Jirschele finds success as young manager
Former Sox Minor Leaguer led Class A Kannapolis to SAL playoffs
CHICAGO -- Justin Jirschele's first year as a manager in the White Sox organization will be a tough one to top.
At a mere 27 years old, Jirschele took Class A Kannapolis to the 2017 South Atlantic League championship finals. At one point or another, his roster featured some of the top-ranked prospects from one of MLB's top systems, including outfielder Blake Rutherford (the club's No. 4 prospect per MLBPipeline.com), third baseman Jake Burger (No. 10), outfielder Micker Adolfo (No. 14), first baseman Gavin Sheets (No. 15) and right-handers Alec Hansen (No. 4), Dylan Cease (No. 5) and Dane Dunning (No. 8).
Jirschele was only two years removed from his Minor League playing days with the White Sox and less than a decade older than many of his players. But he adjusted to being the man in charge with relative ease.
"You've got to have your eyes on everything," Jirschele said recently at White Sox instructional league. "You have to be able to communicate with everybody down the coaching staff and the guys in the bullpen, the starting rotation and all the position players. You've just got a lot more in the basket."
"Jirsch has a good demeanor about him," White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said. "He communicates very well. The players trust him. He understands the game, and he loves to teach the game. They had a really good group in Kannapolis, players and staff, and it obviously showed up with the type of season they were able to have."
Working in baseball runs in the family for Jirschele, who was Kannapolis' hitting coach in 2016. His father, Mike, is the Kansas City Royals' third-base coach and became a great sounding board for Justin this past season.
"I rely on him a lot," Justin said. "There are a lot of people in this organization I rely on, too, and I'm in constant communication with. But my dad, he's my best friend, and at the end of the day, we talk the most. He helps me tremendously."
"He'll ask me about situational stuff, pretty much text or call almost every night during the summer when his season was going on," Mike said. "One thing to me that he's really good with is communicating with players and building relationships, but yet drawing that line to let them know that, 'I am the boss and we are going to do what I say and we are going to get our work done.'"
When asked if players ever gave him a little grief for being such a young manager, Justin Jirschele laughed and explained that there was great respect from the players toward him since the beginning. He added that the group had fun and being closer in age to those players helped make relationships "a little bit tighter."
"Organizations start identifying guys because of what they bring to the table, whether it be, 'I can see that guy being a coach some day,' or a manager or a scout or front-office guy," Getz said. "When that time comes when the organization feels it's time to kind of change gears, you try to bring those people in because you know that they are talented guys for certain reasons.
"You want to have them come in and help you grow toward what you are trying to accomplish as an organization. Jirsch was one of those guys, obviously."