Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Goosebumps await Sandberg in his Wrigley return

CHICAGO -- So what was Ryne Sandberg thinking Friday morning when he walked into the place where he built a Hall of Fame resume?

Goosebumps await Sandberg in his Wrigley return

Ryne Sandberg during his playing days with the Chicago Cubs. (Michael Conroy/AP file photo)
Ryne Sandberg during his playing days with the Chicago Cubs. (Michael Conroy/AP file photo)

CHICAGO -- So what was Ryne Sandberg thinking Friday morning when he walked into the place where he built a Hall of Fame resume?

Predictably, not himself.

"I was thinking about the lineup a little bit," the Phillies interim manager said. "Looking for a quality game. I pretty much had my managerial hat on and that's the way I think. I went to bed last night thinking about the team and the lineups and things like that."

Sandberg did finally admit that he was wondering just a little bit about what his weekend return to Wrigley Field might be like.

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Special will be the answer, especially since the crowd will include 15 of his family members and five grandsons. It's not often that a manager of an opposing major-league team gets to walk into a park where there's a flag blowing on the right-field foul pole with your name and retired number on it.

"I was kind of wondering what this would be like," Sandberg said. "I haven't been in these shoes or experienced something like this, so I am wondering what it's going to be like."

A warm and perhaps even thunderous ovation is expected from the Cubs fans in attendance at the opening game of this series between two teams buried in the standings.

"If that happens, I imagine they'll be a little bit of goosebumps," Sandberg said. "You never know until something like that happens."

Sandberg said it was actually different just walking into the clubhouse because his own players were curious to see how he'd handle his Chicago homecoming.

"Yeah, I think they're getting a kick out of it," he said. "They teased me a little bit. I think I saw each one of them kind of look at me a little differently today to see what I was doing."

With a huge contingent of Chicago media gathered around him, Sandberg talked about some of the special memories he forged during his 16-year career. Interestingly, he got his first big-league hit here at Wrigley Field nearly 32 years ago while wearing a Phillies uniform. It was Sept. 27, 1981 to be exact and he singled off Mike Krukow in a 14-0 Phillies loss.

Sandberg also spent four seasons as a manager in the Cubs' minor-league system, where he developed a number of current players on Chicago's big-league roster.

"The Cubs gave me a chance to start (his managing career) in Peoria and gave me an opportunity to manage in the minor leagues," he said. "I did it for four years. Like I've said before, that's gone a long way."

The one question Sandberg hesitated at answering was whether he felt he got a fair chance to become the Cubs' manager after Lou Piniella retired in August 2010.

"I was talked to, so yeah, I guess so," Sandberg said.

The truth, according to a source close to Sandberg, is he did not feel as if he got a fair shot at the job, which is why he left the Cubs' organization and took the job as the Phillies' triple-A manager at Lehigh Valley in 2011.

And Friday, he was back in Wrigley Field getting ready to manage against the team that decided he wasn't the right man for their managerial job.

It should make for an interesting afternoon in the friendly confines.

Inquirer Columnist
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