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Indians adviser Goryl honored for lifetime of work

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After six decades in professional baseball, Johnny Goryl still remembers the details of his performance in the games that earned him his first shot. With his arms crossed, Goryl smiled ever so slightly Wednesday as he reached back into his memory bank.

"I played both ends of the doubleheader," said Goryl, who has worked in the Indians organization for the past 31 seasons. "If I remember right, I went 3-for-5."

The Boston Braves scout assigned to watch him liked what he saw and Goryl's long career in baseball was set in motion. On Thursday, Goryl will attend a special banquet, during which he will be presented with Minor League Baseball's Mike Coolbaugh Award for outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field.

Goryl, 79, said he was extremely honored to receive such recognition.

"It means that over all the years, I probably did some things that were pretty good," Goryl said. "I'm very humbled by the fact that other people recognize that, especially with all the people that are in this game and in Minor League Baseball, that I was singled out this year for that type of recognition.

"It's very humbling, believe me. And it made me very emotional at the time I was told."

Goryl chuckled and joked that he did not appreciate how he was told, though.

"I thought I was going on a conference call to talk about some players," he said with a laugh. "The big thing about spending 62 years in this game is that it was a pretty good ride for me."

"Is," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti corrected. "It still is."

"I hope so," Goryl said. "As long as the Good Lord lets me keep coming back."

Goryl currently serves as an adviser to the Indians' player-development department regarding all departmental operations and philosophies. He began with the Tribe in 1982 and has spent time as a third-base coach, director of Minor League operations, special assistant of baseball operations, infield coach, defensive coordinator and player-personnel adviser.

"The perspective John provides is invaluable," Antonetti said.

Goryl began his career as an infielder with the Boston Braves in 1951 and played for 16 seasons with the Braves, Orioles, Cubs, Dodgers and Twins. He spent part of six seasons in the big leagues with Chicago (1957-59) and Minnesota (1962-64).

After his playing career ended, Goryl coached in the Twins organization from 1966-81, including two stints as Minnesota's manager in 1980 and '81.

"Johnny Goryl is a true baseball lifer and a most deserving recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Award," Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Conner stated when the award was announced in October. "He has dedicated more than six decades to our game, mentoring and coaching several generations of players and staff using his immense knowledge, experience, passion and selflessness.

"Johnny's career is emblematic of Mike's goals of continuing in the game after his playing days and having an impact on future generations of players."

Coolbaugh played in nearly 1,700 Minor League games, and 44 Major League games, before becoming a coach. He was 35 years old and coaching first base for the Rockies' Double-A Tulsa affiliate when he was killed after being struck in the neck by a line drive in a game at Arkansas on July 22, 2007.

"It means a lot to me, this award," Goryl said. "The award itself, for what it stands for and represents, I mean, come on. You don't realize you've been doing all them things. There are other people who recognize that, and I'm very thankful for this organization submitting my name."

He is also grateful for the people who gave him his opportunities along the way.

"There's a lot of people to thank," he said. "The one thing is I've got people I'm going to miss thanking, and I hope they understand, because there are so many people I have to thank."

Goryl singled out Roland Hemond, who worked for the Boston Braves in the 1950s, for helping him get his start.

"I was in high school playing ball against another high school that was coached by ... a longtime scout," Goryl said. "At that time, he was a high school coach. It's funny how things happen in your life. At 17 years old, [the scout] saw something in me and had a friend up in Hartford, Connecticut, in Roland, that had an opportunity to make things happen for me.

"He gave me a chance to play against a black semipro team on a Sunday afternoon in a doubleheader. I drove up from Cumberland, Rhode Island, with [the scout]. Apparently, I did well enough."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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