The New Boss Hog: An interview with Iron Pigs Manager, Dave Brundage

The New Boss Hog: An interview with Iron Pigs Manager, Dave Brundage

By J.F. Pirro

There’s a new boss in town… make that a new “Boss Hog.” Dave Brundage is in his first year as the new manager of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The 48-year-old Portland, Ore. native has replaced National Baseball Hall-of-Fame member Ryne Sandberg who is now the Philadelphia Phillies’ third base coach. We had a chance to catch up with the skipper to find out more about him.

LVMP: Is returning to the Phillies organization a bit of a homecoming?

DB: I looked forward to and anticipated something like this. I’m a loyal guy and sometimes in baseball the loyalty gets lost – but not in the Phillies organization.

LVMP: Can you share an example of that?

DB: When I was down at spring training, two of the first guys I saw were my first (professional) manager (Roly de Armas) and pitching coach (Carlos Arroyo). Twenty-seven years later, they’re both still with the organization (de Armas still manages rookie league ball; Arroyo is a roving pitching instructor).

LVMP: That’s impressive. Is it difficult to follow in the footsteps of Ryne Sandberg, a popular manager and Hall of Fame player?

DB: I’ve managed against him the last couple years, then this spring we were on the same side. I have all the respect in the world for Ryne Sandberg and his approach to the game, and that’s the way it should be.

LVMP: Is Triple-A baseball difficult to manage with an ever-changing roster?

DB: This level is so unique. There’s such a wide array of ages, personalities and egos, and players from all over the world. They speak so many languages and yet you’re trying to get across one message. You have guys who are coming up (to Triple-A) who are on top of the world, and guys coming down (from the major leagues) who are down in the dumps.

LVMP: So how do you teach chemistry?

DB: Be proud of what you’re doing and how hard you’re working every day… as a manager you and your staff can help. It’s about how we approach our players, how we run our clubhouse, how we build character. It’s a team sport, and yet it’s dog-eat-dog because only individuals go to the big leagues, but you’re not going to get to the big leagues without being a team player.

LVMP: The most unexpected part of your resume is your boxing experience… can you reflect on that?

DB: Boxing, more than anything, taught me a work ethic and physical and mental toughness. My dad (a coach and referee up to the Junior Olympics level) got me into it, and I loved it, but those last couple years, I wanted to play baseball, football and basketball, and boxing was all consuming. I never felt like I had the chance to practice the other sports. I’ll never forget one day, my dad came home and told me that there was this one guy who was bull-rushing everybody. No one could last a round with him. He told me to remember his name – Mike Tyson.

LVMP: What motivates you?

DB: My love of the game… I get so much out of it. My rewards come through my players, our players. I don’t walk through these doors everyday and say I wish that I was managing in the big leagues. I walk through these doors thinking what I can do here… just proud to get to teach. As a manager, I like to get into why we do things, why we throw a certain pitch, why we work on hit and runs, why we play the way we play, why we run hard to first base (even on a clear out).

LVMP: What still strikes you about the game?

DB: How humbling it is. Late in the game last night, I looked up at the scoreboard and we were down 11-0 [the eventual final score in a season-opening series against the Syracuse Chiefs], didn’t have a hit and had committed five errors. I don’t believe I ever saw that [dismal a scoreboard] in my career, so what you say is, ‘Where do we go from here?’ The game is not that easy: That was my message, and that it was the kind of day you might look back on mid-season and say, ‘How about that day?’ Or, ‘We’ve come a long way.’

LVMP: You’ve managed in the opposing dugout with the Gwinnett Braves, what’s baseball like at Coca-Cola Park?

DB: This is a great environment. You have a built-in Phillies fan base. The fans love this team and come out every night to take part in potentially some of the Philadelphia Phillies’ future.


Career Highlights

• Earned All-American honors as an outfielder at Oregon State University where he was also a punter and backup quarterback for the football team

• Drafted by the Phillies in the fourth round in 1986

• Played 10 years in the minor leagues

• All-time minor league managerial record of 1,085-1,026 (.514) – prior to 2013 season

• 7 of the 11 teams managed advanced to post-season play

• 3 won league championships

• 2003 Texas League Manager of the Year and Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year

Surprising Fact: Brundage spent 11 years as a Golden Gloves boxer, and defeated three future Olympic Gold Medalists along the way

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