Rico Brogna came to the Phillies in a trade with the Mets. It was Toby Borland and Ricardo Jordan for the slick-fielding first baseman. That came less than a month after Terry Francona was hired to manage the rebuilding team.In the twenty years since circumstance put them together, they have
Rico Brogna came to the Phillies in a trade with the Mets. It was Toby Borland and Ricardo Jordan for the slick-fielding first baseman. That came less than a month after Terry Francona was hired to manage the rebuilding team.
In the twenty years since circumstance put them together, they have traveled different paths. Brogna is now a pro scout for the Angels. He has also been a special assistant to the general manager and the team's information coach. He's coached and managed in the Minor Leagues, including at Double-A Reading in the Phillies system. And he's coached baseball and football, boys and girls, at the high school and college levels.
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Francona, of course, went on to win two World Series championships with the Red Sox, including the one that reversed the curse in 2004. He is now managing the Indians and, though still relatively young, has developed an impressive list of protégés who have gone on to manage in the big leagues including Brad Mills (Astros), John Farrell (Blue Jays, Red Sox) and Kevin Cash (Rays).
Brogna, 46, would love to someday add his name to that list. And he believes that what he learned from Francona during the four years (1997-2000) they worked together at Veterans Stadium can only help.
"My definite long term goal is to manage. I'm very, very content and happy scouting, but I want to manage badly," Brogna said. "And I learned a lot from Tito. That it's always about the players. To always realize, understand it and never forget how hard the game really is.
"I can remember how hard it was, because a lot of things were hard for me. I wasn't an All-Star and I had to play through a lot of physical adversities. But they all helped me learn, grow, mature. I feel like I was a kind of a good blue-collar Philadelphia, wear-your-hard-hat-every-day kind of player. That was and is and could be something players relate to."
Brogna may not have made an All-Star team in his nine-year career, but he was a solid contributor. He played 496 games for the Phillies, more than he did for any other team, while batting .265 with a .756 OPS.
He's also learned from being around Angels manager Mike Scioscia -- especially the last two years, when he was a uniformed coach and traveled with the team.
"I helped with the shifts and the video, did a lot of that with Scioscia. It was great. I felt like that was semi-on-the-job training. Because I was not only running some meetings but interacting in every meeting. With every pitcher, catcher. I learned a lot about the pitcher-catcher-pitching coach relationship. A to Z, really. It's something that if you want to manage you probably really need to do, to learn about all aspects of the game. Especially with the new information age of baseball. So that was like going to school. And I loved it," he said.
Brogna and Francona have also both overcome physical adversity. The manager has endured multiple serious knee surgeries. Brogna played with an arthritic condition known as ankylosing spondylitis. And a year ago, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Fortunately it was detected early enough and all evidence suggests that the surgery removed it all.
"I'm in a really good place, as good a place as I could be right now," he said.
One of his sharpest memories of his time with the Phillies came during that first season, when the Phillies were 30-72 through July 27.
"Tito reamed us out at the All-Star break. We were playing awful. He said, 'All right. That's it. This is Major League Baseball.' And the second half of the season, we flipped the switch." The Phillies ended the year with a 38-22 (.633) record.
That momentum didn't carry over, though. Brogna never played in the postseason. He did have a chance to experience a Division Series as an Angels coach in 2014, which only left him wanting more.
"There's no doubt I'd like to put a uniform on, manage a team and try to get to the World Series," he said. "I'd love to get to a World Series and win one, ultimately as a manager. I think I've learned a lot in the last few years. I just feel like that's in my heart."
A more recent tie to Philadelphia: While working for the Angels, he got to know assistant general manager Matt Klentak well. Klentak, of course, was hired last offseason as the Phillies new general manager.
Brogna has done a lot of different things since retiring in 2001. The one constant has been baseball. This past spring was his 28th being associated in some way with a big league team. It's a background that has prepared him well for whatever comes next.
Rico Brogna file
Born on April 18, 1970, in Turners Falls, Ma. ... Acquired by the Phillies from the New York Mets for Toby Borland and Ricardo Jordan, on Nove. 27, 1996. … Originally selected by the Detroit Tigers in the first round (26th overall) of the 1988 Draft.
Played for the Tigers (1992), Mets (1994-96), Phillies (1997-2000), Boston Red Sox (2000) and Atlanta Braves (2001). ... Batted .269 in 848 career games with 106 home runs and 458 RBIs. … For the Phillies, batted .265 in 496 games. … Was the first Phillies first baseman to have back-to-back 100-RBI seasons (104 in 1998, 102 in '99).
Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com.