This week, the Phillies announced that Mickey Morandini, who had managed their full-season Class A affiliate in Lakewood for the past two season, would be assigned to the coaching staff of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the upcoming season.
The switch wasn’t very surprising, as each year there’s some realignment of members of the developmental coaching staff and more so considering that no manager in the BlueClaws’ 13-year history had every managed the team for more than two consecutive seasons. Based on that trend, it was likely that Morandini would be coaching elsewhere this year.
The 47-year-old was drafted by the Phillies in the 5th round of the 1988 amateur draft and batted .268 with 32 homers and 351 RBI for the Phils, Cubs and Blue Jays over 11 big league seasons. He was on the Phillies club that won the National League pennant in 1993 and represented the organization as an All-Star in 1995. Following some time away from the pro ranks after his playing career was through and coaching his sons in youth baseball, Morandini became a professional coach in 2011 when he managed the Phillies’ short-season Class A affiliate, the Williamsport Crosscutters.
I spoke with Morandini about his new assignment with the IronPigs, his goals for the future and his expectations for players in the system he’s coaches thus far. Read ahead for that full interview.
– What went into the decision to move you from managing at the Class A level and adding you to the coaching staff at the Triple-A level? Was there a meeting or interview for the spot, or was it just an assignment?
It’s an assignment. I had told them as much as I love managing I just wanted to progress through the system in any way that I could, so when this position came up, it fit me pretty well and, um, so it worked out good.
– So, based on what you’re saying that you wanted to progress, is the goal here to coach in the big leagues? I know some coaches in the minors will say that they love helping to develop guys. Is that something that coaches will just say? Is everyone’s goal to coach in the big leagues?
Well, I mean, my goal is to get to the big leagues. I mean, I love doing what I am doing. I love working with kids. I always have. That’s part of the reason I got back into it. You know, my progression through (coaching) little kids, to high school, to working with professional athletes has been really good and I’ve enjoyed it. But, the ultimate goal is, at some point, I would love to manage in the big leagues.
– You’re going from A-ball, where there’s very young players, to Triple-A, where there are older players and even veterans. So, how much will your approach change when it comes to working with the players?
It’s gonna change a little bit. I mean, the level I was working at I think patience was the key and I had to be very patient. It was very repetitive. With young kids, it was a lot of teaching involved, trying to do things the way we want them done. In Triple-A, guys have been in the big leagues, or they’re knocking on the door and it’s more kind of refining some things. I don’t think you have to be as patient. Hopefully, you only have to say things one time to get things done. So, it’s gonna be a little different and that’s part of the reason I’m really excited I get to work with, you know, kind of a new athlete now. Someone that’s been through a lot of things and has been around the game and, hopefully, I can help continue their progress.
– With kind of a goal among goals reached, moving upward in the developmental ranks as a coach, talk more about your level of excitement for this change.
I’m ecstatic! I’m really excited about it. I’m ready for the challenge. I’ve got a great group of coaches I’m gonna be working with and learning from and I’m just really excited for it. It’s a great league. Lehigh Valley is a great place to play. They’ve got great fans there and, like I said, I’m really looking forward to it and I can’t wait for the season to get started.
– Does your arrival date to spring training change now, being up at the highest level of the minors instead of the lower levels?
Yeah, Triple-A coaches go to big league camp, so I’ll be heading down there around February 9th. We’ve got some meetings, two days after that and then we’ll get the players in and get them going. So, my stay there is extended an extra three weeks.
– Just based on your experience with the Phillies organization the past few years, first managing at short-season Class A, then full-season Class A, and this might be for fun or speculation, but what players that you’ve managed do you think could be among the first to catch up to you at Triple-A?
(Laughs) Who’s gonna catch up to me? Well, Franco would have been the one, but he’s already gonna be there. So, I think J.P. Crawford‘s got a chance to move through the system very fast. You know, I had Aaron Altherr in A-ball. He’s got a chance to get there fairly fast. I know he’ll probably start out at Double-A this year if all things go well. But, I would say that probably J.P. would get there the fastest.
– And lastly here, I know you mentioned the other Lehigh Valley coaches (manager Dave Brundage, pitching coach Ray Burris and hitting coach Sal Rende). Do you have a good rapport with those guys already?
Not a whole lot. I worked with Sal a little bit. Not too much with Dave and with Ray, but I’m really looking forward to it. They’ve been around a long time and there’s a lot of knowledge there, so I’m planning on learning a lot from them.