Sandberg leads, succeeds with a smile

Bulls manager focuses on people, positivity in the dugout

Jared Sandberg has guided Durham to back-to-back International League championships. (Donn Parris/MiLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | September 18, 2018 8:01 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jared Sandberg remembers what it was like to deal with negativity in the clubhouse, to be standing in the infield while anger flowed just off the field.

"You look in the dugout and [the manager's] throwing stuff and they're yelling and they're reacting and it's just negative vibes," he recalled from his 11-year playing career.

When Sandberg became a coach in 2008, he took those memories of managerial styles he did not like as well as the more positive ones from the likes of Charlie Montoyo and Bill Evers. Ten years and three championships later, the Durham skipper continues to find success by keeping his composure in the dugout and building relationships with players.

"It's just about managing people in the end. If you can manage the personalities and the people and develop them from a baseball standpoint and then win on top of that, it's pretty special," he said. "If you don't manage the people, the individuals, they're not going to be there for you when you need them. It's a personal touch."

Sandberg sees the importance in meeting his player's parents or children when they come to the stadium. He wants the clubhouse to be a family environment. The Bulls skipper has learned a lot through his own bloodline and not just from his Hall of Fame uncle, Ryne.

Del Sandberg has coached "just about everything," including a Washington state high school baseball title when his son, Jared, was 1 year old.

"My dad helped me out quite a bit," the younger Sandberg said.


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Having a baseball name is one way the manager connects with his players. Kean Wong -- brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten -- has played for the Bulls the past two seasons. Sandberg also spent five years in the Rays system before getting his first call to The Show. Then the infielder bounced between the Majors and Minors for three seasons before returning to the Minors to finish out his playing career.

"He's a great manager, he's always letting us know what's going on, always motivating us, just fun to be around," Wong said. "He's one of the players, he's been up there, so he knows what we're going through and it's a grind. Whenever we're slacking or we're not doing what we're supposed to do, he'll get on us to bump it up and try to help this team win."

Jared Sandberg hugs Willy Adames before the infielder was promoted to Tampa Bay (Chris Baird/MiLB.com).

In 2013, Austin Pruitt was promoted to Class A Bowling Green, fresh off being selected in the ninth round of the Draft. Not knowing anyone, the then-24-year-old was welcomed by his new manager, Sandberg. Over the years, Pruitt has had a familiar skipper guiding him at Class A Advanced Charlotte in 2014 and in Durham since 2016.

"Jared, he has not changed a bit since 2013. He likes to joke around with all the other guys. He likes to have fun," the right-hander said. "Whenever I first got called up to Bowling Green, whenever I was with him, he made it a little bit easier, just being in a new place, just being new to pro ball. He made the transition pretty easy."


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Austin Meadows had the same experience when the Rays acquired him from the Pirates in the Chris Archer deal on July 31. Changing International League clubhouses, the former Indianapolis outfielder said Sandberg "took me in and it was a great time."

Meadows enjoys how Sandberg's dugout doesn't add any pressure, something familiar for the 2013 first-round pick.

"It helps you a lot for you to be able to just be yourself, really feel no pressure." Meadows said. "Jared, he's gonna tell you, he's gonna be honest with you, and that's kind of what you need as a professional baseball player: honesty. Especially being able to come in here and just be relaxed and just be yourself. I think that helps the most and brings the best out of you."

Even folks in opposing dugouts have taken note of Sandberg's style and success.

Memphis manager Stubby Clapp came through the Minors at the same time as Sandberg, crossing paths in the International League in 2004. Then, in 2012, his Class A Short Season Hudson Valley squad topped Clapp's Tri-City team in the New York-Penn League Championship Series. The Rays affiliate was on the winning side again when the two met last year in theTriple-A National Championship Game ahead of Tuesday's rematch between Durham and Memphis.

"He obviously gets his guys motivated to play," the Redbirds manager said. "His teams play well and they win, so he's got his own ways of doing it and we look forward to competing against him."

Through 10 managerial seasons, Sandberg is 612-522 (.540) across five Minor League levels. And his first two championships came immediately after two of his worst seasons.

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Of course, his endgame is getting back to the Majors, and he's handled several tests with ease. Sandberg has worked with all but eight players on the Tampa Bay roster. He's dealt with national media during a headline rehab stint. He's helped develop former top prospects like Willy Adames and Blake Snell. He even has experience working with an "opener" to start the game like the Rays have been doing at Tropicana Field.

Sandberg knows a job in The Show isn't completely in his control. But what he can control is the feeling in the dugout. One that will hopefully stick with future Minor League managers.

"I just try to be as positive as possible and the style is pretty relaxed," he said. "If the players are comfortable within themselves, they're going to play better."

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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