DENVER — Bud Black took the reins of a veteran-laden San Diego Padres squad in 2007. After a lifetime spent in baseball, it was his first managing gig, and he was taking over a Padres team that had just won the NL West under Bruce Bochy.
However, "differences" between Bochy and the front office led to Bochy bolting San Diego for San Francisco and an opening for the then-50-year-old Black to take over the Padres.
On that 2007 Padres roster were names like Greg Maddux, David Wells, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Cameron and Brian Giles. With veterans dotting the roster and Black coming in as a fresh-faced manager, it was perhaps that last name that was the most important of the group. After all, Black and Giles had played together during Black's last professional season in 1995 and had formed a bond during their time in Cleveland.
"I called all of those guys as soon as I got the job," Black recalled of the veterans listed above. "The relationships were built before the very first day of spring training, but it isn't until day one of spring training and day one of the season when it really counts. Your leadership has to be in place before that.
"The thing that I remember, and as I was told this by many people, was to be yourself. You can't be somebody you're not, and that's now my advice to first-time managers or coaches. With all of that said, it helped me that that group were good guys. There were two Hall of Famers in Maddux and Hoffman. Those other guys were pros and they knew this was my first job and they didn't challenge me. There were a couple of instances where I had to tell a couple of the veteran guys in private conversations that something was important to me and some of the guys weren't really doing it. They were little things to somebody else maybe, but they weren't to me, and they helped me get the message across."
Getting that message across helped Black establish his rhythm as a manager, he said.
"There were some standards that I felt were important that other people might not. That's my style," Black said. "Those standards are still pretty much in place today."
Looking back, Black said having Giles, Cameron, Hoffman, and Maddux (Wells was released on August 13) was a key to his first season.
"I felt as though they all had my back," Black said. "Jake Peavy won the Cy Young and Adrian Gonzalez had a great season, but it was those four veteran players who were really the glue of the team."
Note: We will have more of our conversation with Black throughout the weekend as the Padres and Rockies meet here at Coors Field.