08/01/2008 2:23 PM
- Cape League Special 1 August 2008
Five Minutes with Former Y-D All-Star Eric Wedge
Cleveland’s AL Manager of the Year
Recalls His 1988 Season on Cape Cod
One of the fastest rising stars in the managerial field is the 2007 American League Manager of the Year, Eric Wedge of the Cleveland Indians. The 40-year-old Fort Wayne, Ind., native has been involved in baseball his entire life. Wedge played for Northrop High School and was a member of the Indiana state championship team there in 1983. He went on to star as a catcher for Wichita State University from 1987 through 1989 when the Shockers won the College World Series. During that season, as a junior, Wedge belted 23 homers, drove in 99 runs, batted .380 and set an NCAA record by walking 88 times. Not only were his hitting skills put on display that year, but it became evident that he was an excellent defensive catcher and a superb leader.
Cleveland Indians Manager Eric Wedge
2007 American League Manager of the Year
photo courtesy of the Cleveland Indians 2008
In the summer of 1988, Wedge came to Cape Cod to play for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. He went to the All-Star Game, held in Orleans that year, taking part in the Home Run Hitting Contest. Don Reed was the Y-D manager and the Red Sox made the playoffs but were eliminated. Wedge returned to Wichita State for his fabulous 1989 season and was selected that June by the Boston Red Sox in the third round of the amateur draft.
Wedge progressed through the Red Sox farm system and made his Major League debut on Oct.5, 1991, with the Sox. However, he was slowed by an elbow injury that eventually resulted in eight surgeries. The injury cut short a promising Major League career. In four seasons with the Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies, he played in just 39 games.
Having leadership skills and being a catcher put Wedge in a perfect position to embark on a managerial career. In 1998, he started in the Cleveland organization and spent the next five years working his way up from Class A to Class AAA.
Wedge was named Indians manager in 2003 at age 35. His tenure as the Tribe’s leader has been very successful -- a 415-395 record through the 2007 season. He was named the 2007 American League Manager of the Year after leading Cleveland to a 96-66 record and winning the American League’s Central Division. The Indians beat the New York Yankees in the divisional series, three games to one, but lost to the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox in a memorable seven-game ALCS.
Eric Wedge 1988
Wedge is currently in his sixth season as the manager of the Indians. Eric and his wife, Kate, are the proud parents of a 2-year old girl daughter. They are both very heavily involved in a variety of charities. He recently sat down to answer some questions about his Cape Cod Baseball League experience and other matters.
Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL): Did your Cape Cod Baseball League experience help you grow as a person and a player?
Eric Wedge (EW): It definitely did. It was 1988 and it was after my sophomore year at Wichita State. It was my first experience on the East Coast. It was also my first true experience playing with such fantastic players from all over the country. From a life standpoint, you had to go out and get a job and play in the evening. I drove across the country and the whole experience was helpful, both on and off the field.
CCBL: You made the post-season that year and lost in the playoffs. Do you have any special memories of that experience?
EW: Yes, I remember plenty of the players. The centerfielder was Doug Shields from Southern Illinois. He was a fantastic center-fielder who made some unbelievable plays. I run into other pitchers and position players from time to time. We had some great players that year. Don Reed was our coach. His son was Jeff Reed who played for 16 or 17 years as a catcher in the big leagues. He was in the big leagues at the time and that was fun and exciting as well.
CCBL: Do you keep in touch with any of the players from that year?
EW: I stay in touch with a lot of guys because we kind of travel the same path. I mentioned Doug Shields – he was from the Cincinnati area. I saw him at one the games when we played against the Reds. People pop up every now and again; people you played with or against. Bags (Jeff Bagwell) had a great career and Frank (Thomas) was in the league that year. I could go on and on. Mo Vaughn and I were drafted by the Red Sox and came up through the minor leagues together.
CCBL: Did playing in the Red Sox organization help you?
EW: It definitely helped me. It helped me adapt to the East Coast and the faster-paced life there. I was a kid who grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind., and went to school in Wichita, Kan. Then I went east and it was a different pace, so it definitely helped.
CCBL: How many home runs did you hit in the CCBL Home Run Hitting Contest at the All-Star Game in 1988?
EW: I don’t remember how many I hit. I just remember Frank (Thomas) was hitting them over the firehouse! He went to Auburn. Bo Jackson, who was in the big leagues at the time, also went to Auburn. He used one of Bo’s bats. Frank won the contest. The All-Star experience was very neat. The quality of players was unbelievable. We played in Orleans and it was packed. There were scouts all over the place.
CCBL: Some of your best attributes are consistency, humility and hard work. Did you learn this before you got into baseball or after you got into baseball?
EW: That comes from my parents. I’ve always said my dad is one of the hardest working guys I know. Many of those attributes are just part of life. Baseball and life compliment each other and are very comparable to what you have to go through on a day-to-day basis. I think how you handle yourself is so important. Baseball is what you do and not who you are. You don’t define yourself by what you do on the field, but you do define yourself by how you act 24 hours a day. Part of that is how you commit to the game, play the game and act on the field. They go hand in hand.
CCBL: Did your injury help you along with your managerial career?
EW: It probably did. I knew at a certain point in the mid-’90s that I wasn’t going to be able to play as long as I wanted to. I enjoyed helping people. I think I had a leadership type personality, so from that standpoint, players were comfortable coming to me and asking me questions. Even the older players would talk with me. I guess I’ve always felt a little older than I was and I don’t know why that is.
CCBL: You and your wife, along with the Cleveland Indians organization as a whole, are involved in various charities and other organizations. Where did that come from?
EW: I think it comes with the responsibility of being in the game of baseball. We are lucky and very fortunate to have what we have. I think those of us that are in a position to help others have a responsibility to help those less fortunate. It’s hard for me to understand those that don’t help. There are so many people who need help that it’s just the right thing to help people if we can.
Special thanks to Eric Wedge and Bart Swain of the Cleveland Indians.
By Bill Watson, CCBL Public Relations Assistant (firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Garner, Jr.
Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting