Charleston RiverDogs Find Pat Osborn Man to Mold Future Yankees Stars
If you spent even a few moments talking to Charleston RiverDogs Manager Pat Osborn, you could easily envision him standing in his yard welcoming neighbors to his home for weekly barbecue. His demeanor is one that makes others feel he is truly glad to be talking to them and that he is genuinely interested in learning about others.
That demeanor is really something special, because underneath that amicable persona is a young man driven to win. A man with as much passion for the game as Pete Rose, and as much love for the sport as Cal Ripken (sorry Yankees fans, no disrespect in choosing Ripken). He is a man who has taken his passion and love for the game of baseball, as well as his insights and ability to seamlessly interact with virtually anyone, and used those attributes to become one of the brightest young managers in the game, which is why the New York Yankees organization tapped him to become the 27th manager in Charleston RiverDogs history.
Some Tough Shoes to Fill
For the last three seasons, the RiverDogs were managed by Luis Dorante. The native of Venezuela was a natural fit for managing at this level because he was not only a great teacher of the game, but also understood that his role was much more than a developer of future Yankees’ stars. He was a dad to many of these players, and used his fatherly demeaner to mold his players into one of the most competitive teams in the South Atlantic League. In fact, in three seasons with the team, he moved up the RiverDogs wins list for managers to second all-time and led the team to the playoffs last season.
This season, Dorante moved to the Pulaski Yankees to become their manager, creating a vacancy for the RiverDogs. To fill the position, it became clear that there was one man that seemed the ideal choice and that was Pat Osborn.
Pat was hired in mid-January of this year, and the organization could not have been more pleased with the choice. Gary Denbo, Vice-President of Player Development for the Yankees organization, explained that the new RiverDogs Manager was exactly the kind of man that could teach and inspire the next generation of Yankees greats.
“Pat is one of the top young managers in professional baseball. Patrick’s work ethic, attention to detail, leadership ability and teaching skills will ensure our young players will maximize their potential while competing for the RiverDogs and their fans.”
Developing His Insights Through His Love for the Game
Pat Osborn had loved the game of baseball since he first remembers picking up a baseball. He was born in Bakersfield, CA and continued to thrive in the sport until he joined the Cleveland Indians organization in 2002. He spent six seasons with the Indians before finally moving on to play for the Astros organization in his final season in affiliate ball.
Pat had a productive career in the minors, posting a .274 average in 546 games, reaching as high as AA. It was at the AA level that he realized that one day he wanted to be a manager.
“It’s something that I started to think about my second year in AA when I was with the Indians. There was another guy on the team named Shaun Larkin who actually works for the Dodgers now in player development, and he and I were kind of the older guys on the team. I can remember this like it was yesterday. We were out on the outfield grass and we were talking about what we wanted to do when we were done playing and we were tossing around ideas – coaching, scouting, maybe the agent side of the game – but it was something that I actually started thinking about a while ago.”
At the end of the 2007, Pat was released by the Astros organization and opted to play independent baseball. He joined Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League where he would meet Butch Hobson, who became much more than a manager to Pat.
“Once I started playing independent ball in the Atlantic League in 2008 I guess I started to think about it (managing) more because I could sense that my playing career was coming to an end and thankfully I got to play under a terrific manager who became like a mentor, Butch Hobson, in Southern Maryland. I played for him there for three years and he and I became very close and we had lots of talks about what I was going to do when I was done. He confided in me that I would make a very good manager and I told him that this was something that I was very serious about pursuing. After my third year playing, 2010, everything kind of fell in place, and after that season he was asked to move on to manage the Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League which left an opening at Southern Maryland. Basically because of him I was hired as the manager.”
The experience of managing was exactly what Pat was looking for. Becoming a manager was more than just a simple choice of career path; this was something that was almost spiritual in what it meant to the manager.
“I felt like this was going to be my calling. I love being on the field, I love being around players. I love the strategy of managing. I think that first and foremost what sticks out for me is the relationships I get to build with players. This is the way I wanted to go and, so far, it’s been a heck of a ride. Other than playing the game, managing has become my passion.”
Pride of the Yankees
In his three seasons as the manager of Southern Maryland, Pat Osborn posted a 199-202 mark. In 2014, he was hired by the Yankees and it did not take long for him to develop quite a legacy for himself. In his first season in the Gulf Coast League, where he managed the Yankees’ rookie league team, he led his squad to a 35-25 record and a first-place finish.
The next season he was moved to Staten Island of the NY-Penn League, where he led his team to another playoff berth. This time his team went 41-34 and Pat had proven that he was not only a great strategist on the field, but that he also knew how to teach and develop players to be winners.
In 2016, he was moved to the Yankees High-A team in Tampa of the Florida State League (FSL). There he led the team to an impressive 77-58 record and they were the winners of the first-half title in the North Division with a record of 42-27. The job he did earned him of Manager of the Year honors in the FSL and it would not be long before the Yankees would have a new challenge for him.
Replacing Luis Dorante was not as simple as just naming another manager. Dorante had proven to be a popular man in the organization and his players loved playing for him in Charleston last season. In addition, the Yankees organization has a plethora of young talent and they wanted to ensure that they were entrusting those prized prospects to the right man, Pat was clearly the choice.
Pat recognized the responsibility from the moment that he took on the position. “We are currently slated to have a number of high-profile prospects on our team, and player personnel-wise, it is very exciting.”
