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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interview: Dave Machemer betters players, worked all life

Richmond manager Dave Machemer heads to the third base coaching box, the Richmond dugout in the background.

Dave Machemer autographed 1990 Denver Zephyrs cardThe phone rang and Dave Machemer answered.

He'd interviewed the day before for a Brewers minor league managerial position. Machemer, a veteran of 11 professional seasons as a player, was trying to get back into baseball after two years spent selling cars and playing semi pro ball.

The interviewer, farm director Bruce Manno, told him he'd get back to Machemer in two weeks. It took Manno one day. The voice on the phone was Manno's.

Machemer described that day as among the greatest in his life, being able to get back into baseball.

"I knew I was born to do it from the day I was five years old my grandfather gave me that baseball glove," Machemer told The Greatest 21 Days. "It's just in my blood."

Out of that phone call, Machemer became the manager of single-A Beloit. Since then, Machemer has managed more than 20 seasons from rookie ball to AAA. He is currently the manager of the Giants' AA affiliate in Richmond, Va., The Flying Squirrels.

Richmond manager Dave Machemer, No. 21, with umpires and opposing Harrisburg manager Tony Gingrich before the July 10, 2011 contest.

He sat down with The Greatest 21 Days recently, discussing his playing and managerial career.

Manno, now the assistant general manager of the Braves, told The Milwaukee Journal after hiring Machemer that Machemer knew what it took to make the major leagues. He also praised Machemer's attitude, vital, he told The Journal, to relating to young talent.

For the most part, Machemer has done that since. Apart from one exception.

That exception was something Machemer brought up: Gary Sheffield. Machemer managed the young Sheffield at single-A Stockton in 1987 and at AA El Paso in 1988.

Without giving Machemer's name, in his 2007 autobiography "Inside Power," Sheffield wrote of "the Stockton manager" who had "a trigger temper." (The chapter from Google Books) Sheffield wrote of their relationship devolving into a feud, at least from his perspective.

Regarding Sheffield's feelings, though, Machemer said, "that's fine, but I only tried to do things to make Gary Sheffield a better player."

Dave Machemer, No. 21, in the Richmond dugout. Next to Machemer is Ken Joyce, Richmond's hitting coach.

Machemer then listed off other major leaguers that played under him, B.J. Surhoff, Mark Grudzielanek, Brian Roberts, Jayson Werth.

"I'm not here to be friends," Machemer said. "I'm here to make them better ballplayers, and hopefully I did that for them."

Part 1: Credit to Others | Part 2: He Connected | Part 3: Just In His Blood | Part 4: Player Stories

Then there are the players Machemer is currently managing. As he spoke, players began trickling out of the clubhouse for warmups. Richmond was taking on Harrisburg that night at The Diamond in Richmond.

A little earlier in the interview, Machemer spoke of all the managers he played for in his own playing career. As Machemer did, another pair of players walked past in the dugout. One of them was pitcher, No. 8, Alex Hinshaw.

When he looked back, Machemer said, he could honestly say he played for some of the greatest managers in the history of the game.

"So have I," Hinshaw added as he walked past, hearing only that part of the conversation, "his name is Dave Machemer."

Hinshaw also played for Machemer in 2007, at AA Connecticut.

Richmond manager Dave Machemer waives home Johnny Monell in the bottom of the fourth, July 10, 2011.

While Machemer credits many of the managers he had as a player with helping him develop into the player he was, and the manager he is, it was his last manager whom Machemer credits most with his managerial style.

His 29 total major league games with the Angels and Tigers behind him, Machemer played his final three seasons in the Twins system at AAA Toledo. Managing him all three years was Cal Ermer.

Machemer describes Ermer as taking him under his wing.

"The other guys were teaching me how to play, and from them I got experience on how to manage," Machemer said, "but Cal Ermer taught me how to manage."

Machemer has since gone on to manage more than 3,000 games.

Machemer's minor league managerial tour has taken him from those first years with Beloit, Stockton and El Paso, to AAA Denver and Rochester, to Delmarva, Harrisburg and rookie ball.

In late 1999, he even got a brief fill-in role in the majors, with Baltimore. Machemer recalled making a couple crucial suggestions. As far as the majors, though, that was his only stint there as a coach.

As far as getting back, the 60-year-old Machemer said he's still interested in returning.

"It's easy to get discouraged, but I try not to," Machemer said. "I still got my passion and fire and I still think I can be a good element for a major league club someday, somewhere in the dugout. I think I know the game pretty well."

For now, though, he continues to do what he's done for much of the past quarter century: Manage.

And Machemer remains as enthusiastic as he was that first game he served as manager with Beloit back in 1985, when his young player rounded the bases on a walk-off home run, the young manager doing all he could to keep from joining the player on the home run trot.

Video of Richmond's walk-off win July 10, 2011. Dave Machemer, No. 21, waives around Skyler Stromsmoe with the winning run. Machemer then joins in the celebration.

The night he spoke with The Greatest 21 Days, July 10, Machemer's team again walked off with a victory, outfielder Roger Kieschnick singling home fellow outfielder Skyler Stromsmoe in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 victory.

Furiously waiving Stromsmoe home was the third base coach, Machemer, the manager almost beating the runner to the plate and joining in the celebration.

"It keeps me young," Machemer said before the game. "It keeps me young to come out here every day and get excited about seeing these kids perform something that I can't do anymore.

"You don't really relive your career through them," Machemer added, "you, hopefully, help them live their big league dreams through your career, and through my experience, is what I do."

Final Machemer recollections: Players from the 1990 CMC set.

Part 1: Credit to Others | Part 2: He Connected | Part 3: Just In His Blood | Part 4: Player Stories

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