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Monday, February 1, 2021

Rick Sweet had that mentality to be minors manager; Saw bigs over three seasons as player

Originally published Sept. 13, 2016
Speaking to The Tucson Citizen in 1995, Rick Sweet explained what led him to be a minor league manager.

The former major leaguer with the Padres, Mets and Mariners, explained that everything in his life just pointed that way.

"My whole career in the minor leagues, and even when I played in the big leagues, everybody anticipated I would be a manager some day," Sweet told The Citizen. "I played a position (catcher) that put me in that role. I had the mentality as far as aggressiveness and wanting to do it. You have to really want to do it."

Sweet has used his mentality as a coach and manager now for more than three decades. He's managed at nearly every level, mostly at AAA, sending his players on to the place Sweet once played, the majors.

One of Sweet's former players not only went on to a long career in the majors, but also gained induction into the Hall of Fame. Sweet served as the first professional manager for Ken Griffey Jr. at rookie Bellingham in 1987.

Sweet's long career in baseball began in 1975, taken by the Padres in the third round of the January draft out of Gonzaga University.

Sweet started at short-season Walla Walla, then made AA Amarillo in 1976 and AAA Hawaii in 1977. In 1978, he made the Padres in San Diego.

The catcher Sweet got into 88 games for San Diego in 1978, hitting .221, with one home run and 11 RBI. He then didn't return to the majors until 1982. He started with three games for the Mets, then the Mariners purchased him. In all, he got into 91 games and hit .257.

In 1983, Sweet got into 93 games for the Mariners, hitting .221. That July, he hit an extra-inning, pinch-hit single to give his team the win, according to The Associated Press. Mariners acting manager Chuck Cottier called in the slumping Sweet to get the big hit.

"I owe Chuck a lot for that one," Sweet told The AP. "It really helped my confidence."

Sweet soon set out to instill that confidence in players himself as his playing career ended that year and his post-playing career began. After serving as a bullpen coach for Seattle and then a scout, he took his first minor league managerial job in 1987.

Sweet's first job as a manager came at short-season Bellingham. On that first team, playing for his own first professional club: Griffey.

"Physically, he's ready to play in the big leagues right now," Sweet told reporters shortly after Griffey's arrival in Bellingham, "but he's a 17-year-old kid emotionally. Just because you've got a 6-3, 195-pound body doesn't mean you've got the head that goes with it. He's got a lot to learn."

Sweet moved to the Astros and high-A Osceola for 1989, then AA Columbus in 1990. In 1993, he made AAA as manager for the first time at Tucson. He returned to the majors briefly in 1996 as first base coach for Houston.

Sweet soon returned to manage in the minors and he's continued in the years since. He's spent a total of 17 seasons through 2016 at AAA and seven at Louisville. In 2016, he served as manager at AAA Colorado Springs.

For 2021, Sweet is to manage with the Brewers at AAA Nashville.

In December 2004, the Reds announced Sweet's return to AAA after a season at AA. Cincinnati General Manager Dan O'Brien explained Sweet preferred to be at AAA.

"The bottom line is, this is the job at the level that he enjoys the most," O'Brien told the Cincinnati Reds' site. "It's certainly the most challenging managerial position in the system, and yet it's the one he wants. I think the diversity of his background plays a big role in his ability to do this job and do it well."

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