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Blue Anchors baseball: Newman right where he wants to be

Al Newman has done a little bit of everything at every level of baseball. He's won two World Series as a player with the Minnesota Twins. He's managed in the minor leagues and coached third base under Ron Gardenhire before working with younger pl...

Al Newman
Blue Anchors field manager

Al Newman has done a little bit of everything at every level of baseball.

He's won two World Series as a player with the Minnesota Twins. He's managed in the minor leagues and coached third base under Ron Gardenhire before working with younger players in the Minnesota Baseball Academy and Legion ball. Through all those stops, he says he realized that his greatest passion is teaching the game that has given him so much.

That is the opportunity he will have this summer as the field manager for the Alexandria Blue Anchors. I sat down with Newman on Tuesday to learn more about why he chose to pursue an opportunity in the Northwoods League.

EM: When the chance to coach in the Northwoods League was brought up, what were your initial thoughts?

AN: I was very excited. I was considering going back to professional ball and being a minor league manager, but I didn't think I wanted to do that type of traveling. This is very conducive, having lived in Minnesota for 27 years now; I thought it was a nice move.

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EM: What kind of opportunities did you have at the professional level?

AN: I was going to seek out my own opportunity. Obviously, I would have gone to the Minnesota Twins first, having managed in their system for seven years before becoming the third-base coach.

I knew the other option I was going to call was the Baltimore Orioles, having known Buck Showalter and his bench coach John Russell, who I know very well. There's some people out there, not that they owe me anything, but I thought if I wanted to get back into the professional game, I could have made some phone calls.

EM: Some people may see your experience of coaching at the highest level and ask, "Why would he want to coach in the Northwoods League in Alexandria?" So why did you want to make this move?

AN: After I retired as a player and became a minor league manager for the Twins, I felt like I wanted to be a teacher of the game. When you teach the game, you love the game, and it's not so much about getting the credit.

If people want to know why I'm in the Northwoods League, it's because these kids want to either become major league players or professional players somewhere, and I think I have the ability to teach them how to accomplish that. Not how to get to the big leagues, but if you want to get to the big leagues; I think I can teach them some of the steps necessary.

EM: Do you see this as being more than a one-year stop for you when it comes to managing this team in Alexandria?

AN: I'm planning on being here until I'm tired. I know right now, the plan is a couple two or three years. I did not put a time limit on it, nor am I looking to leave for a college job. I'm just a coach...I'd like to extend a helping hand to players who aspire to reach the next level.

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EM: Do you still have any desire to get back into coaching professional ball some day?

AN: None whatsoever. I've done that. I not only coached from 2002-2006, I did seven years as a minor league manager. I played my years. I've served my time. I know for certain that amateur ball is where I can do my best work.

I'm more of a homebody, kind of a stationary. That travel, although I enjoy it, people don't understand how it wears you down. I did that from the age of 18-19 because I played in summer college leagues before signing professionally, and from that point on I've been running. Now at 52, soon to be 53 years of age, I don't aspire to do that anymore.

EM: You and other members of the ownership group have talked about building a team in the future of mostly Minnesota players. Can you consistently win with just Minnesota kids?

AN: Without a doubt. Having worked with the [Minnesota Baseball] Academy and taking the elite players of Minnesota around the country, we've won tournaments. We've put kids in major college programs. When I say we, I'm talking about Adam Barta and all the coaches that are involved in this program.

We wouldn't have kids going to Bradley, Florida State, Florida, the University of Minnesota if we didn't have kids that could compete at a high level...We've had number-one picks out of the state of Minnesota who have gone on and done well in professional baseball. It's right down the road. You can see the light where we can have a team primarily of Minnesota kids that definitely can compete at a high level.

EM: What are your expectations for your first summer in Alexandria? Is winning at a high level a part of that or don't you know because of the fact that you don't know these players yet?

AN: I don't know the players, but I know I like to win. I like to shake hands at the end of every game. Regardless of the roster, I'm going to try to get this team to get after it. That's always a manager's pipe dream.

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I'm going to try to win. There's no doubt in my mind, even without having touched any of these players. I only know how to win. That's what it's about. As I've always told any of my players, every manager says this too, but if we play hard and force the issue, there's a chance that we'll be in control in the end. That's the way I approach my teams.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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