Two notable managerial changes in the minors have been announced: Ryne Sandberg, successful as manager of the Iowa Cubs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) last season and passed over as Cubs manager, will pilot the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League), while Fran Riordan, the winningest manager in Frontier League history, will lead the Florence Freedom.
It’s a return of sorts for Sandberg, who began his career in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Making his way up the Cubs system as a manger, he led his clubs to two first-place finishes and overall has a managerial record of 284-277-1 (.505). This past season, his first as a Triple-A manager, Sandberg was named Manager of the Year in the Pacific Coast League after leading the I-Cubs to a tie for the best record in the Northern Division (82-62).
A 2005 inductee to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, Sandberg was a 10-time National League All-Star and won nine Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger awards during his 16-year career (1981-94, 1996-97). He was originally drafted by the Phillies in 1978 and made his major league debut with the club in 1981, appearing in 13 games. Sandberg finished his career with a .285 batting average, 282 home runs, 1,061 RBI and 344 stolen bases in 2,164 games. At the time of his retirement, his 277 home runs as a second baseman was a major league record.
Meanwhile, Riordan, the winningest manager in independent Frontier League history, will join the Freedom as the new field manager in 2011.
“I’m very excited to join the Freedom organization. The Frontier League has been a huge part of my life since 1997. I’ve seen the league grow from its infancy and it’s been a great ride for the league. I’m very excited to be back,” Riordan said.
Riordan previously managed within the Frontier League in 2001 and 2002 for the Richmond Roosters and from 2004-2009 with the Kalamazoo Kings before joining the Lake County Fielders (independent; Northern League) in its inaugural 2010 season. Riordan ended both his seasons with the Roosters in high fashion, claiming two Frontier League championships as well as winning a league championship with the Kings in 2005. Riordan has garnered numerous managerial awards included being named Frontier League Manager of the Year in 2008. On July 26, 2009, he became the winningest manager in Frontier League history with his 413th win over 9 seasons in the league. He ended the 2009 season with the Kings with 435 career wins and 3 league championships as a player/manager.
“It is fabulous to have Fran back in the league,” said Frontier League commissioner Bill Lee. He has been a great influence in the Frontier League, both as a player and as a manager.”
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