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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Billy Gardner Jr. followed his father into long coaching, managing career; Played briefly

His own playing career over, Billy Gardner Jr., started his coaching career in 1990, a late assignment to coach at short-season Pittsfield, The Berkshire Eagle wrote.

He'd already coached in college, at the University of Hartford. Now he was trying the pros.

"I was a Boston and a Yankee guy," Gardner told The Eagle that June. "But it's professional baseball, something I want to do. I will be doing whatever (manager) Jim Eschen wants me to do. I'll be handling some of the infield and outfield coaching, and take care of some videotaping chores."

Gardner's time in Pittsfield marked the start of a long career as a manager and coach in the minors. Soon, the coach turned manager, a role he would continue over the years and one that he was set to continue in 2020.

Gardner's career began in 1987, taken by the Royals in the 50th round of the draft out of the University of Hartford. Gardner's career also started as the son of the Royals manager in Kansas City, Billy Gardner, Sr.

Gardner's playing career started in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He got into 37 games and hit .316. He then moved to short-season Eugene and single-A Virginia. In 34 total games, he hit .239. That season marked his last as a player.

He then returned to Hartford as a coach, then moved to Pittsfield and the pros for 1990. He returned to Pittsfield for 1991 and continued as a hitting coach through 1994, when he served as hitting coach at high-A High Desert. 

Then, at rookie Butte, Gardner turned manager. He managed at short-season Lowell in 1996 and single-A Michigan in 1997. In 2000, he moved to AA Trenton

"I wasn't a very good player," Gardner told The Asbury Park Press to start the 2000 season. "I knew I wasn't going to go far as a player and coaching's another avenue of the game. I've always had my eye on it, always tried to pay attention to detail, so if I did get the chance to manage, I'd be prepared for it."

Gardner continued managing. He arrived at AA Montgomery in 2007 and stayed there for six seasons. In 2014, he moved to AAA Syracuse, the first of four seasons there. 

"The day you think you have all the answers is probably the day you get out," Gardner told in January 2014. "I learn something every day when I'm at a baseball field.''

Most recently, he was slated to manage at AA Harrisburg for the eventually canceled 2020 season after serving as Washington's roving minor league coordinator.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,667
Made the Majors:1,254-34.2%
Never Made Majors:2,413-65.8%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:522
10+ Seasons in the Minors:308

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