MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Redmond was known for his infamous naked batting practice during his days as a player. But the veteran catcher and former Minnesota Twin was also known as a leader in the clubhouse and essentially another coach in the dugout.
So it came as no surprise to anyone, especially in Minnesota’s organization, when Redmond took a job as a manager in Toronto’s minor league system after retiring as a player in 2010. For a former catcher and someone who related well to younger players, managing seemed like a natural move. Now Redmond is in his first season as a big-league skipper with the Marlins, who were in town Tuesday for a doubleheader with the Twins.
“Everybody in here kind of knew that was going to be his next chapter in baseball,” said Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who was backed up by Redmond from 2005-09. “He just knows a lot about the game. The way he played it, the way he related to younger players, including myself, you kind of knew that he’d be really good at being a manager later on.”
Redmond’s former manager in Minnesota is still at the helm of the Twins, and Ron Gardenhire was fond of Redmond during the veteran catcher’s playing days. Redmond relived a story Tuesday of Gardenhire batting him third on a day Mauer had off. Redmond was a career .287 hitter with 13 home runs in 13 seasons, so Gardenhire took some grief from the media for putting Redmond so high in the batting order.
But Redmond appreciated Gardenhire’s willingness to show faith in his players, including Redmond.
“He’s a great guy,” Gardenhire said of Redmond. “He’s paid attention when he was in our dugout and backing up. He was always into the game, paying attention. It’s fun to see him over there. We all knew that he would be in this part of the game eventually. It’s fun to see Red. Just a class guy. We’ve had a lot of fun with him here.”
It didn’t take long for Redmond to ascend to the major league level as a manager. This past winter, he was hired by the Marlins to lead an overhauled roster after the club fired Ozzie Guillen. Redmond’s managerial experience included just two seasons of Single-A ball, but the Marlins believed the 13-year major league veteran had all the intangibles to lead a team at this level.
With Redmond back in town, it was no surprise that his former teammates and manager had plenty of good things to say about the guy who kept things loose in the Metrodome locker room several years back.
“Around the clubhouse, he’s a guy that can keep it light, I’ll tell you that much,” said Twins reliever Brian Duensing, Redmond’s teammate in 2009. “He’s a great guy to have in the clubhouse. He makes sure everyone does things the right way and wants to win. He’ll do everything he can to win, even if he’s struggling. He knows it’s not about him. It’s about the team as a whole.”
Redmond admits he’s changed a bit from his playing days to his managing days, but he still keeps that that same team-first mindset.
“I’m still a grinder,” Redmond said Tuesday. “I spend a lot of time looking at video and doing all that stuff, trying to be the best manager that I can. I still have the same personality.
“Obviously, I can’t do some of the crazy stuff that I used to do.”
Among the “crazy stuff” he did, of course, was the well-documented naked batting practice or his naked walk through the clubhouse, which was done to lighten the mood. Those antics first came to light during his time with Florida from 1998-2004 and later carried to his playing days with the Twins from 2005-09.
“I’ve never witnessed that,” Duensing said of the naked batting practice. “I’ve definitely heard stories. That’s awesome.”
Redmond will need a similar fun-loving attitude this season, as his Marlins are off to a 4-16 start following a 4-3 loss in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. Miami has dealt with injuries this season but also lost several of its best players in an offseason fire sale.
Still, less than a month into his new job, Redmond is clearly enjoying the opportunity.
“I learn at least one or two things every day, and that’s fun,” Redmond said. “I think as a player, you’re just out there trying to figure out how to win. But as a manager, you learn something every day. If something comes up that you haven’t seen or a situation that you have to make a decision on, that’s fun to be able to still go out and see new things in this game. That’s what makes it such a great game.”