Leading into the final few wintry days of January, with February on the horizon, 67-year-old baseball lifer Rick Sweet always feels the same churning in his gut. The racing pulse of exhilaration. The excitement of a new season."Absolutely," Sweet said. "If I didn't enjoy this, if I didn't look forward to
Leading into the final few wintry days of January, with February on the horizon, 67-year-old baseball lifer Rick Sweet always feels the same churning in his gut.
The racing pulse of exhilaration. The excitement of a new season.
"Absolutely," Sweet said. "If I didn't enjoy this, if I didn't look forward to this, I wouldn't keep doing it. I like the anticipation of a new team every year. I like the drive and the fire and everything that goes with it.
"If I didn't enjoy this, I'd definitely go do something else. To manage at this level, the anticipation is there, without a doubt."
Sweet made his remarks on Wednesday night in a telephone interview from his Phoenix-area home, only a few hours after the Milwaukee Brewers announced that he would return for a seventh season as the organization's field manager at the Triple-A level.
All of which means that he will report for work at spring training in a little more than two weeks to kick off his 31st season as a manager in the minors and his 21st in Triple-A.
His second year as San Antonio's skipper coincides with the Missions' second in the Pacific Coast League. It's not a surprise to anyone, least of all Sweet, that he got the job again.
"We had agreed (to terms) back in October," he said. "Actually, I spent a week in the big leagues (with the Brewers) in September. So, in the middle of September, I knew. We had agreed."
It was really a no brainer.
The Missions finished their first season in the PCL at 80-60, with the ball club falling short of the playoffs only after a dramatic roster shuffle at the end of July.
Through August and September, many of Sweet's players were contributing to the Brewers, who rallied to claim a wild-card berth in the National League playoffs.
Currently, fans can count 16 members of the Brewers' 40-man roster as players who wore a Missions or a Flying Chanclas jersey at some point last summer.
Sweet said the fans planning to attend Triple-A attend games at Wolff Stadium this year can expect quite a bit of turnover in the Missions' roster from last season.
"It's like that every year, especially in Triple-A," Sweet said. "Last year, we had a younger ball club. This year, we won't be as young. Our main role (as a coaching staff) is to have players prepared to help (Brewers manager Craig) Counsell with the major league club, and you do that by playing good baseball."
Missions fans saw quite a bit of high-caliber, artistry on the diamond last summer, with the likes of Keston Hiura, Trent Grisham, Mauricio Dubón, and Cory Spangenberg all playing starring roles.
This year, Hiura is expected to start at second base for the Brewers. Dubon, traded last July, will try to settle into a role with the San Francisco Giants. Grisham, a fleet outfielder with power, has been dealt to the San Diego Padres.
Spangenberg, meanwhile, has signed with the Seibu Lions in Japan.
As for the team that will take the field at Wolff Stadium this summer, it's anyone's guess as to how it will stack up with the rest of the PCL's American Southern Division.
With Brewers' pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to spring training at Phoenix on Feb. 12, nothing is set in stone with the major league roster, let alone the Missions' roster.
But, coming off last summer, Sweet and his coaching staff of Al LeBouef, Ned Yost IV, and Jim Henderson may need to work a little magic to match last year's success.
A tough act to follow?
"I plan on being better," Sweet said. "No, we're going to be fine. We had a fun year, a good year. Now we'll see what the major league club (does), what we can come up with."