Riggleman remembers his time with Nats, proud to have another shot to manage

Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman returned to D.C. as his team opens a four-game series against the Nationals.

Riggleman said he is focusing on preparing for the game, but he does have fond memories for the area because he grew up here.

"Really, your thoughts are about the ballgame ahead of us," Riggleman said from his desk in the visitors clubhouse at Nationals Park. "It's home for me. This is where I grew up, so I have friends and family here. And that's always great. I wish we came in here three times. But that would mean you're facing (Max) Scherzer, Gio (Gonzalez) and (Stephen) Strasburg three times.

"We don't really want to do that. But it's great to be back here. I love it here. This is where I grew up playing ball ... caddying at Woodmont Country Club, you know everything that is associated with D.C. for me. Always good to come home."

Jim-Riggleman_Closeup-Wide.gifRiggleman left the Nationals on June 23, 2011, after their home walk-off 1-0 win over the Mariners. The Nats were in the midst of 10 wins in 11 games. Riggleman wanted a contract extension and general manager Mike Rizzo was not going to give him one at that moment. So Riggleman resigned on the spot before the team had boarded its flight to Chicago.

Fast-forward seven seasons and Riggleman is back at Nats Park as the interim manager of the Reds. Cincinnati has gone 45-45 since he replaced Bryan Price.

Does Riggleman feel personal vindication to be back this time as a big league manager again?

"No. I just feel like it's circumstance," Riggleman said. "If I'd never sat in this chair again, I still would've felt that I had made the right decision. As I've said before, it wasn't a smart decision career-wise, it wasn't very smart, but I felt like it was the right decision.

"That never changed. If I was ever upset or bitter about it, that was in the first couple months of it. It's been seven years. So much has happened differently since then. I'm a grandfather now. I've been with the Reds for seven years. It's a whole different world."

Riggleman remembers when the Senators left D.C. in 1971 and how that made the city feel. But in his visits as the years passed by, he noticed that the passion for baseball was returning. He sensed the city could be an excellent host for a new team.

"Whenever I would get back in town here, I could sense that people were way more into baseball again," Riggleman said. "Everybody was playing softball. Adults were playing softball. Little League fields were active. You could sense that if they ever got baseball back here, it had a chance to work."

Then when he got back with the Nats, they had some promising pieces to build a successful team.

"At that time when I came here in (2009), we had a really good offensive club," Riggleman said. "We had (Adam) Dunn, (Ryan) Zimmerman, (Josh) Willingham, Cristian Guzman. (Ian) Desmond joined us in September. We had a good athlete like Roger Bernadina. We had a nice offensive ballclub. The pitching was the issue and the bullpen, in particular, 'til we got it with (Drew) Storen, (Tyler) Clippard and (Sean) Burnett. So it was really a lot of losses accumulating. The pitching just did not give the ballclub a chance to win. But the offensive potential, you could see it."

So on that June day in 2011 when he stepped away from the job with the Nationals, was he concerned that he might have ruined his chances to manage again in the big leagues?

"It was going to be a long shot," Riggleman said." I love managing, period. So it was a great privilege for me to go down to Double-A and manage. And then they asked me to go to Triple-A, so I did that. And things happen. Changes were made on the major league staff, so I came there to coach. You figure that's where it's going to end.

"I knew there was a slim chance that I would manage. I didn't want it to be in Cincinnati because that meant that a good man, Bryan Price, was not going to be managing. That's how it worked out."

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