ATLANTA For just a few moments on Thursday afternoon, in a makeshift room of microphones, klieg lights, and portable air conditioners, the voices of baseball men seemed to pick up.
How did it feel to ask Braves and Cardinals managers to participate in a series of the National League division, considering all the years of toil, waiting and waiting for a big break in the league?
"I never thought of my wildest dreams three or four years ago that this could happen," said Brian Snitker, a 63-year-old Braves manager who only got his job in 2016 but has now reached his second consecutive post-season.
"Very blessed and very excited," said Mike Shildt, 51, and in his first full year in charge of the Cardinals' hide less than an hour later, during his press conference here.
Both teams are facing formidable tests in the best of five series, which Atlanta drew on Friday before moving to St. Louis for match 3 on Sunday. And both entrusted their training cards – and their ambitions to overcome the sustained races of October futility – to men with equally rare resumes: neither of them ever moved from one organization to another nor played in the major leagues – the only managers of post-season with these distinctions.
Among them, two of the three senior managers of these playoffs, they spent 28 seasons leading minor league teams, building careers with few employers and many jobs.
“Is it a model? I think people will look a little more seriously, ”said John Mozeliak, president of Cardinals baseball operations. "I think where the game is today, it's not necessarily what you did on the pitch, it's how you can understand information, process information in real time."
Major league clubs can be quick to loot rival organizations that outperform their teams. But in cities already steeped in managerial mythology – Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa have led the cardinals to various World Series titles, and a bronze statue of Bobby Cox stands outside Atlanta's SunTrust Park – Shildt and Snitker almost they seem to prove that firmness can be as much a playoff recipe as anything else.
"There is a long history of success with St. Louis Cardinals, and I have always embraced, admired and accepted that responsibility," said Shildt. "And whatever role I am in, I try to create value and try to push it forward and be a good manager."
Most of Shildt's current players had already been born when his major league manager was training high school baseball in his native North Carolina. He spent a few years working in the baseball scout department before joining St. Louis Fold in 2004. His first administrative assignment was in 2009 at Cardinals rookie branch in Johnson City, Tennessee, and joined the major league team. . as a quality control coach in 2017.
It was during the first year at Busch Stadium, over dinner at an old-school steakhouse west of St. Louis, that Shildt's potential crystallized for Mozeliak. He went home and told his wife that Shildt would one day be a major league manager. "I assumed it would be for the cardinals," he added.
St. Louis chose Shildt as his interim manager for next season, with the temporary label removed about six weeks later – a vote of confidence for one of the few men to take charge of a major league team without playing a professional field. . baseball.
Their players have been and continue to be troubled by the lack of major league credentials. Second baseman Kolten Wong went so far as to argue that Shildt's lack of playing time ultimately benefited the players.
"Sometimes when you play the game for so long, you tend to forget how hard the game is and when you don't play it can really be at the boy level," he said.
This can translate into more confidence for Shildt players.
"He won't beat you when you don't play a good game or make a mistake or something," Wong said after a game in which he had made a mistake and, in the ninth inning, twice in a row. “At this level, we're all hard enough for ourselves, so for him to be this guy to support us and knowing he's the manager and the boss, it will give him a lot more confidence in the next ball on the ground or in bat. . "
Or, as Miles Mikolas said, who started game 1 for the cardinals: "How many guys are elected president who have never been president before?"
In Atlanta, Snitker derives his authority from even greater longevity and loyalty. He joined the Braves organization in 1977 as an uncontracted free agent, playing for a few years in the minor leagues and never rising beyond the AAA-class club. He ran the entire Braves' celebrated farming system and had three stints with the head coach of the major league team in Atlanta.
When the 2016 season began, he was running a minor league team in the Atlanta suburbs. In late May, he led Braves in his last season at Turner Field, not sure he could keep his job. He was, however, a favorite of Atlanta players, seen as a link to Cox and a quintessential corporate man in an industry that is not exactly outdone by them.
"He went through the rut more than anyone else," said Mike Soroka, the right-handed rookie due to start match 3 for Atlanta on Sunday and who appeared through the minors hearing about Snitker. "He's someone who really loves baseball, loves this game and respects the game, and it's easy to play for a guy who likes it."
On Thursday, shortly before the men entered a converted warehouse to confront reporters, word came that Mets had fired Mickey Callaway, adding to the long list of managerial vacancies to be filled during this off-season.
In Atlanta and St. Louis, however, these changes are only fodder for club contemplation. Their managers will stay, the club bets seemingly working.
"It probably wouldn't have worked if any of us had gone to another organization and tried that job," said Snitker. "But because your familiarity with players and their involvement in their development – and they know who you are and what you are and your passion for work – comes where we can succeed sitting in this chair."