KANSAS CITY -- Mike Jirschele was 36 years old when he picked up his first Triple-A managerial win, an 8-7 victory in 13 innings over the Iowa Cubs at Rosenblatt Stadium on April 6, 1995.
Twenty-eight years later, Jirschele picked up his 1,000th win in Triple-A, when the Storm Chasers beat the Toledo Mud Hens 13-8 on April 8.
In between, the 64-year-old has coached up and down the Royals’ Minor League organization, served as the third-base coach in Kansas City -- and was part of some of the most pivotal plays in Royals history during the 2014-15 postseason runs -- won a World Series ring and established himself as a legendary coach in the Kansas City organization.
“Well, what it really means is, I’ve been here a long time,” Jirschele said. “And it also means I’ve had a lot of good players, and a lot of good staff members to work with underneath me. I appreciate all the help they gave me in those 1,000 wins, because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
“What stands out is, when I first started coaching, I was one of the younger coaches. And now, I’ve got players calling me Grandpa. So it’s been a long time and a lot of years since the first game I managed at Rosenblatt.”
Jirschele is admittedly “not a big numbers guy,” and he downplayed 1,000 wins. But it’s a big deal in the coaching world and in the Royals organization, and Omaha plans to honor the accomplishment throughout this season at Werner Park. Since the win, Jirschele has heard from scores of former players, coaches and people throughout the organization. George Brett gave him a call; Lorenzo Cain sent a congratulatory video.
“LoCain talked about how much fun we had together,” Jirschele said. “He said he enjoyed playing for me, that I brought joy and laughter into the clubhouse. A lot of laughter, he said. And he said he misses that. That meant a lot to me, made me feel like he had fun while he was here with me.”
A four-time recipient of the Dick Howser Award, an organizational award that recognizes outstanding work in player development, Jirschele first managed the Omaha Royals from 1995-97, when he won 216 games over three seasons. After a stint as a Minor League roving instructor for the Royals from 1998-02, Jirschele returned to Omaha in ‘03 and managed the club again for 11 more seasons through ‘13, a season that ended with a Triple-A championship. He led the team to four division titles, three consecutive trips to the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, two PCL titles and two Triple-A championships.
Jirschele joined the Royals' Major League coaching staff after the ‘13 season, became the third-base coach in ‘14 and spent six seasons in that position. Prior to returning to Omaha this season, he served as the High-A and Double-A bench coach in ‘21 and ‘22, respectively.
In other words: Jirschele has served a lot of different roles for Kansas City, coached a lot of players -- and impacted countless people.
“When you start looking at the grand scale, the impact is what comes to mind for me,” Royals director of player development Mitch Maier said in a statement. “The organization, direct impact for players who put on the uniform in Kansas City. I think of Jirsch when I think of loyalty and growing this game. One thousand wins and all the players that were a part of those teams he managed make you realize how much time and commitment he has given to the game.”
Jirschele is known for his steady presence and ability to keep things light in the middle of a long season, especially in the Minor Leagues. He goofs around with players and enjoys when he gets to tell them they’re headed to Kansas City.
“When you’re at the Triple-A level, you’re dealing with a lot of different mindsets and attitudes,” Jirschele said. “People that come down aren’t happy, and you’ve got to sit down and talk to them in your office and try to get them back on the right track. … Trying to keep them relaxed and have them go out and play the best they can and guiding them along the way. That, to me, is what’s most exciting about this level.”
Jirschele doesn’t want to be remembered by the numbers. His 1,000 wins in Omaha, he says, speak to the players he’s had there – and how many went on to be a Major Leaguer in Kansas City or elsewhere.
“I just like to help the kids and try to guide them or lead them in the right direction,” Jirschele said. “Get them to understand what they have to do to get to the big leagues, what they have to do to stay in the big leagues.”