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Ryne Sandberg ‘put in the work’ to prepare him for Phillies’ job

Updated: October 1, 2013 6:55AM



Don’t think Ryne Sandberg wasn’t looking forward to his return to Wrigley Field on Friday as a major-league manager — and not out of spite.

“No, no,’’ he said long before the gates opened. “I’m looking forward to this. This is right where I want to be. I’m to the stage now, my age and everything, I try to enjoy everything. That was the big reason of getting back into baseball when I did. I wanted it full-time. That’s what I did in the minor leagues.

“I take it all in now and relish it, so I’m looking forward to it.’’

Everything probably looked even better to the interim manager after a 6-5 comeback victory, improving his record to 9-6 since he replaced Charlie Manuel.

“The guys battled all the way through, and it’s been the characteristic of the guys at least the last two weeks,’’ he said. “We’ve had three walk-off wins and some late-inning offense. The guys have been able to battle.

“There’s some good energy on the bench, which goes a long way,’’ he added. “I’ve been saying that just about every day.’’

There never has been anything half-hearted about the Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman, from his play on the field to his commitment in starting out at the lowest level of the minors to achieving his goal to be a major-league manager.

That the grind started in the Cubs’ organization but ended with the Phillies is not a negative in his mind.

“The Cubs gave me a chance to start in Peoria and gave me an opportunity to manage in the ­minor leagues,’’ he said. “I did it for four years. That’s gone a long way. Other than that, I understand how baseball works.’’

It worked to twice deny him the chance to manage the team he played for and had him back in the organization that drafted him. The Phillies sent him to the minors again, where he won a second minor-league manager of the year award at Class AAA.

But they brought him back to the majors this season as a coach and presumed heir to Manuel, though the job might have come sooner than some expected.

“I’m doing what I want to do, and that’s the main thing,’’ he said of having no assurances about the future.

“Moving on [from the Cubs] was important for me to get back to the major leagues. [That’s] the way I looked at it.

“Baseball is all about relationships and in some ways who knows you and who you know. That’s the case here.

“I’ve always had that attitude that things happen for a reason. But also, I put in the work, put the time in to give myself a chance to be at this point.

“I didn’t want to have the opportunity I have now and not be prepared. I feel very good about that. I feel prepared, and the six years in the minor leagues played a huge part in that.’’

Wrigley Field, where his No. 23 was retired and flies from the right-field foul pole, remains a ­beloved place.

“It means so much,’’ he said. “It’s a little different angle from here [the visitors’ side], but this is a place that was very comfortable for me as a player. It always solved any slumps I was in.

He is “comfortable now,’’ even as a visitor.

“I feel much more comfortable now with what I’m doing than when I was 21 and not knowing if I was meant to be here [as a player]. This feels good.’’

Email: tginnetti@suntimes.com

Twitter: @toniginnetti



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