Anyone who has followed the Dodgers Advanced Single-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga Quakes over the past three seasons knows that they have been blessed with some of the best minor league managers in the business.
Juan Bustabad managed the team in 2011 and 2012, winning the Cal League Manager of the Year title in 2011. (He won that same title in 2010 as the manager of the Great Lakes Loons in the Low Single-A Midwest League). In 2013 the Quakes were managed by Carlos Subero, who took the team into the Cal League playoffs only to be knocked out by the eventual 2013 Cal League champions (and their biggest rivals) the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels).
On Sunday morning the Dodgers announced their 2014 managerial and coaching staffs for all of their minor league affiliate teams and all six teams have a new manager. Longtime instructional league coach John “Shoe” Shoemaker will manage the Rookie League Arizona Dodgers; Lee Tinsley the short-season Rookie League Ogden Raptors; Bill Hasleman (who managed the aforementioned Cal League champion 66ers) the Low Single-A Great Lakes Loons; Razor Shines the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts and Damon Berryhill the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.
But what about the Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, you ask? I saved the best for last.
It is rare that a team gets a new manager with a reputation for being a ‘fan favorite’ – this distinction is usually reserved for highly-revered players. But P.J Forbes, who was named the Quakes new manager on Sunday, comes to the team with this exact reputation.
Although not a standout during his two major league seasons (he had 17 total MLB at bats), Forbes brings a lot more to the Quakes clubhouse than just being a former player – he brings a lot of minor league managerial experience – 10 years of it, in fact. The 46-year-old Pittsburg, KS native and 1990 20th round Angels draft pick has managed at every minor league level since 2004 within the Phillies and Pirates organizations. In 2013 Forbes was lured away from the Pirates by the Dodgers and was appointed as the manager of the Rookie League Arizona Dodgers, leading the team into the playoffs where they were eventually eliminated.
During a 2009 interview with MiLB.com’s Scott Pitoniak, Forbes readily admitted that it wasn’t his talent that makes him a successful and popular manager, it’s his brains.
“I had no idea that my professional playing career was going to last 13 years,’’ said Forbes. “Heck, when I was drafted out of college, most people said I’d never make it out of A-ball. I knew I was short on talent, that was no secret to me. I knew if I was to go anywhere, I’d have to compensate for my shortcomings. That’s why, in everything I ever played, I tried to defeat the game and the opponent by out-thinking them and by out-working them.’’
If this isn’t the perfect mix of humility and confidence, there isn’t one.
Although Forbes may not have been a standout player in the majors, he definitely was in college. The former Wichita State University infielder helped lead the Shockers to the 1989 College World Series championship. In his final professional season with the Orioles Triple-A affiliate Rochester Red Wings in 2002, Forbes was regarded as the favorite player of Rochester fans over the last decade.
Forbes’ interaction with fans has carried over into his role as manager. At every stop along the way of his 10 seasons as a minor league manager he always seems to find time to visit with fans and sign autographs – this in addition to being extremely well liked and respected by his players and coaches.
Ironically, just three days ago Forbes was selected as one of six former Kansas athletes to be enshrined in the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, with the induction ceremony set for January 25, 2014 at Hillside Christian Church in Wichita, KS.
As my father always said: “Good things happen to good people.”