Jared Sandberg has driven across the country six times. He’s visited 49 states. He’s endured long bus rides to different stadiums, and logged plenty of airline miles during his professional baseball career.
This week, the 39-year-old Olympia native said he’s happy to get a chance to sleep in his own bed.
“I might even mow the lawn,” Sandberg joked. “If there’s time.”
Baseball has taken Sandberg, a former standout at Capital High School, almost everywhere. For four days this week, it will bring him home.
“To be back in the Pacific Northwest with family and friends, and get to see a lot of people in season I don’t normally see will be special,” said Sandberg, now in his third season managing the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sandberg will arrive in Tacoma on Monday to be a part of the International League’s coaching staff for the Triple-A All-Star game. The home run derby is Monday and the game is Wednesday at Cheney Stadium.
“It is going to be a great experience,” Sandberg said. “I know both the Pacific Coast League and International League put on a great show.”
Sandberg’s return to the Northwest will come on the heels of another coaching assignment.
Hours before he flies to Seattle, Sandberg will coach at the All-Star Futures game — which features baseball’s top prospects — on Sunday in Miami, which also is hosting the major league All-Star Game.
“To be able to go from Durham to the Futures game in Miami, and coach first base there, will be a special moment and a highlight of my career,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg transitioned quickly to coaching once his playing days ended in 2007. His former high school coach at Capital, Steve Avila, said it was a natural progression.
“No shock Jared has had success,” Avila said. “He had an unbelievable feel for the game.”
Avila, a former scout for the Cleveland Indians, said Sandberg was one of the most intelligent baseball minds he ever coached. He believes Sandberg, the nephew of Hall of Fame second-baseman Ryne Sandberg, will end up on a big-league staff, or managing a club, sooner rather than later.
“I’ve got to believe Tampa is developing him,” Avila said. “Jared has earned that — he has the pedigree.”
Though Sandberg spends the offseason in Olympia — mainly working with local players at his Sandberg Baseball Club during the winter — this will be his first visit to Cheney Stadium in decades.
He played one game there during his career, with Capital in the Class 3A state championship in 1995.
Sandberg never played in the PCL, spending most his professional career with the Rays organization.
“What I knew, and remember, is the old Cheney Stadium,” Sandberg said. “I haven’t seen the renovations. I hear it’s beautiful.”
He said he’s excited for his homecoming, to see how the stadium has changed, and to coach in the All-Star game atmosphere.
“I think the community that baseball creates in a clubhouse in an exhibition environment is cool,” Sandberg said.
“You get to meet people from different clubs, and get in front of family and friends who maybe have never seen you in a professional baseball uniform.”
Sandberg will bring four players with him to Tacoma this week — including former Rainiers pitcher Andrew Kittredge and top prospect Willy Adames — before departing for Norfolk, Virginia, to begin the second half of the season.
He’s done his share of traveling lately, but he’s glad to put in the extra miles to participate in the Triple-A All-Star game in front of his hometown crowd.
From there, Sandberg will see where baseball takes him next. He and his wife have mused about traveling to Alaska — so he can cross the only state he hasn’t visited off of the list.
“Baseball has been good to me,” Sandberg said.
Triple-A All-Star Game
At Cheney Stadium, Tacoma
Monday: Home Run derby, 7 p.m.
Tuesday: Autographs, team workouts: 3 p.m.
Wednesday: Pacific Coast League All-Stars vs. International League All-Stars, 6:05 p.m., MLB Network, 850-AM.