Mike Redmond couldn’t recall when the thought of managing seriously began to take shape in his own mind.
But the new Marlins skipper does remember the first time somebody suggested it was his destiny.
“Nineteen-ninety-three. Kane County Cougars,” Redmond recalled Friday afternoon during his introductory news conference at Marlins Park.
“Charles Johnson, starting catcher. Mike Redmond, backup catcher. Big day. Photo day. The baseball cards are coming out. I’m all excited, just coming out of college, all fired up. I get my baseball card and what does it say on the back? ‘Will be a coach when his playing days are over.’ Right out of the chute, it was picked for me.”
The journey from catching to managing is hardly a new phenomenon in baseball. In fact, it now seems to be the natural order and a recipe for success when teams go in search of a manager who can lead them deep into October.
All four teams that reached the recent League Championship Series — the Giants, Tigers, Yankees and Cardinals — were managed by former catchers. Since 2007, at least two of the four teams in the LCS have been led by former catchers.
When he signed his three-year contract with the Marlins on Friday, Redmond became the 11th former catcher to fill one of the 30 current big-league managerial positions. No other position is as well-represented across the majors — or even in Marlins history.
Jack McKeon, Fredi Gonzalez, Rene Lachemann, Jim Leyland, Jeff Torborg and Joe Girardi — six of the top seven winningest managers in Marlins history — were catchers either at the big-league or minor-league level.
“It’s a unique position,” Redmond said. “We’re the position on the field who gets to see everything. We have the view of the whole field, every position. You have to be involved in everything. You have to be involved in the pitching, the hitting, base running. You got to know the visiting team, know the players, their strengths and weaknesses. On top of that, you’re trying to hit against their pitchers. You’ve also got to know situations. You call games based on the team that you’re playing. All those things, all those situations — when to pitch around an eight-hole hitter to get to the pitcher, guys that will hit and run, guys that will bunt — you have to be involved in everything.”
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said the fact Redmond had only two years of Single A managerial experience had little or no impact on the organization’s decision to hire him. It was what the front office saw and knew of Redmond during his seven seasons as the club's backup catcher that they felt good about.
“I think he would have been considered regardless,” Beinfest said. “Mike Redmond has always been talked about in this vain going back to that story he told you about the baseball card. We knew this guy would always make a great manager one day.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt to see another team — the Cardinals — have success after taking a chance on a young, former catcher of its own in Mike Matheny.
Matheny, a 42-year-old who had been forced to retire in 2006 because of concussions, had huge shoes to fill a year ago when he stepped in for Tony La Russa. Matheny, who had never managed before, led the Cardinals to an 88-win season and a return to the playoffs. The club played 13 postseason games, falling one victory short of advancing back to the World Series.