RailCats – and manager Greg Tagert’s family – glad to have Cristian Guerrero back
By Mike Clark Post-Tribune correspondent May 4, 2013 11:36PM
RailCats players run around the field during the first day of spring training at the U.S. Steel Yard Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Gary, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 6, 2013 7:25AM
GARY — In the Tagert family, the baseball decisions are usually left to Greg, who is entering his ninth season as manager of the RailCats.
But that doesn’t mean others are afraid to make their opinions known.
So it was when the RailCats and Cristian Guerrero parted ways after the 2011 season. After a successful four-year run in Gary, Guerrero was hoping to land a job closer to his offseason home in Delaware. But a hoped-for Atlantic League contract offer never materialized. Guerrero eventually signed with RailCats’ American Association rival Winnipeg, who traded him to Sioux Falls before the 2012 season started.
None of that sat well with the Tagert clan.
“He’s my family favorite,” Tagert said. “Believe me, I took more abuse from my mom in California, my brother, my family here at home.”
When Gary played Sioux Falls, Tagert added, “I’ve got my entire family rooting for Cristian against the RailCats.”
There will be no more family feud this year, however. Guerrero re-signed with the RailCats in March and was back in a Gary uniform Saturday as the team began spring training with a workout at the Steel Yard.
Like his manager’s relatives, Guerrero couldn’t be happier about the turn of events.
“These guys are unbelievable teammates,” he said, “especially Adam Klein and (Mike) Massaro. You feel like you want to be with those guys. They care a lot about the game.”
The 14-year veteran of pro baseball also appreciates the Steel Yard crowds.
“The fans here care a lot about the game, give a lot of support.”
Part of that no doubt has to do with Guerrero’s power displays. In his first stint with the RailCats, the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder turned on its head the idea that the Steel Yard isn’t a good park for sluggers.
Guerrero hit 58 homers in four seasons, setting the club record with 16 in 2008 and breaking it again two years later with 19.
But he never went up swinging for the fences — or the net that keeps most balls from landing on 4th Avenue behind the left-field wall.
“Those home runs — for me, I don’t look for that,” he said. “The home runs just happen.”
What Klein is hoping, and expecting, is that the homers and runs batted in will happen this season.
“That was one thing we were honestly lacking last year ... this threat in the middle of the lineup,” said Klein, who hits leadoff. “I felt last year Mike (Massaro, who bats second) and I almost had this pressure to drive in runs when we were really the type of guys who should be the runs driven in.”
There’s no doubt Guerrero’s bat will be a welcome presence; he’s a lifetime .272 hitter with 166 homers and 729 RBI in 1,280 minor-league games.
But he’s also being welcomed back for other reasons that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
“A lot of us who have known Cristian for a long time are ecstatic he’s back,” Klein said, “not only for what he brings on the field, but off the field, in the clubhouse.”
And apparently in the manager’s house, too.