Gardenhire enjoying latest career move

Former skipper, now bench coach giving Lovullo sage advice as his right-hand man

June 20th, 2017
Manager Torey Lovullo (left) is leaning on Ron Gardenhire in his first year on the job. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

PHILADELHPHIA -- Old habits die hard, but Ron Gardenhire is doing his best to develop new ones in his latest chapter of a baseball life that has spanned nearly four decades.

The D-backs' bench coach has been on the job since he was hired in November, though a prostate cancer diagnosis in January led to surgery in April, delaying Gardenhire's debut in his new job.

That debut finally took place a month ago, and while Gardenhire admits that he may "never" stop thinking like a manager, he's doing his best to let D-backs skipper Torey Lovullo come to him with questions rather than peppering him with second-guesses.

"It's different; I try to get away from managing; not even put my mind in it," Gardenhire said. "I just follow the game with him and what I think he's going to do. I don't want to get caught up in, 'Why didn't you do that?' I don't want to do that. Torey is on top of it. He fires a lot of questions at me. It's been fun, he's really intelligent, he's a great baseball guy and a really good communicator. I'm enjoying the heck out of it. "

Gardenhire would likely be enjoying his new role regardless, but the fact that he's back on the bench after battling his cancer diagnosis has made it even more rewarding.

As he leaned on a railing in front of the visitors' dugout at Citizens Bank Park last weekend, Gardenhire looked like a man enjoying life. He feels good, battling only some occasional fatigue, but his mind is at ease thanks to his latest round of blood tests.

"My PSA went from 4.7 to .004, so they're real happy with that," Gardenhire said. "Now it's just the process of doing all the little things and getting healthy."

The 59-year-old revealed he also underwent hernia surgery at the same time as his prostate procedure, making his recovery time even more impressive.

"I tried to get them to fix my right shoulder, too, but they wouldn't do that," Gardenhire said with a smile. "I feel great."

Lovullo barely knew Gardenhire when he reached out to him in November about the bench-coach job, but having watched him from afar during Gardenhire's years managing in Minnesota, he seemed like the ideal candidate.

"I just really appreciated the way his teams went about their business," Lovullo said. "I felt kind of dirty, but I always thought if he was available and I ever became a manager, I would want to have somebody like him by my side. I called him and told him those exact words, and I think that meant something to him. When we sat down for the interview, I could tell there was a great connection right away."

That connection has carried into the dugout, where Lovullo called Gardenhire's presence next to him "unmeasurable" in value.

"It has been everything I hoped and then some," Lovullo said. "He always has the most unbelievable insight and thoughts that anybody could give. Here's a manager that's won over 1,000 games. Nothing surprises him and nothing fazes him.

"He's thinking about the game along with me. If I need some insight or I might be missing something, he's on it. He knows what a manager is thinking and I'm very thankful for, first of all having him healthy, but having him healthy and back in the dugout."

After being let go by the Twins at the end of the 2014 season, Gardenhire wasn't sure if he put on a uniform for the final time. Two full seasons passed before this opportunity arised, and while it's only natural to wonder whether he wants another shot at managing, it's not something he's spent much time thinking about in recent months.

"I haven't even thought about it; I got back on the field and didn't even know if I wanted to do this," Gardenhire said. "I was happily hired, fired and retired. I was pretty happy; I was fishing a lot and enjoying my grandbabies. He called me and I thought, 'This sounds really cool. I've never done it, so it would be interesting.' I interviewed and he called me and said, 'I want you to be the bench coach.' I love being on the bench and I love baseball, so it's pretty easy."