A 10-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner, Sandberg was a coach in the Arizona Fall League this year. He retired from the Cubs after the 1997 season, ending a 15-year career and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
"If you had asked me in the middle of my career if I felt I'd be doing this after my career, I would've said, 'No chance,'" Sandberg said. "I guess you never know in this game. Once I was out of the game, I felt baseball was all I knew. Now, being back in it in this capacity, it's the next best thing to playing it."
The former Cubs second baseman said he learned more about the game in two years as a Minor League manager than he did in his 20 years in uniform as a player. He's also learned something about himself: that he's better at communicating now than he was 15 years ago, and also very patient.
Sandberg's goal is the same as the young players he's managing. He wants to get to the big leagues.
"First things first is to learn along the way," Sandberg said. "That's how I've taken this thing. I want to learn, I want to be good at it. Like the players, I hope to one day be at the Major League level. That's all of our goals. I'm not any different than the players. I look at this as one more opportunity to learn."
The Tennessee team will play by National League rules in some ballparks, which will give Sandberg a chance to test his skills. It's one thing to know the rules, it's another to apply them, he said.
Sandberg was able to work with older players as a coach for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League this past October.
"It was totally different, and different in a good way," he said. "It was a very good experience because these players were anywhere from going into Double-A, going into Triple-A, and I think some of these guys could actually get into the Major Leagues next year.
"All they needed was some little thing or [help with] the mental side of the game," he said. "It was a very good seven weeks. I think that will help me going into this year and Double-A."
"A lot of people have asked just about [Sandberg], but if you look at all the moves, it kind of freshened up the organization."
-- Cubs player development|
director Oneri Fleita
Sandberg's staff will include pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn and hitting coach Tom Beyers, who are in their third and first season with the Smokies, respectively.
Bobby Dickerson will take over as the Triple-A Iowa manager, replacing Pat Listach, who joined the Washington Nationals' coaching staff as the third-base coach. Dickerson, who spent the past three seasons as the infield and bunting coordinator, managed at Tennessee for four seasons and led the team to a Southern League championship in 2002.
Mike Mason will serve a second term as Iowa's pitching coach. Von Joshua returns as the hitting coach for the fourth straight season.
Former Cubs catcher Jody Davis, who has managed at Class A Daytona for two seasons, will switch assignments and be the Minor League catching coordinator. Buddy Bailey will take over the Daytona Cubs after guiding Tennessee to a 62-77 mark in 2008. Bailey has been a Minor League manager for 20 years and with the Cubs since 2006.
He'll be joined by pitching coach Tom Pratt, who handled the same duties for Boise last season. Former Major League outfielder Richie Zisk returns as Daytona's hitting coach for the fourth straight season and his 20th in the organization, while Bob Grimes enters his 24th year in the system, his second as the team's athletic trainer after spending the previous four seasons with Iowa.
Marty Pevey will take over at Peoria in his first season with the Cubs organization. Rich Bombard will return as the Chiefs' pitching coach, while Barbaro Garbey will be the hitting coach.
After two years as the Cubs' Minor League catching coordinator, Casey Kopitzke will manage Class A Boise in 2009. Kopitzke was selected by the Cubs in the 27th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft and spent his eight-year pro career in the Cubs organization. David Rosario will be the pitching coach and Desi Wilson will handle hitting-coach duties.
Juan Cabreja, who is in his sixth year with the organization, begins his first season as Rookie League manager in Mesa. Rick Tronerud returns to handle pitching-coach duties for the ninth straight season, while Ricardo Medina returns as the hitting coach.
"A lot of people have asked just about [Sandberg], but if you look at all the moves, it kind of freshened up the organization," Fleita said. "We want to develop the coaches as much as you do the players. The coaches are no different. If they get called to the big leagues, they could be asked to manage, coach, handle third base, the infield, the outfield, whatever. To get all the different opportunities I think is great.
"We were able to push things around a little bit. It's good for the players and the environment. Obviously, everybody's goal is to get to the Major Leagues, but we want to keep the guys energized so we can do the very best we can for the players."
Dave Bialas will return as the Minor League field coordinator for the seventh consecutive season and 15th in the Cubs organization. Franklin Font will begin his first season as infield coordinator after coaching or managing in the Cubs organization since 2002.
Former Cubs outfielder Bob Dernier returns for his third season as the outfield and baserunning coordinator, while Dave Keller continues his duties as hitting coordinator for the sixth straight year.
Carmelo Martinez will enter his 12th season in the Cubs organization, and second as Latin American field coordinator. Mark Riggins will begin his second season as pitching coordinator after handling the same duty with St. Louis for the previous 12 seasons.
The Cubs also have promoted area scout Keith Stohr. After serving for five years as the team's Northern Florida area scout, Stohr has been named as one of the organization's advanced scouts.