The Atlanta Braves won't move their Class AAA team from Virginia to Gwinnett County until next year, but Richmond manager Dave Brundage is already looking forward to calling Georgia home. Brundage, 42, is planning a move from Portland to the Gwinnett area and has begun looking for a house with some land. His wife, Dameron, trains and shows quarter horses, and the couple has three children - Beau, 10, and four-year-old twins Baylor and Barrett.
The Oregon native joined the Braves organization last year and won a championship in his first season, leading Richmond to the International League Governor's Cup playoff title as the wild-card team. In 10 seasons, he has a 730-699 record with two championships with the Seattle organization.
Staff correspondent Guy Curtright sat down with Brundage in Florida to talk about life as a minor league manager and the Braves' move from Richmond to Gwinnett County in 2009.
GC: Nice way to break in with a new organization last year. How do you top that?
DB: Any time you win a championship, it's exciting. It was a thrill for the players, as well as myself. You always want to get off to a good start.
GC: Those rings everyone got this spring are pretty nice rewards.
DB: You always want a ring, whether it's Class A, AA, AAA or the majors. It was our world series. To see everyone jumping around like little kids afterwards was great.
GC: Fans in Gwinnett County are hoping for some championships, too.
DB: It doesn't happen that often. The Braves hadn't won one since 1994 in AAA. But this is a great organization with a lot of talent coming along.
GC: How familiar are you with the Gwinnett area?
DB: My wife and I have been out twice and already love the area. We have three small children and it looks like a great place to raise a family. We've put our house on the market in Portland and hopefully it will sell by this summer. We need acreage for our horses, so we have looked at Dacula and some other places. It will be great to be near the new ballpark and Atlanta. I'm really looking forward to next season. It will be the first time in my whole life that I've ever been able to go to work after sleeping in my own bed.
GC: Being a minor league manager isn't easy on family life.
DB: My wife flew to Richmond a couple of times last season, but I didn't see the kids in seven months except for three days at the all-star break. We are really looking forward to being together next season. It will be great not to have to reintroduce myself to my wife and kids after the season.
GC: How difficult will it be managing a lame-duck team in Richmond this year?
DB: It won't be the best situation. Two other times I've managed teams in their last year, so I know a little what to expect. But to me it doesn't matter how many fans are in the stands. We still owe it to them to play hard every game.
GC: You will have a beautiful new stadium in Gwinnett and attendance should be good. What does that mean to a team?
DB: It's a huge plus. It really helps to play before a big crowd. Getting to play before 10,000 fans helps elevate everyone's game and it also helps get players ready for the big leagues. You are naturally nervous going up to the majors and it is hard if you have never played in front of crowds before. I think Gwinnett will be a great place to play. And I think being so close to Atlanta will be exciting for everyone.
GC: A minor league manager has to balance winning and player development. How difficult is that?
DB: First and foremost, your job is developing players for the major leagues. But I think winning can go hand in hand with that. I've always said, "Why not develop winners?" That is something I really preach.
GC: Is it harder to manage in AAA than in at other levels?
DB: Managing in AAA is difficult. Most of your players don't want to be there. They want to be in the majors making the big money. I don't think they should be content just to be in AAA. They should want to be in the majors. But you need to convince them they aren't going to get there unless they put aside the frustration and keep working. If they earn it, their time will come.
GC: You were drafted out of Oregon State by Philadelphia, but spent most of your nine years in the minors with Seattle. Did you ever get a chance in the majors?
DB: No. I was an outfielder for seven years, then became a pitcher. I was a left-hander. I got as far as AAA before becoming a minor league manager. I think the two years as a pitcher really helps me as a manager. I got to learn both sides of the game. I think that has really helped in running my bullpen and pitching staff. I know what it is like to be on the mound, as well as in the batter's box.
GC: You spent 19 years in the Seattle organization as a player, coach and manager, and had great success managing at San Antonio in the Class AA Texas League. Yet you were let go by the Mariners after managing Class AAA Tacoma in 2006. How difficult was that?
DB: It was very hard. It hurt to not have a job with an organization that you had given so much to over the years. But I landed on my feet in a tremendous organization. This is a very loyal organization and that means the world to me.
GC: What is your long-term goal? Do you see yourself as a major league manager one day?
DB: I wouldn't want to settle for anything less. Everyone wants to be promoted. Everyone has goals. I love what I do and I'd love to be a big league manager some day. I know you have to pay your dues and bide your time. Hopefully I'll get my chance in the big leagues some day.
GC: Life in the minors isn't easy for players or managers.
DB: It certainly isn't. People have an ill-perceived perception of what the minors are all about. They think that there is a lot of money and glory. There isn't much of either. Getting our championship rings was one of the rare times you really feel rewarded. It was a reminder of why you play this game and manage and coach it. Being in the minors is a tough life. But if you love baseball like I do, everything you have to put up with is all worth it. I wouldn't trade my job for anything.
GC: Especially if you get to manage and live in the same place.
DB: I can't wait to get settled in Gwinnett. It will be the first time I haven't had to rent a place during the season and spend my summer alone.