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Twins-Tigers features clash of Gardenhires

Detroit father to manage against family after son's late-season promotion as coach
September 17, 2018

DETROIT -- The No. 81 Twins jersey was waiting for Toby Gardenhire when he walked into the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park. So was his father, in the other clubhouse."I try to forget all the stuff that he tells me," joked the younger Gardenhire, a Twins coach for the series

DETROIT -- The No. 81 Twins jersey was waiting for Toby Gardenhire when he walked into the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park. So was his father, in the other clubhouse.
"I try to forget all the stuff that he tells me," joked the younger Gardenhire, a Twins coach for the series as a reward for his work managing the team's Class A Cedar Rapids club. "I remember the little things. I try to forget most of it."
Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire has traded phone calls with his son all season, two managers trying to make the most of their chances working at opposite ends of the developmental ladder. For a few days this week, they're on opposite sides of the baseball diamond at Comerica Park.
"Maybe my 7-month-old grandbaby will root for me," Ron Gardenhire lamented before Monday's Tigers-Twins series opener. "I don't know about the wife or anybody else. I have my doubts."
After seeing the family Sunday night, Toby Gardenhire isn't buying it.
"My girlfriend's here; she's got the Twins stuff on. Everybody else is wearing Tigers gear," he said. "We asked little Ronnie -- that's my nephew -- and he said, 'Tigers! Tigers! Tigers!' I said all right, I'm not going to try to fight it right now. They can do whatever they want."
While Ron Gardenhire got back into managing this year with a chance to lead the rebuilding Tigers, Toby landed his first full-time pro managerial gig in the Midwest League after working on the Triple-A Rochester coaching staff last year, and coaching at Division III Wisconsin-Stout before that.
It's a natural extension for the younger Gardenhire after growing up around the game. His dad never encouraged a baseball career, but he didn't have to.
"He's a baseball kid," Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been in baseball his whole life from the time being in the clubhouse when I managing in the lower Minor Leagues. When I played, he was around, and then coaching in the Major Leagues under Tom Kelly and managing. He was always around the ballpark, always taking BP. He's a baseball rat, always done it, played college baseball. That's all he knows, really. He loves it, absolutely loves it, and he's good with people. He's handled himself real well."
Said Toby: "I'd hoped to play up in the big leagues at some point. I played for a little while in the Minor Leagues, didn't get up here as a player. I kind of grew up in the clubhouses. I know all these pretty well. When I was a kid, I think the last time I was in these clubhouses, I was a bat boy."
Father and son followed each other's seasons from afar, watching games online. When they talked after games, it was more about what was happening on the field, one baseball guy talking to another.
"He'll call and ask me about our games and stuff," Toby said. "We've always had a relationship where we talk a lot about baseball stuff. There's not a ton of off-the-field stuff, just because we're such baseball people."
When Toby received word that he would join the big league staff for a few games in Detroit, though, it became a family event. The rest of the Gardenhire kids came to Detroit for the occasion with their families, and they went out to dinner Sunday night.
"He came by the place. All my family came up for this. Not for me," Ron Gardenhire said. "They're all at the house, grandbabies, the whole package, so it was fun seeing them all.
"This is a great opportunity the Twins are giving him to be on the field in the big leagues, and he's worked really hard. He had a good year as a manager, so good for him. Now let's just see who the family roots for."
At least there will be one Gardenhire celebrating a victory each night. But there's only one Gardenhire at risk of leaving the dugout: While the family resemblance is easy to see in the face and the speech traits, the temper is much different.
"He's so much more calm than I am," Ron said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders."
There might be a good reason for that.
"I got ejected a couple times this year, and he did not pay the fine," Toby said. "He may say that he's going to pay the fine, but he does not pay any fines for me."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.