Meeting the Needs of His Players, the Organization
There are many keys to succeeding at the lower levels of the minor leagues. First of these is understanding that the manager plays an important role in helping these young men to reach their potential. The vast majority of players will go no higher than High-A ball, and the difference between a burgeoning baseball career or a job as a high school baseball coach is the managing and coaching the player receives right off. This has not been lost on Pat Osborn at all.
“When I first transitioned into the Yankees organization I had to kind of remind myself that your job is first and foremost to develop these kids and make them better players; to teach them the game and help them to pursue their dream. We all still like to win and want to win because we are very competitive and I always try to put it like this: If we can develop our players in a winning environment, I think you’re killing two birds with one stone. I don’t think you can be in a better atmosphere if your developing these kids in a winning environment.”
Pat also realizes that there is really not that much of a difference between a High-A player and one that is playing in the Major Leagues, at least in terms of overall talent. It is what is going on between the ears that makes the biggest difference, and this is why he has had so much success already. He has taken the lessons he learned as a player and has found a way to get them across to his players.
“The talent is fairly similar across the board; it becomes about being consistent. It’s about being focused to be consistent. I try to put myself in their position and think about what I was thinking about when I was 18, 19, 20 years old. I had problems focusing back then, so it’s something we talk about often. We talk daily about focusing, concentrating, and doing things the right way and working with a purpose, not just going through the motions. I am a firm believer that if your focus is 100 percent then your chance of being consistent is much greater.”
Creating a Standard for Players and Coaches
The cerebral part of the game is an area where Pat Osborn excels. He truly gets the Xs and Os of the game and there is not going to be a team that beats him because they were outthinking the RiverDogs Manager. That is his commitment to his team.
He also demands much of himself and his players in the way that they approach the game. The Skipper gets that baseball is a game of failure and he wants his players to have a healthy respect for all aspects of the game so that they can overcome failure.
“I think that you have to respect this game and everything that comes with it. The people you meet, the coaches, the other players. You have to respect how difficult that it is. If you take this game lightly and you don’t respect the difficulty that you’re going to face, then things are going to go south in a hurry. I think you have to swallow your pride and realize that you are going to fail, and use that to make yourself better. I preach from day 1 with my kids that word respect.”
That expectation of respect is not just for players, however. He expects the same kind of commitment from all the coaches on his staff as well.
“I tell my coaches that respect is something we take very seriously. If you respect the player and build that relationship with them, I don’t think you have to worry about them. I try to teach these kids to respect everyone they come in contact with during the year as well as respect the game, and I expect myself and the coaches to show them respect as well.”
As Much a Big Brother as a Manager
At 36-years-old, Pat Osborn is a sharp contrast to Dorante, who is 12-years-older than Osborn and was more like a father to the players on the RiverDogs. Pat is much closer in age to the ballplayers and he sees that as a decided advantage.
“I am familiar with the music that they listen to, TV shows that they like, movies that they like. Stuff off the field I am able to have a good solid conversation about, maybe bond with them about something that they like to do off the field because I am closer to them in age. But the bottom line is that we have to find a way to reach these kids and they have to trust us before we can get inside of them and impact them.”
That relationship is a key to why he has been so successful to this point in his career. He knows that this is the first time that many of these players will play such a long season. It will also be the first time that many of them will really struggle or even fail. This is why he is ready to be that big brother who encourages and gets them to stay focused.
“For a lot of these guys it will be their first time failing. You have to reinforce that it’s a long year, and if you have a bad first month your season is not even close to being over. You still have four months to make that up, but these kids don’t know that because they have never played a year this long. They’re used to a month or a two-month long season. So, you have to stay positive, you have to reinforce what they are doing well, even if the results are not what they want. I think staying positive, producing a culture within the clubhouse, gives these players the best chance to succeed.”
The Honor of Being a Yankee
There is arguably no team in professional sports whose name is said with greater reverence than the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers have won 27 World Series titles, 11 more than the St. Louis Cardinals, and three more than the Montreal Canadians for most titles in any professional sport. This is truly an awesome organization that has extremely high expectations.
This is not lost on Pat Osborn. He completely understands that putting on pinstripes is like no other uniform in sports and wants his players to appreciate that as well.
“It’s a different feeling. I think the way that we expect players to handle themselves, the way we expect our coaches to handle ourselves, it’s different. You have that NY on your chest, the pinstripes, and you’re expected to be different, and we work to instill that in our players. There is definitely a sense of pride putting on that uniform.”
When you are the winningest organization in the history of professional sports, the demands of the players and coaches is usually much higher than what you would find in other organizations. That is what has helped to make the New York Yankees America’s most successful sports franchise.
This year the team has turned to Pat Osborn to keep that winning tradition alive by developing players with the Charleston RiverDogs who will hopefully have their names mentioned in the same breath as Derek Jeter, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig.
That is a lot to ask for any manager to accomplish but this is what separates the 36-year-old manager from many in the business. He is not just molding players into future stars or helping players to understand how to play winning baseball. Instead, Pat is doing the one thing that he loves even more than baseball – building relationships that will be ones that will last a lifetime.
With the 2017 season getting underway, there won’t be much time for barbecues for Pat Osborn. Instead, the Charleston RiverDogs will be looking to help mold these players so that they will have the chance to become the next group of Yankees’ greats. They may not all become great Yankees’ players, but there is no doubt that Pat will help them to become great men. That is the greatest development of all.
By Robert Pannier