game. It was high scoring. It went extra innings. There were four lead changes. And the magnitude of that game, a postseason invitation. The irony was the game [the Padres] lost at Milwaukee two days earlier. Tony Gwynn, Jr., pinch-hitting for the Brewers, gets a two-out, two-strike hit off Trevor Hoffman [to send the game to extra innings before we lost]. We win that game and we clinch [a spot in the postseason].

MLB.com: Are you anxious to get another chance to manage?

Black: I don't know if anxious is the right word. If the opportunity comes up, I think it is something that all of us who have managed would relish.

MLB.com: There was talk in the offseason about you and the managerial job in Washington. What happened?

Black: (smiles)

MLB.com: When you initially retired as a player, there were opportunities to move into a front office -- with the feeling you could be a successful general manager. How serious did you consider that route?

Black: When I first retired, I worked in the front office [in] Cleveland with John Hart, Dan O'Dowd and Mark Shapiro. It was a great education. What I learned from those three guys, to this day, influences me. After the 1999 season, I felt a desire to get back on the field -- and I was encouraged, especially by those three guys, to get back on the field. They felt the front-office opportunity would be there, but my value was dealing with players.

MLB.com: You ever wonder where you might be if you pursued the front-office opportunity?

Black: No. I know I made the right choice. I have been given great opportunities to be a part of this game, and have enjoyed them.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy.

 

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