There are thousands of Minor Leaguers trying to make it to the Majors, and who better to show them the way than former big-league stars and journeymen? Each week, MiLB.com talks with a Major Leaguer-turned-Minor League manager or coach to get their unique take on life down on the farm.
This week, Toledo Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish shares his Major and Minor League experiences. Parrish, a 15-year Major League veteran (1974-1988), split his career between Montreal and Texas and compiled a .263 career batting average. Since hanging up his cleats, Parrish has been employed in the Detroit Tigers organization in some form. He won two league championships as a Minor League manager (1993, 1996) before serving as Detroit's bench coach and eventually its manager in 1999. Most recently, Parrish has led the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens to consecutive Governors' Cup titles in 2005 and 2006.
MiLB.com: What do you remember most about your first experiences in the Minor Leagues?
Larry Parrish: Some of the best memories I have are from the Minors, although I probably didn't realize it at the time. There wasn't a lot of money to go around when I was in the Florida State League my first year. Our apartment cost $600 a month and we were only making $550, so there were four of us guys in one place. You shared everything, cooking, cleaning. ... We did a lot of fishing so if you caught it, you ate it.
I remember one time, in my first year in Quebec City, we bought an old car, a real clunker. The salt had rusted out the body and one day we were driving and the front seat gave out and I fell right into the back seat. We put plywood in for a new seat and rode it around the rest of the year.
MiLB.com: Have times changed that much? How different are the Minors from when you were a player?
LP: It's a lot different now. Quebec City was a Double-A team back then and I remember one stadium we visited didn't even have a clubhouse. We'd get dressed in Quebec City, take a two-and-a-half hour bus ride, play the game and couldn't shower until we were back in Quebec City. Another place didn't have a bathroom in the clubhouse -- just a urinal in the corner of the dugout with no door. You'd have to get a group of guys around you so fans wouldn't see. Now, the facilities are better, the food is better and the medical staffs are so much better.
MiLB.com: Life in the Minors can be surreal. What's your favorite tale of the Minors, either as a player or on the bench?
LP: Oh gosh, there are so many I could write a book. There was one this past year when we were in Ottawa. There was this thunderstorm brewing behind center field and we just knew it was going to pour, but the grounds crew didn't have the tarp on the field. I told the grounds crew I'd bet them anything it was going to rain, but they said they'd called the airport. It finally ended up raining and we just sat in the dugout for a two-and-a-half hour delay shaking our heads thinking "this is unbelievable" as the grounds crew scrambled around getting the field covered. When I stop to think, there are so many funny things that happen, it's what makes the game.
MiLB.com: How have teammates you played with in the bigs reacted to your current gig?
LP: I still talk to some of the guys I'm close to. Some have gone on to coach or manage and some have gone into other things. The ones that did other things still miss it though and get out to the ballparks whenever they can. It's hard not to miss, it's such a big part of your life since you're a kid and that's hard to forget.
MiLB.com: Do the guys on your team know much about you and your history as a player?
LP: Probably not. Every once in a while I'll run into one that was a real fan growing up. Nowadays, the guys have so much going on while growing up. It's not like they sit around and read bubblegum cards like we did when we were young.
MiLB.com: What have the players on your team taught you? Do they keep you up-to-date on pop culture?
LP: (Laughs) Every once in a while they'll get on me for the way I'm dressed. They definitely don't listen to the same music I do, and I'm not listening to their music either. I try to get to know each guy and learn where he's coming from so I can understand what makes him tick.
MiLB.com: What kind of reaction do you get from fans?
LP: Toledo is a great place for players. Midwestern cities are a great place for sports, the fans aren't highly critical and are very loyal. You don't get booed a lot either, unlike some Eastern cities like New York and Boston. They'll boo the best players if they're not playing like they should (laughs). Think of Cubs fans, they don't boo as much.
MiLB.com: What city or cities do you look forward to stopping in during the season?
LP: I like to judge a city by its golf courses. I'll look at the courses around the ballpark so I can get in some dual action, golf in the morning and baseball later that day. Indy is a great place with some nice golf courses. It has a big mall within walking distance of the hotel and there's a lot of things to do when away from home.
MiLB.com: What's the toughest part of the job?
LP: The toughest part, but also the most interesting part, is the psychological aspect of the game. Why do some managers win and some don't? Because they have the ablility to reach more personalities and get them to play together. You have to learn to connect with each and every one of your players and get him to play his best for you. Trying to find a way for the whole team to perform for you is hard.
MiLB.com: Do you have a favorite promotion? What do you think of your bobblehead?
LP: I'm a bit biased. I like the San Diego Chicken because of my old playing days. That's one thing about the Minors, there's always something going on between innings or during games. I have a couple boxes of my own bobblehead (laughs), but I'm different in that I don't really like to show off my baseball things. I have a picture of me talking and hitting with Ted Williams and that's about it on display. The bobblehead didn't make it next to the Ted Williams photo (laughs).