Leyland picks his All-Star coaches
Twins' Gardenhire, Rangers' Washington get the honors
ATLANTA -- American League All-Star manager Jim Leyland doesn't have a whole lot of say on the player roster, which is mainly determined by fan and player balloting. He does, however, have his choice of coaches.
In that respect, Leyland went with the two managers he respects as being among the best in baseball -- one he remembers managing against as a player years ago, and another he managed against down to the wire last year. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Rangers skipper Ron Washington will join Leyland's coaching staff from the Tigers, and honorary captain Al Kaline, at next month's Midsummer Classic at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Major League Baseball announced the selections on Thursday.
Gardenhire's Twins, of course, beat out the Tigers for the American League Central Division last year, taking the title on the last day of the season. He finished second to Leyland in voting among baseball writers for AL Manager of the Year.
Even before that, however, Leyland had a great respect for Gardenhire and his ability to build a contender, year in and year out, in Minnesota, despite roster turnover. He enters the weekend with a 491-388 record in seven seasons as the Twins' manager.
"What more can you say about Ron Gardenhire?" Leyland said Thursday. "Without question, he's one of the top managers in baseball. I just have the utmost respect for him."
The coaching stint will be Gardenhire's second. He served as a coach under the Angels' Mike Scioscia in 2003, when the Midsummer Classic took place in Chicago.
The relationship between Leyland and Washington goes back for about 35 years, to the Midwest League. Leyland was a young manager in the Tigers system at Clinton, Iowa in 1972-73, when Washington was a young infielder at nearby Waterloo. Even back then, Leyland had a sense of Washington's grasp of the game.
That chance came at long last this season, in Texas, after 11 seasons in the Bay Area coaching for the Oakland A's. Though the Rangers entered Thursday's with the Majors' worst record at 27-44, Washington is almost universally regarded among the bright minds in the game.
"It's in the Bay Area, so it gives me a chance to [go] back there," Washington said Thursday. "It was a class move. I never thought I'd be coaching in the All-Star Game. It's certainly an honor."
It'll be Washington's first All-Star appearance in the big leagues.
"It means a lot that Jimmy would even consider me in that situation," Washington added. "It just shows how much of a class guy he is."
Leyland would say the same of the coaches that he named. Instead of enjoying their three days off and relaxing somewhere, they're giving up the free time and putting the uniform on again.
"I just felt like those were the guys that would be a good fit, and I'm thrilled to death that they accepted," Leyland said. "Because, let's face it, guys like to have time off."
Leyland's entire coaching staff -- pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, first-base coach Andy Van Slyke, third-base coach Gene Lamont, infield coach Rafael Belliard and bullpen coach Jeff Jones -- will come along to San Francisco alongside Gardenhire and Washington.
It's the second coaching assignment for McClendon, who was part of then-Giants manager Dusty Baker's All-Star staff in 2003. Van Slyke was a three-time All-Star as a player in Pittsburgh, most recently in 1993.
Leyland had announced Kaline's selection during Spring Training. It'll be the second such honor for the Tigers legend, who was also an honorary member of the AL staff when he was inducted into the Hall Fame in 1980. He has been involved with the Tigers for 55 years, including the last six as a special assistant to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski.
"He handles everything like a Hall of Famer," Leyland said in March. "In here, he never steps on anybody's toes. He doesn't come in with all the answers. He sits, he listens. If you ask his opinion, he gives it. He's an absolute prince, and it's an honor for me to take him."
Also serving on the bench for Leyland will be Larry Davis, the head athletic trainer for the A's who will serve the AL All-Stars in the same capacity. He'll be joined by Orioles assistant athletic trainer Brian Ebel.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.