As Bowie Baysox second baseman Garabez Rosa fielded a routine groundball with one out remaining in the final game of the Eastern League championship series, he lazily shifted his weight, side armed his throw to first base and leaped into the air, glove flying. It was the first time the Bowie Baysox – the Baltimore […]
As Bowie Baysox second baseman Garabez Rosa fielded a routine groundball with one out remaining in the final game of the Eastern League championship series, he lazily shifted his weight, side armed his throw to first base and leaped into the air, glove flying.
It was the first time the Bowie Baysox – the Baltimore Orioles’ AA affiliate – won the Eastern League pennant in their 23-year existence. And Gary Kendall was the man at the helm.
“I typically get a new manager every other year, if not every year, so I don’t expect to get anything more than a business relationship,” Baysox general manager Brian Shallcross said.
Much like the players, managers in the minor leagues come and go. Double-A baseball is where developing players go to hone their craft and ready themselves for the big leagues, if they ever make it there. So finding and keeping a manager for five years is something of a small miracle in the minor leagues, but Kendall isn’t a typical minor-league manager.
Shallcross has steered the Baysox’s front office for 13 years and it’s fair to say his decision to employ Kendall has paid off handsomely.
“Winning the championship was a highlight for the both of us, quite honestly,” Shallcross said.
It seems logical. Shallcross hired Kendall and the two achieved the highest honor AA can bestow upon a team. But it’s more than that to Kendall. A lifelong Orioles fan, his championship win capped his 16th professional season in the organization.
In a Q&A with Bay Watch, the Baysox’s game-day program, Kendall started his career as a player, but a ligament tear in his ankle ended his career before he was set to play at Lamar University in Texas. Later that year, he was managing the Community College of Baltimore’s baseball team in the summertime and working as an assistant for Towson State’s (now Towson) baseball team the rest of the year.
That’s when a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers noticed him. The scout told Kendall to throw batting practice for his team, and from then on he would throw batting practice to teams visiting Memorial Stadium.
Roland Hemond, a legendary Major League Baseball front office executive, noticed Kendall and hired him to the Brewers’ staff for the rest of the year.
The rest is history.
Kendall latched on to the San Diego Padres’ organization as a mid-Atlantic scout, stayed there for four years, then came to the Orioles’ organization in 2000 and has been there ever since.
So it comes as no surprise to Shallcross, and the rest of the Baysox’s club, that Kendall can be “demanding” when advocating for player development. It’s where Kendall cut his teeth and the aspect of the game that is most important to him.
“He has always said that developing players and getting them good enough to play at the next level is the most important thing (to him),” Matt Wilson, communications manager for the Baysox, said.
Wilson got on-board with the Baysox in 2011, the same year as Kendall, and has become close with him over that time. It should come as no surprise that Wilson described the manager as a “player’s manager” and always shifts the credit to his players rather than himself.
“His door is always open for the guys, but he’s never been a ‘rah-rah’ rally the guys manager. He’s always been a more stoic presence in the clubhouse,” Wilson said of Kendall.
It’s fitting that Kendall wasn’t available for an interview. In the offseason, Kendall retreats to his home on the Eastern Shore to focus on spending time with his family – his daughter and his wife Merlita.
Shallcross and Wilson said Kendall is honest, up-front and realistic in his expectations of his players and coaching staff. Both cited communication and attention to detail as the manager’s best trait in the clubhouse.
“Nothing is too small for him,” Wilson said.
And that communication helped him manage a roster that saw 70 different players suit up for the Baysox throughout the 2015 championship season. In the minor leagues, roster turnover can lead to turmoil in clubhouses – AA clubs often serve as launching pads for players’ careers or are just short stops for MLB stars on rehab stints.
But Kendall makes it all work. Shallcross credited Kendall with finding and signing two key veterans – guys who were career minor leaguers – and using them as a stabilizing presence in the clubhouse.
Again, it should come as no surprise that Kendall recognizes not only talent, but the leadership intangibles that analysts love to talk about. A guy who has kept his nose to the ground and sought nothing but success for his organization, Kendall is a “you get what you see” type of manager.
“There’s no duplicity with (Kendall). He is fair to all involved,” Shallcross said. “With the roster turnover of an AA ballclub, Kendall has to be straightforward.”
For a baseball guy, Kendall handles the offseason well. He enjoys boating and goes whenever he can, he said in the Q&A. Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette takes his scouting and player development staffs to the winter meetings, held in Nashville this year, and tries to fill the organization with young, promising talent.
Kendall, like always, just waits for that talent and does what he does best with it.
“He takes pride in the guys he has developed in to big leaguers. Guys like (Manny) Machado, (Jonathan) Schoop and Kevin Gausman,” Wilson said.
Orioles’ third baseman Machado is a two-time all-star selection, a two-time gold glover, and a platinum glove winner – all in just three years as a big leaguer. Schoop won the Orioles’ starting second baseman job his rookie year in 2014. Gausman, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, got called up to the majors in 2013 and has continued to be a productive pitcher on the Orioles’ staff.
All three played for the Bowie Baysox. All three were managed and developed by Kendall.
“Gary has to balance (the Orioles’) different initiatives with winning baseball games and teaching players how to win,” Shallcross said of Kendall’s struggles to maintain a competitive roster while prepping his best players to leave. “That’s really the value of the manager.”
Kendall takes pride in watching his prospects succeed on the big stage, but he never seeks recognition. Born and raised in Maryland, Kendall just enjoys the winning like every other Orioles fan.
“But for the Oriole organization, our players and fans coming back next year, we can beat on our chest a little bit because we won us a championship,” he told The Baltimore Sun after winning the Eastern League.