Managerial position found ex-major leaguer

Former major leaguer Greg Colbrunn takes over for Torre Tyson as Riverdogs manager.

Leroy Burnell

Greg Colbrunn didn't go looking for the Charleston RiverDogs manager's job.

The job came looking for him.

Colbrunn, 40, could afford to be picky. A 13-year veteran with eight different major league teams, Colbrunn was perfectly satisfied being the RiverDogs' hitting coach the past three summers and watching his three daughters -- Danielle (11), Kelsey (8) and Vanessa (4) -- grow up.

A Mount Pleasant resident for the past decade, Colbrunn had the best of both worlds. He got to live at home, be close to his family and stay involved in the game he loved so much.

"I always thought that I'd stay in the game after my playing days were over, but I wasn't going to go out and take the first job I was offered," said Colbrunn, a career .289 hitter in almost 1,000 big league games. "I've spent my time away from my daughters when they were young and I was still playing. As soon as they got into school, I wanted to be around as much as possible. I'm coaching baseball and I'm getting to live at home. I couldn't ask for much more right now."

And it's not like Colbrunn hasn't had chances to move up baseball's food chain. Over the last two years, Colbrunn could have been the New York Mets' first base coach or the Colorado Rockies hitting coach.

He picked his family instead.

"It was a quality of life decision for me," Colbrunn said. "You never know what's going to happen in the big leagues. It might have been only a one-year deal in Colorado or New York, and then I'm back to square one. If I was coaching in the big leagues right now, I'd be gone for nine months and I'd miss so much around the house. I've thoroughly enjoyed being the hitting coach here the last three years."

But it's not like Colbrunn is turning his back on the major leagues. He and his wife, Erika, have discussed his future in coaching.

"I'm certainly not going to close any doors," Colbrunn said. "It's still single-A ball. The bus rides are long and hot and it's not the big leagues. Erika and I have talked about it, and if the right opportunity comes up, then we'll make a decision. I know I love it here in Charleston, and the Yankees have a great organization. Right now, I'm happy where I am. I'm living a charmed life."

Colbrunn was named the RiverDogs manager last month when former Charleston manager Torre Tyson was tapped to be the Yankees' high Class A manager in Tampa, Fla.

"I wasn't sure at first I wanted it, but I called a couple of friends to get the pros and cons," Colbrunn said. "In the end, I felt like it would be a good experience for me and will make me a better coach. Coaching third base, making decisions, making out a lineup card every day and working with pitchers is only going to make me a more well-rounded coach."

Although it has been more than two decades since Colbrunn played at the Class A level, he can still remember his first days in professional baseball. He's hoping he can use that experience to his benefit as a manager.

"I remember my year in the minor leagues, vividly. I was 18 years old, in Rockford, Ill., and I was miserable," Colbrunn said. "I missed home. I was hitting about .200 two months into the season, still learning how to play catcher. I couldn't throw anyone out and I couldn't hit. To make matters worse, I had signed to play for Stanford and they were winning a national championship. I was 1,000 miles away thinking I could have been a part of that. That was actually one of the lowest points of my professional career. But I didn't give up, I kept working and eventually made it to the big leagues. I understand what a lot of these players are going through."

Having played for so many different teams and managers, Colbrunn has a wealth of experience to draw from.

"I've played for a lot of great managers, and I'll take something from each one and kind of throw it all together," Colbrunn said. "I'll take a little bit from each of them and then throw in some of my own philosophies. But at the same time, we're in A-ball and the focus is on getting better and not winning. At this level it's about developing players, moving them on to the next level and eventually getting them to the big leagues."