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Q&A: Showalter discusses his career arc, life as a manager

May 28, 2016

Buck Showalter is a rare breed. He managed the Yankees for George Steinbrenner, quit after being told he had to fire coaches, and was never lured back to the Bronx.A fifth-round Draft choice of the Yankees out of Mississippi State in 1977, he played, coached and managed for 19 years

Buck Showalter is a rare breed. He managed the Yankees for George Steinbrenner, quit after being told he had to fire coaches, and was never lured back to the Bronx.
A fifth-round Draft choice of the Yankees out of Mississippi State in 1977, he played, coached and managed for 19 years in the Yankees organization. His resignation came after he guided the Yankees to first place in the American League East at the time of the 1994 strike -- which wiped out the postseason -- and ended the team's 13-year postseason drought by claiming the AL Wild Card in '95.
Showalter became the D-backs' first manager, signing a contract in 1996, and spent two years helping to put the franchise together before its first game was played in '98. The D-backs made expansion history when they won 100 games and the National League West in their second campaign in '99. He was let go after the following season, when the team went 85-77.
He eventually landed with the Rangers, where he spent four seasons (2003-06), before he took over as manager of the Orioles 106 games into the '10 season.
Showalter discussed his journey in this week's Q&A: Have you undergone a change at each stop along the way in your managerial career?
Showalter: We're always evolving. I learn something every day about players and the game. That's what's great about this game. There's not a day where something different doesn't happen. It's not always in a game, where I go, "I've never seen that before." There's this comedy sketch where a guy says, "I've been let go 34 times." Somebody says, "How do you feel about that?" The guy says, "I look at it this way, I got hired 34 times." Can you think of a particular thing or two that sticks out?
Showalter: You have to [do] a lot of things in this job -- things you don't necessarily have responsibility for, but you are the visible face of the franchise, and you make franchise decisions. You don't take it as [personally] as you once did. I lost my naivety in Arizona. I left New York [of] my own accord. What happened with the Yankees?
Showalter: It was all about firing coaches, and it broke my heart. I'd been in that organization 19 years. I didn't want to leave, but my dad would tell me when I was young, "There is going to come a time in your life where you are going to have to [take a stand]. It's going to be painful, but it will come back to you two-fold." New York was painful. You weren't out of work long.
Showalter: I interviewed with three teams. I stopped in Houston for a change of planes on my flight from Arizona back home to Pensacola. I called my wife, [and] she said George Steinbrenner was coming to the house. I had already [shaken] hands with [Arizona president/owner Jerry] Colangelo. I had turned the page. So the door shut on you in New York, but opened for Joe Torre. I remember the tabloids in New York had headlines saying, "Average Joe."
Showalter: That gave everybody an understanding of how good Joe was. If that hadn't happened, what would have happened with Joe? As it is, he took the Yankees to 12 postseasons in 12 years, six World Series and four [World Series] championships. He is in the Hall of Fame. Everything happens for a reason. He was the perfect guy for that situation. I don't know if I could have taken them where he took them. Did you think the Rangers would be the last opportunity?
Showalter: I didn't even think about it. It wasn't, "Oh, I'm not going to get a shot at all." I just kicked back. I was the groundskeeper for my son's high school team his senior year. I told the coach, "I'm not going to coach. I'll drag your field. I'll cut your grass. I'll paint the foul poles, which my wife and I did. I'll help you with practices, but I'm not going to be the coach." You also did some work for ESPN.
Showalter: That was good experience for me. It verified a lot of things I thought from a media standpoint. It was never a battle. I always felt I had a good relationship with everybody. But I would sit there and they would say, "We are going to talk about why that guy did whatever." I'd go, "No, I'm not going to do that. I'm not in the dugout. I'm not in the clubhouse. I don't know what's happening. Maybe he lost his dog. I call tell you what his options were and why [he] chose one over the other." I think it frustrated them some. They wanted more. And you were with ESPN when Arizona finally won that World Series. What was that like?
Showalter: You might find it hard to believe, but I felt it was pretty cool. But I also knew it was their time, not mine. I was on the stage in left field for Game 7. We got done with the post-game [show] and I walked back to my hotel. Nobody said a word. Nobody said anything. I just walked out the back of the stage. The city was going crazy. They just beat the Yankees in the World Series. I'm going to my room and going, "Wow." I was happy. As a young Minor League manager with the Yankees, what was it like to be around Billy Martin during Spring Training?
Showalter: The Yankees would bring all the Minor League managers in and we'd walk around the complex behind him, like we were chickadees. He'd stop at every drill. People thought he was some cartoon character. But trust me, when he was at the ballpark -- regular season, Spring Training -- he was brilliant. He would stop at every drill and have each of the big league coaches explain why the drill was important. And I remember walking behind him one day and he turned and said, "Come on, Buck, let's go see what the game has in store for me today." We live in a society where they want to know about something before it happens. They tell you to predict who's going to win this or that. I'm OK with knowing about it when it happens. People will say, "What's going to happen with this or that?" I tell them, "You know what? Our curiosity is going to be satisfied because we're all going to play 162 games and we're going to seek our level." Now you are in Baltimore, a franchise that had been known for turbulence, but things seem to be running smoothly, at least from a public view.
Showalter: It kind of fits. Baltimore is one of those baseball towns. You see that ballpark. And the fans come to see their team, the Orioles, win. There's a sincerity about it. You know how they talk about St. Louis and Kansas City being baseball towns? That's Baltimore.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for