Sandberg to manage Class A Peoria

Sandberg to manage Class A Peoria

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ryne Sandberg wants to get back to the big leagues, and he'll begin just like everyone else by paying his dues in the Minor Leagues.

The Hall of Famer took the first step when he was named Tuesday as the manager for the Cubs' Class A Peoria Chiefs. Yes, he'll wear No. 23. He follows his former Cubs teammate Jody Davis, who managed the Chiefs for one season and was assigned to the Class A Daytona team for 2007.

"My family is ecstatic about it," Sandberg said Tuesday. "They've been asking when they can come into town. It was a family decision. It's perfect timing for me. I look at it as a great opportunity to work with the Cubs. I'll learn along the way and we'll have fun."

Sandberg has loftier aspirations.

"This is a stepping stone so I can one day manage in the Major Leagues," he said. "I think this is the start of what I need to do."

Sandberg interviewed with general manager Jim Hendry after the 2006 season ended regarding the Cubs' big-league job, but Hendry said he was looking for someone with more managing experience. The Cubs named Lou Piniella in October.

The ideal situation for Sandberg would be to manage the Cubs. He'll have to endure bus rides in the Midwest League first.

"There's a lot of people who save money to ride the bus," Sandberg said. "I get to do it for free. That's all part of it and that's part of the fun."

Sandberg has been a part-time coach for the Cubs during Spring Training for at least eight years, helping the infielders on defense and offering pointers to the hitters.

"I'll be talking to the players about my passion for the game of baseball and playing the game the right way," he said. "This is all about the prospects and the young players and all about helping them develop for the Major Leagues."

Sandberg spent nearly three seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies' Minor League system, and was named an Eastern League All-Star in 1980 when he hit .310 and posted a .964 fielding percentage. The Reading Phillies retired his jersey number, which at the time was No. 26.

His No. 23 was retired by the Cubs after Sandberg, 47, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2005. He played for the Cubs from 1982-94, and again from 1996-97, and compiled a career batting average of .285 with 282 home runs and 1,061 RBIs. The smooth-fielding second baseman won the National League MVP award in 1984, nine Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger Awards, and was a 10-time All-Star. He led the National League in home runs in 1990 with 40.

"This is a great day in Peoria Chiefs history and a great day for baseball fans in Central Illinois," said Chiefs president Rocky Vonachen. "We are thrilled to welcome a Hall of Famer and a Cubs legend into the Chiefs family, and we look forward to April and the reception Ryne will get from the great Chiefs and Cubs fans in the Peoria area."

Sandberg says he won't have any special security detail.

"I'll just go and be myself," he said.

Davis led the Chiefs to a 75-64 record in his first season, and they were the first-half division champs with a 41-28 record. The Chiefs were swept by Beloit in the best-of-five playoff series. After Sandberg was named, he called Davis to get a feel for the experience.

"Jody said he enjoyed it more than he thought he would," Sandberg said. "I wanted to hear about the league in general. I'm pretty pumped up about this."

One of the required readings for all of the Chiefs players will likely be Sandberg's Hall of Fame speech, in which he emphasized the need to respect the game. That will be a message the kids will hear a lot, and Sandberg plans to address more than just when to sacrifice, when to hit-and-run. There are also things like how to deal with life away from the ballpark, how to dress, and how to wear the uniform.

"What a great thing it is for a first-season player to not only learn about the right work ethic but also respect for the game," said Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken. "I think it will be fun, and I think the guys will learn a lot."

"He's obviously got a wealth of knowledge," Hendry said. "He's done it the right way -- you get at a point in your life where you want to decide what you want to do with the rest of it. I applaud him for, [being] the level of player that he was, that he'll go down to the Midwest League."

Sandberg said he expected the Cubs' 2006 No. 1 draft pick, Tyler Colvin, to be on the Chiefs' roster but the rosters have not been set. Some of the Cubs' Minor League players may be volunteering to play in Peoria.

"I've been to Peoria and I know what a great town it is and not only that, but it's a Cubs town," Sandberg said. "I can't think of a better opportunity."

He's prepared for the autograph seekers, too. It's all part of what Sandberg feels he needs to do to extend his baseball career. Coaching in Spring Training sparked his interest.

"I thought I could contribute more, I want to contribute more," he said. "This is the first step in achieving it."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.