New third-base coach Bundy has paid his dues
Longtime Minor League manager appreciates opportunity with Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- Major League managers and coaches are now being hired with little or no Minor League internship, but the Dodgers went old school when they promoted Triple-A manager Lorenzo Bundy to take over as third-base coach when Tim Wallach moved to the bench.
"For those of us who have been in the Minor Leagues a long time trying to get to the Major Leagues, with all the hard work you have to do in the Minors, and now to be rewarded, well, I feel like I earned it," Bundy said from Mexico, where he is into his third decade as a Winter League manager because "I'm trying to get better.
"I've put in the time. You often see front offices go the other direction. So I greatly appreciate the opportunity the Dodgers have given to me. And it gives all the other guys in the organization who are grinding it out a sense that 'I do have a chance to be promoted from within.' It gives those guys hope."
Bundy's resume is loaded with dues paid. He has managed 12 seasons in the Minor Leagues. He has been a Minor League hitting coach, a bench coach, a bullpen coach and an outfield and baserunning coach.
He's in his second stint with the Dodgers to go with two stints in the Arizona organization that included Major League coaching gigs at first base, the bullpen and the bench. He also coached in the Major Leagues for the Marlins and Rockies.
He played eight Minor League seasons as a first baseman, never reaching the Major Leagues. He also played winter ball in Mexico, met wife Lupita there, and never really left. Technically, he's a resident of Tucson, Ariz., where he spends two months a year.
He's the third-winningest manager in Mexican Winter League history, having managed seven of the eight clubs, three to titles. How has an American lasted so long in a management role south of the border?
"I don't burn bridges," he said. "Ownership knows me and I have a trust factor with the players having played there six winters. That carries a lot of weight. But the bottom line anywhere for a manager is to win. You've got to win."
Bundy is 54, speaks fluent Spanish and has thrown a couple million batting-practice pitches. He was brought into the organization by vice president De Jon Watson, the pair having worked together with the Marlins in the mid-1990s. He's the Dodgers' first African-American third-base coach. Jackie Robinson would approve.
"I'm proud of my heritage," said Bundy. "I'm quite sure with the Jackie connection, a lot of people thought it would happen sooner. Obviously, between the front office and Donnie [Mattingly], they felt comfortable with me. It's very nice to know, with three African-Americans on the staff, that the opportunities are there."
Bundy, the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2012, said his dream is to manage in the Major Leagues.
"How many candidates have been a hitting coach, an outfield coach, baserunning coach, bullpen coach, bench coach, first-base coach and third-base coach, 20 years of winter ball?" he asked. "I think if somebody was looking for somebody with experience, I think I have it, you know? It comes down to what a team is looking for. I believe I have something to offer. I speak fluent Spanish. Throw that all on a resume, it looks good.
"So I keep managing. That's the only way I promote myself. I just try to show that I know the game, I go about it the right way, I work hard and try to help every player get to the next level."
Triple-A managers double as third-base coaches, so Bundy is confident his new role will be "second nature to me. But Donnie runs the game, not me."
Between his time in the Minor Leagues and Spring Training, Bundy has dealt with every current Dodger that has come through the system.
"And that's how I really judge my success, by what I've contributed to the careers of the players that have come through the system," he said. "As a Minor League staff guy, it's all about the player. That's what gets you excited. It's satisfying telling somebody like Elian Herrera, after 10 years in the Minors, that he's going to the Major Leagues. I never made it as a player. So I get satisfaction when these players do.
"I'm in a restaurant and Scott Van Slyke comes up to pinch-hit and hits a grand slam. I'm screaming and everyone looks around like I'm a crazy man. They don't know how much time I put in with the player and to see him take it to the next level, that's why I'm in this game."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.