Wednesday, January 9, 2002
The new ballpark in Fresno, Calif., just got a touch of Hawaii installed in its home dugout.
Sakata is Giants choice to
manage Triple-A team
By Jerry Campany
And maybe another in its bullpen.
Lenn Sakata, a 1971 graduate of Kalani High School, was named yesterday as the manager of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. He takes over for Shane Turner, who led the Grizzlies to second place in the Pacific Coast League last year and had a record of 125-155 in two seasons. Turner will serve as the Giants' minor league roving hitting instructor.
"I was mildly surprised," Sakata said in a telephone interview with the Star-Bulletin last night. "I was aware of the possibility in October, I'm just surprised it came at such a late juncture."
The Grizzlies are an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants and have just completed building a $46 million downtown stadium.
Sakata, 48, managed the past three seasons in the Class-A California League and has spent four years in the Giants' chain. He is an 11-year major league veteran and helped the Baltimore Orioles to the 1983 World Series.
Now add Triple-A manager to the list. He isn't a complete stranger to the next highest rung before the majors.
Sakata spent 1991-94 as a coach for the Angels' Triple-A affiliate and thinks he knows what to expect.
"Every level represents its own challenge," he said.
"The biggest difficulty between Triple-A and lower classes is that the players are so close (to the majors) that they start thinking about themselves and stop thinking about winning."
When Sakata meets his players shortly before opening day April 16, he will see many familiar faces because of his time in the organization. He will find one face familiar because of their common home state.
Sakata believes that Waipahu's Jerome WIlliams will be on his pitching staff but admits that the decision is not entirely his.
"I think he is supposed to," Sakata said. "There is some question about his physical health but none about his ability. I think they are going to push him as fast as he is able to go; he is definitely on the fast track after jumping right into Double-A and doing well on one of the two worst teams we've ever had in the organization.
"Sometimes your hands are tied," Sakata added. "With the 40-man roster, you have to play a prospect and don't have any decisions to make."
Sakata did not have to interview for the position because the Giants' braintrust knows him so well. But they will be watching him as close as they will be watching the players who are one level away from the top.
"I did not set a timetable," Sakata said. "I'm just happy to be here. I'd like to manage in the majors someday, but right now, I have got a job to do."