On the whole, to be honest, new Rainiers manager Pat Listach admits he would rather have stayed in Houston, where he spent last season as the Astros’ third-base coach.
Listach lives in Houston, after all.
But Listach found himself looking for work after the past season when the Astros hired A.J. Hinch as their new manager and, as is typically the case, Hinch wanted to pick his own staff.
“I completely understand that,” Listach said. “So I shopped around, and this looked like the best fit, the best organization, for me. And I’m honored to be part of it.”
The Mariners hired Listach, 47, on Nov. 18 to replace Roy Howell as manager of their Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. Howell will be given another role within the organization.
General manager Jack Zduriencik, in announcing the move, cited Listach’s “experience, as a major-league player, and as a minor-league coach and manager.”
Listach was the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1992 at Milwaukee and played six seasons in the big leagues at shortstop, second base and outfield before embarking on a nine-year run as a minor-league coach and manager in the Cubs’ system.
Six of those years came at Iowa in the Pacific Coast League, which includes 2008 — the one season he managed the Triple-A team and was picked as the PCL manager of the year.
Listach joined Washington’s staff the following year as third-base coach and spent five of his next six years as a big league coach. Now, he’s back in the PCL.
“I’m actually looking forward to that,” he said. “If there is a negative going into it, it’s probably the travel. As long as you’re on the West Coast, everything is fine.
“But you lose those two hours if you’re going to Des Moines or Omaha or New Orleans or Round Rock or Oklahoma City. And there’s not enough off-days in that league anymore where you can travel on an off-day.”
One thing has changed since his previous PCL tour: Cheney Stadium underwent a $28 million renovation after the 2009 season.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Listach admitted. “I’m probably going to come out there before spring training just to take a look at it and find my way around.”
Listach is far more familiar with the Mariners, particularly after spending the last season as a coach on a division opponent.
“We talked a lot about that when I went to Seattle for my interview,” he said. “The organization is going up, obviously. You just have to look at what Jack and the big league staff are doing.
“They’re acquiring pieces to be good for a sustained amount of time.”
It’s now Listach’s job to put the finishing touches on those moving through the Mariners’ development pipeline.
“Pat is passionate about teaching,” farm director Chris Gwynn said, “and has a great track record and experience, both as a player and as a coach.”
There was a time when Listach might have moved through the Mariners’ system as a player. He was drafted by them in the 23rd round of the 1987 draft, but he opted for a year at Arizona State.
“It’s a heck of a program, No. 1,” Listach said. “But No. 2, I wasn’t ready (for pro ball). I still had a lot to learn, and I think I learned a lot in that extra year (of college) — maturity-wise and age-wise but experience-wise as well.
“It just wasn’t the right fit at the right time.”
Fast forward 27-plus years. The Mariners beckoned again and, this time, Listach saw the opportunity as too good to pass up.
“My wife asked me, ‘Could you find a minor league team farther from home?’,” he laughed, “It’s a four-hour flight, but that’s OK.”