BY STEVE KRAH
Buddy Bailey is heading into his 40th season in professional baseball in 2019.
The new manager of the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs in the Low Class-A Midwest League is aware that his players are still discovering what pro ball is all about.
With most players 19 to 22 years old and in the earliest stages of their careers, they are not finished products and Major League Baseball-ready.
“Down here it’s going to take more patience,” says Bailey, who has been a skipper at levels from rookie to Triple-A and was the manager of the year in the International League Manager in 1996 and 2003 and Venezuelan Professional Baseball League in 2006-07. “There are going to be more mistakes.
“I’ve got a motto: If you’re not patient, you will become a patient. You’ve got to live by that motto and try to find a way to help them get better.”
South Bend is scheduled to play a seven-inning exhibition against Notre Dame at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at Four Winds Field.
The 140-game regular season opens at home Thursday, April 4 with a 7:05 p.m. contest against West Michigan.
“A lot of these guys have big dreams and ambitions to put up good numbers,” says Bailey. “Some of them won’t be here long if they do things right.
“If we have half of a new team by June, it would be great for the (Chicago Cubs) organization.”
Bailey, who was born in Norristown, Pa. and went to high school and college in Virginia, says he has stayed in baseball so long because he sees it as an extension of his childhood and relishes the opportunity to turn young players into men with a kids’s heart.
“I still have passion and love for what I do,” says Bailey, who has won more than 2,000 games as a minor league manager. “Not all of them are going to be big league players, but at the same time, they’re going to have to go live their lives doing something else.
“Hopefully, you find some ways to build character — not only as a player, but you turn them into men.”
In four decades, plenty has changed in the world of player development.
Bailey says pitching is where it’s changed the most.
“Back then pitch totals were higher even in the minor leagues,” says Bailey. “Guys were allowed to collect more innings.”
Bailey recalls that Tom Glavine, who was on his way to 305 MLB wins and a trip to the Hall of Fame, pitched more than 150 innings (it was 168 2/3) in A-ball in 1985.
“We won’t have anyone get to that now,” says Bailey of the 2019 South Bend Cubs. Pitch counts and innings totals will be monitored and kept relatively low. “The whole industry’s got that mentality. That’s part of the way it is now. The game has changed.”
Welby Sheldon Bailey is a graduate of Amherst (Va.) County High School and Lynchburg (Va.) College.
A catcher, he signed his first pro contract with the Atlanta Braves in 1979.
Bailey managed in the Braves system 1983-90, winning the Southern League pennant as pilot of the Greenville Braves in 1988.
He went to the Boston Red Sox organization in 1991 and served as a minor league manager at Lynchburg (1991-92) and Pawtucket (1993-96, 2002-04) and served as a big league bench coach (2000 under manager Jimy Williams) and was a field coordinator of minor league instruction, or roving catcher instructor (1997-99, 2001).
Bailey has also led the Tigres de Aragua of the Venezuela Winter League, leading the team to a Caribbean Series title in 2009.
He joined the Cubs organization in 2006 as a roving minor league catching instructor and took over as manager at Daytona midway through that season.
Since then, Bailey has managed at Triple-A Iowa (2007), Double-A Tennessee (2008, 2012-15), High-A Daytona (2009-11) and High-A Myrtle Beach (2016-18).
Bailey’s South Bend staff includes pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea, hitting coach Paul McAnulty and coach Pedro Gonzalez.
Buddy Bailey is the manager of the Low Class-A South Bend (Ind.) Cubs in 2019. He spent the past three seasons as manager of the High-A Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans. He has been in professional baseball for 40 years. (Myrtle Beach Pelicans Photo)