Jared Sandberg grew up watching the Seattle Mariners and idolizing some of the players.
He eventually became a major-leaguer himself when the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected him right out of Olympia’s Capital High School so he could follow in the professional baseball footsteps of his Hall of Fame uncle, Ryne Sandberg.
More than 17 years after his big-league debut with the Devils Rays and after more than 20 years spent in Tampa’s organization, Jared Sandberg is coming home.
The Mariners announced on Wednesday they hired Sandberg as their new major league field coordinator, which he said will mean working with players from the big leagues to the minors as part of player development.
“What Scott (Servais) and Jerry (Dipoto) have laid out to me is that it’s a position for a man of many hats,” Sandberg said in a conference call on Wednesday. “And I’ll be involved in a lot of different things.”
Sandberg spent the past 11 seasons as a coach in the Rays’ organization, including the past four as the manager for Triple-A Durham, where he won back-to-back International League titles the past two seasons. He managed the International League squad at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Tacoma two years ago.
He fielded plenty of other big offers, but Sandberg said the chance to return to the Pacific Northwest and take this job were too enticing to pass.
“The No. 1 reason for me to come back was for my family and that was the emphasis,” Sandberg said. “We had some other offers, and strong offers, but in this situation, being away from my family for so long definitely weighed out in this decision.
“It seemed so far away always working in Tampa, but having a house here in Olympia – it’s a proud moment to be able to come back here. A dream come true.”
Sandberg played three seasons as an infielder in the big leagues, all for the Devil Rays.
But he also recalled his first interaction with Servais, back when Sandberg was in the Texas Rangers’ spring camp and Servais was part of the club’s player development staff.
“He’s going to kill me for this,” Sandberg said, “but he ended up releasing me.”
“I think it was one of the first couple things I brought to the attention to everybody who was in the (Mariners’) initial interview room. It was kind of an icebreaker to get everybody laughing. And he said he was wondering how long it was going to take for me to bring that up.”
Sandberg graduated from Capital in 1997 and said he and his wife, Julie, are planning for their two children, Evan and Clara, to eventually go to school there, too.
The Mariners are still sorting out the rest of their staff, but so far have hired Paul Davis as their pitching coach, transitioned Edgar Martinez to organizational hitting advisor and Tuesday announced Perry Hill as their infield/first-base coach.
Chris Prieto will take over as third-base coach for Scott Brosius. They have yet to announce a new hitting coach to take over for Martinez, though there were reports that they could be finalizing a deal to hire Diamondbacks’ assistant hitting coach Tim Laker for it.