PAWTUCKET – Arnie Beyeler had everything figured out – or so he believed prior to discussing his baseball career ambitions with Brad Mills a few years back during spring training.
At the time Beyeler was managing in Double-A Portland while Mills served as Terry Francona’s bench coach in Boston. One day the pair engaged in some casual chatter when the minor-league skipper revealed what he considered the pinnacle: coaching third base for a major league club.
Currently the manager of the Houston Astros, Mills stopped Beyeler in his tracks when the first-year Pawtucket Red Sox manager expressed the desire to jump straight from managing the Sea Dogs to manning the third-base coaching box. Bypassing Triple A completely? Such a rare act is only reserved for those considered industry names, which Mills told Beyeler in so many words.
“Baseball card guys,” Beyeler clarified.
Following the reality check, Mills laid out a step-by-step program Beyeler needed to adhere to. If there was any doubt or confusion on his part, Mills made sure to erase all of it.
“(Mills) said people aren’t going to take you from Double A and put you at third base unless your best buddy gets a job up there. You’ve got to manage in Triple A, you’ve got to coach third base at Triple A, you’ve got to coach first base in the big leagues, then you move over to third base,” was the recount Beyeler shared inside his McCoy Stadium office earlier this week. “That’s how the progression works for 99.9 percent of the people – unless you’re a special guy.
“Well, I’ve been kind of cutting my own throat here by telling everyone I don’t want to go to Triple A. Millsy told me to shut my mouth and let the system work. So I started telling people that if something opens up, I’m interested,” he added.
Everything was now clear. Beyeler had little choice but to go along with the program, no matter what direction the compass pointed. The message delivered by Mills not only put everything in prospective, but it also yielded retrospective moments of what had allowed Beyeler to get this far in the coaching heirarchy in the first place.
Looking back, getting fired as a scout with the Detroit Tigers proved to be a blessing in disguise. It paved the way for Beyeler to serve as an on-field instructor, which the New York Yankees had in mind upon hiring him prior to the 1997 season.
Serving as an infielder during the six years he spent in the minors, Beyeler recalled being pigeonholed as an infield guru, which was part of his job description in the three seasons he spent in the Yanks’ minor-league system.
In short order Beyeler began to see his work pay off. He believes one of the reasons why the Red Sox went after him in 2000 was due to his association with a championship-caliber organization. At the time the Yankees were seen as the gold standard, which prompted the Red Sox to target those affiliated with them, no matter what their role entailed.
“We still use some of the things I brought over 11 years ago,” Beyeler noted.
After serving as Pawtucket’s hitting coach for the first half of the 2000 season, Beyeler made the jump to managing, first with Short-Season Lowell. It was with the Spinners in 2001 that Beyeler was introduced to a promising sort named Kevin Youkilis, something the Red Sox third baseman reminded Beyeler of this past week while Youkilis rehabbed with Pawtucket. The decade that has passed since that encounter has allowed Beyeler to recall some of his own brushes with guiding hands who took the time to aid him in his quest.
With the Yankees it was Leo Mazzilli and Stump Merrill helping to steer the inexperienced staffer in the right direction – two men with MLB managerial experience. It was with the Yanks that Beyeler developed a strong bond with Gary Tuck, presently Boston’s bullpen coach. The list of notables taking an interest in Beyeler expanded upon him hooking on with Texas as a minor-league manager in 2003, with Buck Showalter and Trey Hillman planting the seeds of how the coaching game is played.
Beyeler’s tenure with Texas also saw him learn the importance of becoming a well-rounded coach, hence why he wouldn’t hesitate to pick the brain of current Boston bench coach DeMarlo Hale when Hale was the Rangers’ outfield coach. By the time Beyeler returned to the Red Sox in 2006, he felt he was on the right path.
Opportunity seemed to arise when Ron Johnson left his managerial post to become Boston’s first base coach following the 2009 season. Instead of promoting Beyeler, the Red Sox chose to bring in Torey Lovullo, whose ties with pitching coach John Farrell and director of player development Mike Hazen dated back to when they all worked in Cleveland.
A year later saw Lovullo follow Farrell to Toronto. Once again the Pawtucket managerial post was vacant, which in turn led to speculation regarding whether Beyeler would get bumped up to the front lines of the minor-league system.
Beyeler received word of his promotion a few days shy of Christmas while making his way back to his Florida home following a managerial stint in the Venezuelan Winter League.
“I’m just a big believer in things happening for a reason. I got an opportunity (with the PawSox) for a reason. They wouldn’t have put me here if they didn’t think I could do the job, especially with a high-profile organization,” Beyeler said. “I don’t know if I was the first or last choice or just kind of ‘Let’s give him a chance,’ but if you were to ask me a year ago if thought I would be here, I would have said no chance.
“I was comfortable where I was at [in Portland] and I thought Torey would be back another year. It’s just so random how moves take place. I think if you asked Torey if he thought he would be a big-league coach while sitting here at this time last year, he would have said, ‘No, I’m part of the system. That’s why they brought me in here, to manage the Triple-A team.’”
By all accounts Beyeler, a self-described “minor league grunt,” has passed every single test during his initial taste of Triple-A life. His business-like demeanor has helped transform the PawSox into a division champion while at the same time adhering to the primary creed of a Triple-A outfit: to get players in a position where they can help the parent club if called upon.
“It’s different than what I thought it would be. I thought there would be a lot of griping and complaining and guys bitter, but these guys have been outstanding,” Beyeler said about what his expectations were coming into the season. “They’ve shown up every day and play hard. We haven’t had any issues.”
The fact Beyeler is closer to realizing his dream than he was at this time a year ago has not clouded his resolve. When he joins Francona’s staff later this month, it’ll be his time to enhance his coaching portfolio while soaking up the atmosphere in the midst of a playoff race.
It’s all part of the program of achieving his dream, one that’s become much clearer thanks to Brad Mills.
“Do I have desires to manage in the big leagues? Probably not really, but I didn’t have desires three or four years ago to manage in Triple A,” he said. “I’m content staying (in Pawtucket) for as long as whatever happens here. I enjoy this. I enjoyed Portland. It was a great system that if you’re in Double A, that’s the place to be. If you’re in Triple A, I feel like this is the place to be and if you’re going to be in the big leagues, I’d like to be in the big leagues with Boston.”