By Dan Schlossberg
The Yankees made a smart move in hiring brainy Dartmouth grad Brad Ausmus as bench coach, making him first in line to succeed Aaron Boone as manager if the club spins its wheels again.
Ausmus, a one-time All-Star catcher who previously managed the Tigers and Angels, won the AL Central title in his first year with Detroit.
He’s a Connecticut native who won three Gold Gloves while playing for four clubs — and hitting a memorable playoff home run that enabled the Astros to defeat the Braves in a classic 18-inning game (no Manfred Man in post-season play).
Ausmus, 54, is the third bench coach under Boone, following Josh Bard and Carlos Mendoza (now the rookie manager of the Mets), but the first with previous experience as a big-league pilot. He beat out Andrew Bailey, who went to Boston as pitching coach, and David Ross, fired as Cubs manager but hoping for a better offer.
General manager Brian Cashman says Boone made the call on Ausmus, with the team searching for someone who could run spring training and assist with in-game strategies. It’s not every team that can call on an Ivy Leaguer with major-league experience.
“The game moves really fast,” said Cashman of Ausmus, who also has experience coaching Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
When he retired in 2010, Ausmus ranked third in big-league history with 12,839 putouts as a catcher, behind only Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Kendall; seventh in games caught with 1,938; and first among all Jewish major-leaguers in games played (1,971). He was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
He led his league in fielding percentage by a catcher five times and once had the best percentage of runners caught stealing.
His career highlight as a player came in Game 4 of the 2005 NL Division Series against the favored Atlanta Braves when he hit an unexpected home run to dead center at Minute Maid Park with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score at 6–6 and send it into extra innings. The Astros went on to win in the 18th inning, making it the longest post-season game in history at that time. Ausmus caught 15 innings, and played three innings at first base.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is covering the Baseball Winter Meetings for the 53rd consecutive year. The author of 40 baseball books books speaking engagements via email@example.com.