By Mike Takeuchi, Santa Barbara News-Press Correspondent
With the three-week roller coaster ride finally over, Bill Geivett can finally exhale.
On Monday, one day after the Major League Baseball trade deadline passed, the current Rockies senior vice president (scouting and player development) and assistant general manager experienced a sensation he hasn't had since his days as an all-American third baseman at UCSB 26 years ago.
"I feel like finals (exams) just ended," Geivett told the News-Press by phone from his office in Denver.
On Saturday, a three-week process concluded when Rockies General Manager Dan O'Dowd announced one of the biggest deals of the year with the swapping of the popular ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians for four minor league prospects including former UCSB pitcher Joe Gardner.
Prior to the trade last Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, the 49-year-old could not comment either way on any possible deals involving the right-hander despite several claims that Jimenez might be headed to several teams including the Reds, the Yankees, the Tigers, and the Red Sox.
"Every club is in the spot where they'll listen to people that call," Geivett said while sitting in the visitor's dugout. "As of right now, I can't say what we're going to do, but I do know that whenever a bunch of reporters, scouts, and baseball people get together people like to talk."
Two days later while on a bus ride to San Diego to play the Padres, Geivett was called back to Denver, where the deal that also brought catcher/outfielder Matt McBride, pitcher and former No. 1 draft pick Alex White, and a player to be named later was made.
While Geivett declined to comment on the player, it is widely speculated it will be the Indians top left-handed pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz, who was pulled from his start at Double-A Akron, cannot be traded until his one-year anniversary in the pros, which is August 16.
Geivett intimated that he and the entire organization would miss the popular Jimenez. Shortly after he moved from the Dodgers front office to the Rockies in November 2000, the executive was in the Dominican Republic where Jimenez signed his initial deal with the club in April of 2001.
"He was with us over 10 years, and was not only a great pitcher for us, but the best in our history," Geivett said.
Despite the loss of the ace, the UCSB alumnus was excited about adding the young group, which includes Gardner, who will join his former teammate outfielder Gaucho Mike Zuanich in Double-A Tulsa. With Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs in the bigs, pitcher Andy Graham in Triple-A, and recently drafted pitcher Jesse Meaux in Single-A, the Gauchos can almost be called a Rockies farm club.
"I think a little bit," Geivett slyly said while breaking out with a wild smile. "There are some people around here that like Gauchos and I happen to be one of them. We take a good hard look at who is over there and what is going on with the program to see if we can get some players."
"We have this running joke if it wasn't for Geivo, I wouldn't have made the Rockies or even the major leagues," Spilborghs said on Tuesday. "But the players we're talking about belong where they are. He may look at UCSB guys closer than most, but the bottom line is they have to be ballplayers. But like a lot of us, he has kept his strong connections to the program and wants it to do well."
UCSB athletic director Mark Massari thought enough of the opinions of Geivett and Spilborghs by consulting with them and the likes of former coach Al Ferrer and major leaguers Skip Schumaker and Michael Young among others on preliminary choices before making the decision to hire new coach Andrew Checketts.
"Not many schools can get Major Leaguers and a Gauchos hall of fame player like Bill to help them out," Massari said.
His career batting average of .402 - he hit .412 and collected a school record 100 hits in '85, a mark later tied by Schumaker - earned him said induction. It was here, where he began dating his future wife Bonnie, a friend from high school.
"She kept me out of circulation when I was playing ball for the Gauchos," he laughed.
While calling him a fun-loving but hard-nosed player, Ferrer recalled a game against UNLV where Geivett hit for the cycle with an extra home run to boot, but was overshadowed by three round-trippers from future MLB All-Star Matt Williams, playing for the Rebels. The coach now calls his former player a friend.
"But if he calls me Al instead of Coach, I'll definitely yell at him," Ferrer said. "I don't think it will faze him, because that guy has such an upbeat personality and is so popular. He probably knows more people than Bud Selig."
Friend and assistant athletics director (communications) Bill Mahoney agreed.
"He is probably one of the most personable guys you can ever meet," Mahoney said. "And that's why he's so successful."
After getting drafted, his playing career ended at the Double-A level following an injury to his left knee in 1988, While getting a Master's degree, he stayed in the game learning from "some of the best", including former LMU and Long Beach State coach Dave Snow, junior college coaching legend Jerry Weinstein, and former USC and current UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie.
His first Major League scouting job was with the Yankees in 1991 followed by stints with the Montreal Expos (1994-'96), the Tampa Bay Devil Rays ('96-'98), was assistant general manager with the Dodgers (1998-2000), until landing his current home with the Rockies.
"I have learned something different from each person Bill Livesey taught me about scouting, Felipe Alou about seeing the whole picture as a manager, on down," Geivett said. "But I mostly learned about people."
On Tuesday, he practiced that subject with players and coaches from both teams where even security personnel like Richard Montano were happy to see him back in Chavez Ravine.
"I have the best job in America," Geivett said. "My buddy Tommy Lasorda tells me that if you love your job you never work a day in your life. I still feel like I'm on scholarship because I have people pay me to learn more about the game that I love. I don't see how it can be any better."