Sarbaugh Finally Makes it to the Big Leagues In 25th Season with Tribe
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the coaches selected to be a part of Manager Terry Francona’s staff.
By Mike Brandyberry
There is dedication and patience, and then there is Mike Sarbaugh.
After 24 seasons in the minor leagues as a player, coach and manager, Sarbaugh officially becomes a Major League coach this spring as a member of Terry Francona’s staff. Sarbaugh will coach first base and the infielders on this season’s team.
“You think about all the years, all the cities, all the teams and all the hard work you’ve put in,” Sarbaugh told The Columbus Dispatch when he was hired on Oct. 31. “Then to be rewarded with this opportunity, it makes it all worthwhile. You could say that I’m a little excited about this opportunity.”
Sarbaugh, 45, has been a member of the Indians organization since 1990 as a Minor League player, coach and manager. He’s been a member of the Cleveland Indians’ organization longer than team President Mark Shapiro. He is entering his 25th season in professional baseball, having guided the Triple-A Columbus Clippers over each of the last three seasons since 2010, leading the Clippers to the International League and Triple-A championships in back-to-back seasons of 2010-11.
During his nine seasons (since 2004) piloting Cleveland minor league affiliates, Sarbaugh’s teams compiled winning records in each campaign and captured five league titles. Sarbaugh became a coach in the Tribe’s Player Development system in 1995 after a six-year Minor League playing career from 1989-94.
“I got to know Mike when I was here in 2001,” Francona told Cleveland.com at the time Sarbaugh was hired. “It was a lot of fun telling Mike he got the job.”
What Sarbaugh may lack in Major League experience, he makes up for in knowledge of the Tribe’s roster. Having worked in the Indians’ minor league system for so long, he has probably had more day-to-day interaction with the players on the roster than any other member of the coaching staff.
One of Sarbaugh’s responsibilities will be infield defense. He managed Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana at Triple-A Columbus. All are expected to see considerable time on the Tribe’s infield this year. Sarbaugh has also managed Lou Marson, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Zach McAllister, Nick Hagadone, Vinnie Pestano and Cody Allen. Each is expected to be major contributors to the 2013 Tribe.
Sarbaugh signed his first professional contract with the Milwaukee Brewers as a shortstop from Lamar University in Texas. After a year with the Brewers, he was traded to the Indians and has been a member of the Tribe since. Sarbaugh played all infield positions during his six year minor league career, but was primarily a third baseman as a professional. He was a career .265 hitter, playing over two seasons at Double-A Canton-Akron. He played four games at Triple-A Charlotte with the Indians system before becoming a coach with the Indians after the player strike ended in 1995.
He did fill in as the Bench Coach for the final six games of the Indians’ 2012 season when Manny Acta was fired and Sandy Alomar was promoted to Interim Manager. Sarbaugh will be a coach—not a manager—for the first time since 2003. His knowledge of the Indians’ roster and longevity with the organization should prove to be a positive attribute to the coaching staff.
“The biggest difference is that it’s the Major Leagues,” Sarbaugh said. “But the other big thing for me is that my daily concerns are in a smaller area – coaching first base and coaching infielders. As a manager the last nine years, I’ve had more responsibilities.”
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer