By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
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PRINCETON — Danny Sheaffer has played with some of baseball’s greatest players of the past quarter century — Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Jim Rice and Mark McGwire to name just a few.
He has managed some great young players, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright to name two. Sheaffer has coached at all levels of baseball, sporting a World Series ring from the 1996 St. Louis Cardinals and managed in Class AAA with the Memphis Redbirds.
Tuesday afternoon Sheaffer was introduced to the media as manager of the 2013 Princeton Rays. The Harrisburg, Pa., native and Mt. Airy, N.C., resident who was roving minor league instructor for the Houston Astros last season, said he is glad to be back in a managerial position and at the rookie league level.
“This is baseball in its truest form,” Sheaffer said. “These kids are coming out with enthusiasm, they’re coming out with just raw talent and it’s my job to kind of bring that together and make them professionals.
“This level is where it began for me not only as a player, but as a manager. I think the influence that we have as coaches at this level far exceeds any other level in baseball because these kids are really green. They’re moldable. They’re coachable. They’re teachable and so that’s what makes it so much fun.”
This is Sheaffer’s first year in the Tampa Bay organization and he is thankful to have the opportunity to trade in his frequent flyer miles as a roving instructor for that of a manager.
“I’m looking forward to being back on the field managing again. It’s been a while,” Sheaffer said. “When you’re roving and did what I did the last six years, you lose the sense of competition. You’re in town for days, or five days, then you leave and you find yourself being a magnet that the kids gravitate to, pour their problems on you, good and bad. But at this level it’s a daily grind. It’s a day-in and day-out deal and I think in the long-run you have a much better impact on the kids.
“To be able to compete and see what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, that’s important, but it’s also important to see those kids move onto the next level and know how to play baseball.”
Very devout in his religious beliefs, Sheaffer began going on international sports mission trips in 1987, going to the then Soviet Union and is part of a group called BLITS — Business Leaders Inspired to Serve, an organization that does work, including water purification and church building in countries around the globe.
Asked if his work in the mission field could help his managing of players, Sheaffer said, “Absolutely. I think if you look at the work in the mission field, it’s all about somebody else. You pour yourself and pour your life into somebody else.
“If at this level, or any level of professional baseball I become the most important entity, it’s time to go. It’s real important to be able to pour not only my information, my knowledge, my history, my personality, whatever, into these kids and maybe they’ll benefit from that.
“You catch a whole lot more flies with honey than anything else,” Sheaffer continued. “When they know that you care about them, they know that you’re in their corner, regardless of if they have their bad days and you have to scold them a little bit, they’re going to respond.
“The work I do in the mission fields is very humbling. I am very grateful to be able to do that and it is the most important thing in my life. I actually think minor league baseball is a mission field. Spiritually speaking, yes, but also as a mentorship. These kids are looking for leaders. A lot come from different backgrounds than I came from.”
As for his managerial style, Sheaffer said he is not there to be a player’s best friend, but to be a leader.
“I don’t think they need a buddy. They’ve got enough friends,” Sheaffer noted. “They need somebody they can respect and trust, that an be a reflection of the organization, their policies and that’s what I’m going to try to be.”
Describing his on-field philosophy Sheaffer said, “We’re going to play baseball the right way and I only know one way to play it and that’s aggressive. I think if you make a mistake, you make it aggressively.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to sit in the dugout with my legs crossed and just watch the game. I love to compete. I’ll compete whether it’s on the golf course, the race track, or even my chili competition that’s coming up. If it’s important for me it will be important for them.”
The main goal of Sheaffer and the Rays’ organization is to create major league ball players. Some will make it, most will not.
“Ultimately the goal is to get these kids as far as they can go in professional baseball,” Sheaffer said. “If that is the whole way to Tampa Bay, amen. If it’s not, when they walk away, they walk away with their head held high.”
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com