It’s almost as if fate was trying to tell Joe Girardi that he was meant to don red pinstripes at some point.
“I’m well aware of the passion for the game of baseball here,” Girardi said Monday, as he was introduced as the 55th manager in franchise history. “And I’ve lived it as a player, and as a manager. And I am truly excited to be here. I’d like to thank [general manager] Matt [Klentak] for giving me this opportunity – this is a special place.”
Throughout his life in baseball, there have been little Phillies connections that have built up to this moment.
He grew up as a fan of the Chicago Cubs and cited the 1984 team as one of his favorites as a kid. That team was managed by Dallas Green – the manager of the 1980 World Champion Phillies – and included Larry Bowa – a member of the 1980 team – and Gary “Sarge” Matthews, who had helped the Phillies win the National League pennant the prior season.
In 1986, Girardi and his now-wife, Kim, were sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field for a Cubs-Phillies game. A home run ball was hit into the bleachers, and he says that Kim stepped on another fan’s hand to assure that she got the ball, admitting to Girardi that she wasn’t sure how many more chances she would get to catch a home run ball at a major league game.
Girardi’s first hit as a major leaguer came on Opening Day in 1989 off of Phillies RHP Floyd Youmans. John Kruk broke his nose in a game in 1991, and Girardi says that the Phillies Wall of Famer visited him in the hospital to make sure he was OK.
He managed the New York Yankees team that defeated them in six games in the 2009 World Series. Girardi said Monday that the passion that Phillies fans showed during that series still resonates with him.
So the Phillies felt like a natural fit for Girardi, who has 988 career wins as a major league manager.
“So I was thinking about, ‘what’s going to happen in my life…what’s next?’ And then I thought ‘man, I got all of these Philly ties.’ And I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here, because this is part of who I am.”
With his understanding of the history of the organization, Girardi knows he’s walking into a pressure-cooker, one where fans are hungry for October baseball, something they haven’t seen since 2011. And he welcomes that pressure.
“I had a chance to manage against the team in the 2000s that was great. So you think about it; the 1990s, they were great; the 2000s they were great – and this team has a history of being successful. And I’m selfish, I want to win.”
Girardi warned the collective media that he isn’t the storyteller that some managers are. But he was full of great Phillies-related stories Monday, including one last one about how former Phillies manager Pete Mackanin impacted his baseball career.
“Pete Mackanin was my first manager in the minor leagues. And Pete was the guy that gave me the call [to tell me] that I was going to the big leagues when he was the field coordinator. And I asked him ‘Are you kidding?’ and he said, “Yeah, you’re going to the big leagues.”
“He sent me a text congratulating me [when I was hired as manager], and if any of you are guilty of taking anything, I want you to be able to tell him. He said ‘Check for the change in the drawer’ and he would appreciate if I’d send it back.”
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