In the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Brandon Hyde and Gary Kendall managed against each other in the South Atlantic League. Hyde was at Greensboro and Kendall managed Single-A Delmarva.
They were in opposite dugouts then, and they won’t be in the same dugout when this season starts, but they will be on the same team. They’ll surely talk often, with Hyde the manager in Baltimore and Kendall his Triple-A skipper.
For the last eight seasons, Kendall was the manager at Double-A Bowie, but this year he moves to Norfolk to manage the Tides. It will be the fifth different O’s affiliate Kendall has managed since his first season as a skipper on the O’s farm in 2004 at Rookie-level Bluefield. He’s also managed at short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
Last month, Kendall was called to a meeting with Hyde, general manager Mike Elias and director of minor league operations Kent Qualls. Not long after that, he was offered the position in Norfolk, succeeding Ron Johnson, who was let go in late October after seven seasons with the Tides.
“We talked a lot about philosophies and managing at different levels,” Kendall said of his meeting with the O’s brass. “And how instruction and development is so vital, not just at the lower levels but at the big league level and the Triple-A level. It was a really good baseball talk and I felt honored and very excited to be considered for the Triple-A job. Really looking forward to it.
“I’m very honest and open in the things that I say, and he’ll (Hyde) get the truth and my opinions on any players I’m asked about. I think we’ll have a great relationship. Very easy-going and knowledgeable guy, and this will be a great fit.”
Kendall’s Norfolk roster could include some solid prospects and players he managed last year. That list could include such players as Keegan Akin, Branden Kline, Dean Kremer, Zach Pop, Yusniel Díaz, Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Mike Yastrzemski, to name a few.
“It was a good young group last year, and it looks like it will stay young. I’m in Florida now and we have some players here already, and they are young and full of energy,” Kendall said from Sarasota.
What was the message from Elias and Hyde about working at Triple-A?
“The biggest thing was about development,” Kendall said. “At the rookie level - and I once managed there - you stress fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. I don’t think we will take our foot off the gas pedal as they move up that ladder. You can’t assume players know things. I think you continue to develop. There is instruction that needs to take place at the major league and Triple-A levels.
“In Double-A, that was a big thing. Those players were still developing and trying to improve each night. So, at this level, it won’t just be, ‘Send veterans out there and sit back and watch them play.’ You have to coach these players daily. It will be a young group throughout our system. It will be fun, and a lot of players have a chance to make an impact. It’s a great situation.”
Kendall said there is clear excitement among the minor league staff about 2019.
“I think so, yeah. And from the minor league players. I was here at times before when it was a very set group (in Baltimore). Not many guys cracked that major league roster. Now we’ll have guys with a great opportunity,” he added.
So Kendall is ready for another challenge as he begins his 20th season with the Orioles. He led Bowie to a franchise-record 570 wins and the club’s first and only Eastern League championship in 2015. That team included Trey Mancini, Chance Sisco, Garabez Rosa, Yastrzemski, David Hess, Donnie Hart, Chris Lee and Andrew Triggs. Kendall was a fixture in Bowie, it seemed, and very popular with the fans at Prince George’s Stadium.
“I really enjoyed it there. Who knows, I could be back there in the near future, and I wouldn’t bat an eye at it. It’s not about levels for me. I love being in baseball. I’ve always been fortunate in this organization and I take every year like it’s my last stop, and I’ve always taken pride in being at one place. I loved that place,” Kendall said.