As a player, Ryne Sandberg didn't give a career in managing much thought. Now a manager for the past three seasons in the Chicago Cubs' farm system, the Hall of Fame second baseman has found his calling.
Now he just hopes the call will come from the Cubs someday -- possibly as early as 2011 -- to replace Lou Piniella whenever he decides to retire.
Sandberg, who managed the Class AA Tenessee Smokies after two seasons leading the Class A Peoria Chiefs, has angled himself for the Cubs' top job, possibly as soon as 2011 once Piniella's contract expires following the 2010 season.
"I hope to be a candidate for that job whenever that is," Sandberg told "Waddle & Silvy" on ESPN 1000 Wednesday. "Lou still has the job, and when he decides to call it a career, I just want to have good experience under my belt. I want to know what I'm doing, and I want to be ready for that opportunity. If that opportunity comes, yeah, I want to go for it. I feel like I'm doing what I need to do right now and it's very important with the way I did start in the minor leagues. I think there is a lot to be learned there and I found that out in a hurry the first year."
Sandberg, who is set to manage the Smokies again this season, would have four years of minor-league managerial experience if the job opened up. Would he consider managing somewhere else if the Cubs passed him over?
"As of right now no one has come forward like that so that hasn't been an issue," Sandberg said. "I'm slated to be in Double-A next year for the Cubs, and we all know what's happening in Chicago possibly as of 2011 ... as of right now I'm very content with the way things are going. I think it's been important to gain experience and show everyone and myself that this is what I want to do."
So how would Sandberg, who was known for being low-key and reserved as a player, have handled the Milton Bradley drama last season as a manager?
"A player can bring focus and attention to himself where now if he goes through a stretch that isn't so well or he goes through a stretch where he's not doing what he should be doing, then it opens the door for the fans to jump all over that," Sandberg said of Bradley. "There's just some talking to that can take place there and just reassure the player and re-iterate what it means to be a Chicago Cub, what it means to put on the uniform and what should be demanded.
"I think you do treat the players somewhat different," he said. "Whatever clicks with those players. I've found in the minor leagues, I have the guys for one year and they're gone. I think it's a little bit more of a luxury at the major-league level to really get to know these guys on a yearly basis. Some of the players you might have for five to 10 years. Those are the core guys you want to get on board and get what is happening and what you expect."
While Bradley is all but gone, many Cubs fans are anxious to see 19-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro at Wrigley Field in 2010. Sandberg managed the Cubs' top prospect for seven weeks at the end of last season when he was promoted from Class A Daytona to Class AA Tennessee.
"He helped us down the stretch and played real well," Sandberg said of Castro, who hit .288 in 31 games with the Smokies. "He's got all the tools. I think he's a five-tool kind of a guy, 19 years old. He could be knocking on the door as soon as this next year, so we'll see how he does."