When Bo Porter was hired to lead the Houston Astros, one of his first moves was to add Dave Trembley to his coaching staff. The hiring was more than a young, first-year manager bringing on board a mentor. It was a case of loyalty rewarded.
The 61-year-old Trembley and 41-year-old Porter go way back. And despite the difference in age and backgrounds, they share important things in common. Each is hard-nosed: Porter played football at the University of Iowa; Trembley has spent three decades in the baseball trenches. Both are good communicators, well-versed in sabermetric concepts.
They also remember where they came from. Porter, who played parts of three big-league seasons, was the Nationals third base coach before coming to Houston. Trembley, who skippered the Orioles from 2007-2010 after 20 seasons as a minor-league manager, came over from the Braves organization. Along the way, they forged a relationship that led to a late-night phone call neither will soon forget.
BO PORTER: “We go way back. We developed a relationship when he was my manager, both in [high-A] Daytona and in Double-A. He was just one of those guys who did things the right way; everything would be fundamentally sound. Even when my playing days were over and I started coaching, he was one of the people I reached out to. I’d ask him for advice and wisdom, and he’s always been there.
“I told him, ‘Dave, whenever I get an opportunity to manage, I’d love to have you on the staff with me.’ He said, ’Bo, I would love to do it.’ He also said, ’I think it’s going to happen for you and I think it’s going to happen soon.’
“After I met with Houston and was told I had the job, he was one of the first people I called. I told him, ’We got the job.’ He said, ‘We?’ I said, ’Yes, you’re going to be on my staff.’ He was excited and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have him here with me and going through this process.
“He’s a great baseball man. He’s what I call a baseball lifer. It’s good to have someone who has sat in the chair and understands all the dynamics that come with managing a major league baseball team. And he’s not only a colleague, he’s a friend and a mentor.”
DAVE TREMBLEY: “I managed Bo in 1995. We won the Florida State League championship that year. I then managed him in the Southern League. Probably the best year he had in his career, which really put him on the map as a prospect, was in 1998. That was the year after the Cubs sold their team in Orlando and moved to Jackson, Tennessee. It was the first year they had baseball there and it was a sellout every night. Bo had a great year, with a lot of stolen bases.
“When he was playing, he told me that when he was done, he wasn’t quite sure which direction he wanted to go. He didn’t know if he wanted to be a major league manager or a big league general manager. I told him he could do whatever he wanted, because he had the skill sets to do either one. He has very good people skills — he graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in communications — and he‘s well-organized. He’s very competitive. I could tell back then he’d go in one direction or the other.
“We kept in touch. When I was managing the Orioles, we were in Ft. Lauderdale and would make many trips to Jupiter, in spring training, to play both the Marlins and Cardinals. He was the third base coach for Fredi Gonzalez. We would talk baseball, and baseball strategy. We’d talk about how to run a club.
“My last year managing the Orioles, Bo told me he felt like he wanted to manage in the big leagues, and that he was getting close. He interviewed for the job with Pittsburgh, and didn’t get it. He told me if he got it, he was going to bring me with him. At the time I didn’t really think much of it. You have so many people tell you those kind of things in this game.
“I had just been let go by the Orioles. It was the fall of 2010, and I went to work, in 2011, as the field coordinator for the Braves. Bo became the third base coach for the Nationals. We remained in touch.
“In 2012, I was back as field coordinator for the Braves and was running instructional league. During the last week of September, Bo called. It was midnight. He told me that, on Monday, Houston was going to name him their manager. The way he prefaced it was, ‘We got the job.’ Not, ‘I got the job.’ ‘’We got the job.’
“I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Chariots of Fire. Sam Mussabini is the track coach and one of his guys is going to run in the Olympics. Sam can’t watch him, so he’s sitting in his hotel room. He waits, then opens his window and hears the Star Spangled Banner played first, so he knows his guy is the Gold Medal winner. He takes his hat off and punches it — he punches his fist through his hat — and breaks down; he starts crying because of all the hard work that led to it happening.
“When Bo told me, I said, ‘Hey, I’m really proud of you; whatever I can do to help.’ He said, ‘You don’t understand. We got the job. You’re coming with me.’ After I hung up the phone, it was Chariots of Fire.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys tell someone they’re going to help them, but they’re talking out of both sides of their mouth One of the things I learned real early, from guys like Jim Leyland and Tony LaRussa — they told me, ‘If you ever get to be a big league manager, make sure you return every phone call, make sure you answer every letter. Make sure you do those things, because they’re very important to people.’
“When I got the job with the Orioles; I had 154 people call me, interested in coaching positions. I called every one of them back. I told them, ‘Hey, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I think Andy McPhail is only going to allow me to bring one or two guys in, but I wanted to let you know.’ It means a lot to people when you do that.
“Bo Porter is a man. That’s the best way I can explain it. He’s a man. He’s going to do a great job here. What you see is what you’re going to get. He’s going to tell you the truth, so you can trust him. And he remembers where he came from. That’s a lesson everyone in this game everyone needs to understand. There is someone in this game who helped you get to where you’re at. It doesn’t just happen by itself. Someone has been in your corner and gone to bat for you. They’ve lived and died with you through all the bad times, thrown you all the BP, hit you the ground balls, put their arm around you, counseled you, put you back out there when things weren’t going well. They treated you the way you wanted to be treated.
“When I got let go by the Orioles, I felt there was a place for me in the big leagues, because I have experience. But I didn’t know. To me, making it to the big leagues had been a dream. Then I got fired and that dream was over. I had a difficult time getting through that. But I was grateful for the opportunity I’d been given, and felt that if the right situation presented itself, with a young team where I’d be able to teach and develop — like I did in Baltimore — I might get another shot. It happened. It happened.”
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