May 2—Bowling Green native Andy Tracy eagerly awaits his opportunity to apply the decades worth of baseball knowledge he has accumulated when he makes his managerial debut with the Columbus Clippers on Tuesday.
Tracy, whose baseball roots trace back 40 years ago to his first days in BG Little League, has always shared his love of the game.
His new job as manager for the Cleveland Indians‘ Triple-A affiliate will allow him to pass on the lessons he learned in a 16-year pro career that included time in the big leagues with the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, and Philadelphia Phillies.
“You grow every single year,” Tracy said. “I’ve been around really good managers and really good coaches. You take a little bit from each of them and put it all together. You try to create an atmosphere and culture in your clubhouse. There will be challenges at times, and I’m going to make mistakes still. You are always learning in this game. You get humbled every single day in baseball.”
The former Bowling Green High School and Bowling Green State University standout is in his second season in the Cleveland Indians organization.
He served as hitting coach for Columbus, which won the International League’s Governor’s Cup championship in 2019.
Tracy, 47, played four seasons at BGSU, where he was named Mid-American Conference freshman of the year in 1993 and was a first team All-MAC choice in 1996. Tracy is tied with Central Catholic graduate Kelly Hunt as the Falcons’ all-time leader home runs with 45 and was inducted into the university’s hall of fame in 2006.
“It started with the BG community,” Tracy said. “The foundation was set there in BG Little League and then moving up to the high school and then BGSU. It’s all-inclusive. There is not a more special place in my heart than the BG community and BGSU.”
Tracy, who was selected in the 16th round of the MLB draft by Montreal in 1996, played 83 games for the Expos in 2000. The next season he played in 38 games with Montreal and then returned to the majors with Colorado in 2004. Tracy won a World Series ring in 2008 after playing in four games with Philadelphia.
Tracy played 16 pro seasons from 1996 to 2011, including parts of 11 seasons at the Triple-A level.
“When you start playing and stay in the game that long, it’s hard [to leave],” he said. “On the backside of my career, I enjoyed being around the younger players at the upper levels and that translated into a profession. I’m happy for the opportunity to coach here in the Cleveland organization.”
Ken Schnacke, the president and general manager of the Clippers, called Tracy a “people person.”
“Andy is a hands-on manager,” Schnacke said. “As they say, he has ‘been there, done that,’ and that trait alone gives him instant credibility in the clubhouse. He has a calm demeanor and an ability to go with the flow. He has an understanding that this game is not easy to master.”
This will be the second managerial job for Tracy, who was manager of the Phillies’ Single-A Williamsport team in 2012.
“Managing is a challenge. You’re putting out fires every day,” Tracy said. “But I will be very honest and transparent with every player. I want to build trust. I want them to trust their manager. That is what I strive to do. My goal as a manager and person is that I will be someone they can trust and they will get the truth from me.”
Schnacke said Tracy has an open-door policy for all the staff and players.
“They know he is always there for them and has their back,” Schnacke said. “These are traits that are earned over time and passed down through former players and it is already evident that he has that respect in our clubhouse.”
Tracy was set to begin his first season as manager of the Clippers last April when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
With the Triple-A season shut down, Tracy had an opportunity to run the Indians’ alternative site in Cleveland. He then helped run the taxi squad for the Indians.
“Our organization was good at staying connected with the players through Zoom calls and phone calls constantly throughout the winter,” he said. “We’d talk to them about their workloads to see where they were and to have them come into spring training prepared.”
For the last month, Tracy has been leading the Indians’ alternate camps with games in Columbus, Indianapolis, Toledo, and Louisville.
“It’s been challenging across the board throughout the industry, so getting back on the field and playing games that are meaningful … That’s what it’s all about in pro baseball,” he said. “The overall thought process is that we appreciate the game as a whole. We’ve missed baseball for a year. We want to get guys on the field, continue to develop them, support our big league club to win a championship. That’s what the beauty of development is.”
Tracy said he has high expectations for this Clippers team that includes some of the Indians’ top prospects: first baseman Bobby Bradley, outfielder Daniel Johnson, infielder/outfielder Nolan Jones, outfielder Oscar Mercado, infielder Owen Miller, outfielder Bradley Zimmer, and pitchers Nick Sandlin and Anthony Gose.
“It’s the whole group. We have a lot of talented guys here,” he said. “They are making adjustments, and when they get an opportunity in Cleveland, they will be ready to perform.”
Schnacke said Triple-A is probably the toughest level to manage, because many players are at different points in their careers.
“To handle the thrill of sending a player up to the ‘bigs’ while also handling the emotions of a player returned to this level takes a special person with a steady disposition to handle these ups and downs of young athletes who have always known success,” Schnacke said. “He understands that there is more than one way to be successful and that players have unique quirks and talents that need to be recognized.”
Tracy said he won’t look at winning and losing as the bottom line.
“You look at developing these guys and help them make the major league team. The bi-product of that is success on the field in both Cleveland and Columbus,” he said. “We want to continue to see the players and staff grow both on and off the field and have the opportunity to help the big league team. I want to continue to learn and become a better coach across the board.”
The Clippers open the season on Tuesday at Louisville. Tracy returns home when Columbus plays at the Mud Hens on May 18 at Fifth Third Field.
“I hope my friends and family don’t heckle me,” Tracy said, chuckling. “But I’m looking forward to getting back to northwest Ohio.”