The Arizona Diamondbacks took their time, but ultimately got their men, hiring Steve Sax and Turner Ward to fill out their Major League coaching staff.
Sax, a teammate of manager Kirk Gibson’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers during their magical 1988 World Series championship run, will take over for Eric Young as the Diamondbacks’ first base coach. Ward will work with hitting coach Don Baylor in an assistant capacity.
Sax, who retired from baseball in 1994, doesn’t have much coaching experience on his résumé, but feels that now is the right time for him to get back into the game he loves.
“I’ve done some coaching with MLB around the country in smaller settings, certainly not in a professional setting, but I’ve also been doing coaching through my speaking business,” Sax said on a conference call Wednesday. “I went to the Winter Meetings, I’ve been sending out my résumé to various teams and got an opportunity to meet with the Diamondbacks and it came full circle. I’m blessed to be here.”
Sax made the process of landing the job sound easy, but that wasn’t the case according to general manager Kevin Towers.
“Gibby did a great job of waterboarding him, going through video being pretty extensive on what he’d like to have done and how we can improve our baserunning and outfield play,” Towers said.
Many other candidates were considered, including former big league outfielder Brett Butler, who has served as the manager for Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno for the past four seasons with great success.
“We think the world of Brett Butler and it was tough, but ultimately we think that Saxy was the best guy for our staff right now,” Towers said.
Gibson had familiarity with Ward, who spent the last two years managing the Mobile Bay Bears, the Diamondbacks’ Double-A Southern League affiliate, to back-to-back league championships. Ward joined the D-backs staff for the last month of the 2012 season after the minor league campaign ended.
“We spent a lot of time together and he kind of peaked my interest — I knew he’d be a guy under serious consideration for that role,” Gibson said.