The Nicest Guy in Baseball
Long before he was employed by Mike Scioscia and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I got to know one of the nicest people in the game of baseball. Ron Roenicke, who was named the Milwaukee Brewers new manager in the off-season, was once on the same team as me. While I worked in the office for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Roenicke was a coach on Tommy Lasorda’s staff. Rags, a left-hander, threw batting practice and served as the eye in the sky during games.
He spent eight years in the big leagues and compiled a total of 17 career home runs, a .238 batting average and 113 RBI. While he may night enter the Baseball Hall of Fame for what he accomplished on the field, Ron Roenicke is one of the nicest guys I will be rooting for this baseball season.
I got to know Ron during my time with the Dodgers (1991-1994). We spoke every day — In the coaches offices before games, on the field, during long airplane flights and in the hotels on the road. We spoke not only about baseball but about life, family, religion — you name it.
I recall fondly the days we traveled to Philadelphia. I loved Philly not for the local cuisine like cheesesteak sandwiches or the best bars the city had to offer. I couldn’t wait to get to Philly because the hotel we stayed at had an unusual benefit: Indoor racquetball courts for guests.
Ron and I began speaking about racquetball and I said we needed to play the next time we went to Philadelphia. Getting exercise on the road was always important to me and since I was not on the field before games, this was a great opportunity to compete. We played a few different times over the years and I will always rib Ron about beating him more than I lost. Eventually he stopped playing when we visited, claiming the back was acting up. A moral victory for me.
Growing up in Chicago, it would be easy to root against the Brewers, even though they were an American League team when I was a kid. The Cubs have natural rivals in the Cardinals but the Brewers, now being form the same division, would be a natural as well. It will be hard as I want Ron to succeed. He is not the only person on the team I know and it is hard to root against teams and the people you become friends with in this business.
The Brewers Chief Operating officer, Rick Schlesinger, is an old friend from my Disney days and Tyler Barnes (the team’s VP of Communications) is yet another colleague from my baseball days.
Real friendships in this business are long-lasting and baseball in the spring brings back great memories for generations of fans (and former employees). When the season starts however, I’m sure the competitive juices will kick in for all.