Good guy Roenicke gets his due and a Brew

Jan. 24, 2011

By GERRY FALL, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER

January 23, 2011 11:28 AM

I always liked Ron Roenicke when he played Major League Baseball during the 1980s.

With a .238 batting average, 17 home runs and 113 RBI during his eight-season career, Roenicke was far from being feared hitter in the mind of a pitcher. But he was a guy who never took a play off, hustled down the line on a routine grounder, and ran down a fly ball like it had a thousand dollar bill attached to it.

In November, Roenicke was hired to manage the Milwaukee Brewers after spending the last decade in the Angels' dugout as the third base coach, and later, the bench coach -- a position that occasionally had him wearing the skipper's cap when Mike Scioscia said something he shouldn't have to an umpire.

I had never met Roenicke until last Thursday, when he was nice enough to give me a little of his time after he had given a lot of his time to the UCSB baseball team at its practice.

Roenicke, whose son, Lance, is entering his third season with the Gauchos, spoke to the team at great length before watching the team practice.

"What I really talked to the guys about was not necessarily being a professional, but getting the most out of your ability," said Roenicke, who played for the Dodgers, Phillies, Giants, Mariners and Reds from 1981 to 1988.

"My message was simply to use whatever talent and ability God blessed you with."

Roenicke has always been viewed by many in the game as an intelligent baseball man. He will use that intelligence and his years of experience in the professional game to get the Brewers back to winning after suffering through losing seasons in 2009 and 2010 under Ken Macha.

Roenicke is the fourth manager Milwaukee has had in the last three years.

"Baseball has given me a lot of toughness and the ability to persevere throughout my life," he said. "As a manager you're basically a servant. You're trying to serve these players and get the most out of the ability they may have. You have to go out of your way to help your players, that's what I've always believed."

Roenicke is happy his son chose UCSB, not just for the academics, but for the baseball.

"I think this is the toughest conference in the country for college baseball," Roenicke said. "When I looked at the teams that go to the playoffs and do well in the College World Series, it really makes me believe it's a fantastic atmosphere for any player trying to get to the next level of the game. To say nothing of the fact that this is a beautiful campus."

In today's era of the big ego in sports, it is refreshing to know there are Ron Roenickes lurking about. To say that his plate is full as he prepares for his new job would be a big understatement. And still, Roenicke has time to do Bob Brontsema a favor by driving a couple of hours from his home to speak to his team.

Trust me when I say, he is an easy guy to root for.

"It was phenomenal to have him come meet with the team," Brontsema said. "He is a wealth of information, a wealth of experience, and he is an outstanding person. He is exactly the kind of person you want your players to listen to."

Roenicke admits he's got a lot of work to do in his first major league managerial stint. But he says he cherishes all the challenges that await him in trying to make the Brewers a playoff contender again.

"I want to get the attitude back where the players feel they're going to win," he said. "I don't want to say anything about what happened the last couple of years in Milwaukee because I wasn't there. We've made some great moves in the offseason and we've really improved our pitching staff. I think this team can be very good this season."

Here's hoping a nice guy finishes first.

Gerry Fall's column appears on Sunday. E-mail: gfall@newspress.com