10/19/10 7:59 PM ET
Wedge introduced as Mariners' manager
Former Tribe skipper excited to lead young, talented squad
By Jim Street / MLB.com
"The first thing I did was get that MLB package where I could watch games, something I had never done before, mainly because I was employed," he said on Tuesday. "It was good for me."
A near-record number of managerial job openings occurred during the final two months of the regular season and the 42-year-old drew interest from several organizations, including the Mariners.
He was the last of five candidates interviewed for the position in Seattle and made such a good impression during his one day of meetings with club executives that further discussions with any of the other finalists were not necessary.
During an introductory press conference Tuesday afternoon at Safeco Field, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said Wedge fit the criteria he was looking for, including "passion, commitment, toughness, discipline and leadership ability."
At the end of the day, the GM knew he had found his next manager.
"He left [Seattle], flew home and I called him," Zduriencik recalled. "He had just walked into his front door and laid his bags down. I asked him, 'Eric, how did you enjoy your trip? He said it was good and I asked him what he had going.
"He said he had a couple things going with other clubs and I asked him how he thought his interview with us went and he talked about how much he loved the city, the ballpark, and how much he enjoyed it here."
Zduriencik got right to the point: "How would you like to be our manager?"
"He said, 'Jack, I haven't even unpacked my bags.'
"Before the night was over, we had a deal," Zduriencik said.
And just like that, Wedge became the second manager Zduriencik has hired since becoming Seattle's GM almost two years ago. The first one, Don Wakamatsu, had no previous Major League managerial experience.
"I was a little surprised it happened so quickly," Wedge said. "It was the last team I met with and ironically enough, the last guy they met. I am just happy it worked out."
Wedge reportedly received a three-year contract, getting the nod over other finalists Bobby Valentine, Cecil Cooper, Lloyd McClendon and John Gibbons.
There were almost 60 potential candidates when the process began.
"When I began going through the names, I tried to stay true to what I thought we needed," Zduriencik said. "Experience was a factor, someone who had won before was a factor, leadership was a factor, a no-nonsense approach was a factor. Those were all important factors."
Wedge, who spent seven seasons with the Indians, met all of the criteria.
He became Cleveland's manager in 2003, compiling a 561-573 record overall. The Indians advanced to the American League Championship Series in 2007 and was selected as the AL Manager of the Year.
The Indians just missed the playoffs in 2005, being eliminated on the last day of the season.
"He has a track record and is confident," Zduriencik said. "He is not lacking in that regard. He realizes who he is and what he brings to the table. That's what we were looking for."
Wedge said he watched the Mariners play several games, but did not see them often enough to draw any conclusions on what improvements are needed to turn around a 101-loss team that had the least productive offense in the 38 years that the designated hitter rule has been used in the AL.
"Obviously, watching Felix [Hernandez] pitch is special and I was curious about what Ichiro [Suzuki] was accomplishing," he said. "What the kid [Justin] Smoak did at the end, the last couple of weeks, stood out to me. There were a number of other things. We have some solid young players.
"Jack has done a good job continuing to build the system. That is the backbone. We will continue to put the pieces together up here, make sure the veterans are accomplished and make sure the kids get better and transition them into this team."
Wedge said he would reach out to all of his players between now and Spring Training and they will know exactly what he's all about and what is expected from them.
"Preparation is big," he said. "This game demands your respect as a player. Certain things are non-negotiable, like being a good teammate and respecting the game."
The more he talked, the more passionate he became.
"It's all about showing up every day prepared and how you play the game," he said. "If you do your job before the game, and take care of yourself after the game, you are ultimately going to give yourself the best chance to have success during the game.
"It takes routine, it takes discipline, it takes sacrifice and it takes commitment for all those things to happen. I hate it when people throw those words around when they don't know what they mean. Once you start living that, then you have a chance to be everything you can be."
Wedge managed in the Indians player development system for five seasons from 1998-2002, compiling a record of 391-315 (.554) over that span. He managed the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons for two seasons, 2001-02, guiding them to consecutive appearances in the International League playoffs. He piloted the Bisons to a modern-day franchise record 91 wins in 2001 and was named International League Manager of the Year and was Baseball America's Triple-A Manager of the Year.
His Minor League managerial career included stints with Class A Columbus of the South Atlantic League, Class A Kinston of the Carolina League and the Double-A Akron Aeros of the Eastern League prior to moving up to Buffalo.
Wedge was originally drafted by the Red Sox in the third round of the 1989 First-Year Player Draft. His playing career included nine years, spread among four organizations (Boston, Colorado, Detroit, Philadelphia), from 1989-97. During his Minor League career, he hit .249 (530-for-2132) with 298 runs, 114 doubles, 6 triples, 96 home runs and 354 RBIs.
Wedge and his wife, Kate, have two children: daughter Ava Catherine (4) and son Dalton Cash (2). The Ft. Wayne, Ind., native currently resides in Richfield, Ohio. Wedge was a first-team All-America catcher at Wichita State University, where he was a member of the Shockers' 1989 national championship team and was runner-up college player of the year. He was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January 2007.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.