Girardi, Leyland are All-Star coaches
First call for Yankees manager, fourth for Tigers skipper
Joe Girardi, in his first season as Yankees manager, will have a prominent role in one of the centerpieces of Yankee Stadium's last season, and Jim Leyland will join him.Girardi and Leyland, the Tigers manager, were chosen on Friday to be coaches on the American League team at the 79th All-Star Game, to be held on July 15 in Yankee Stadium. Invitations to Girardi and Leyland were formally extended on Friday morning by Boston manager Terry Francona, preparing for his second stint as skipper of the AL All-Star team. "I feel extremely blessed and very thankful to Terry Francona," Girardi said. "I can't wait. I've been a part of one All-Star Game and I was fortunate. ... It's going to be awesome. My kids were asking me about it again today already. They're thrilled to death, too." "I thought it was appropriate that the manager of the Yankees be there, with it being the last [season at Yankee Stadium]," Francona said. "It's their last time there and it just makes sense. It's kind of like '05, I wanted [Mariano] Rivera to get the last out [of the All-Star Game]. Sometimes you just think things are appropriate. Both guys, Joe and Jimmy, were awesome with their responses."
"Everybody's kind of making a big deal about this being the last one in Yankee Stadium," Leyland said. "Don't get me wrong; that's a nice extra touch to it. But I'm just thrilled the guy asked me to go. It doesn't matter to me where it was, I would've gone."The coaching honor is a first for Girardi, two months into his second season as a Major League manager. He also guided the Florida Marlins in 2006. As a catcher, Girardi was chosen to one All-Star team during his 15-year career, in 2000 when he caught for the Cubs, but did not appear in that summer's game in Atlanta. Although he never appeared in the Majors as a player, Leyland has slightly more extensive All-Star experience. While managing the Pirates, he served on the NL's coaching staff in 1990 and 1991, and managed the NL squad in 1998 after having led the Marlins to the 1997 World Series championship. He also managed the AL squad last year after Detroit's appearance in the 2006 World Series.
"Jim Leyland, without trying to overstate it, when I was a young player in Triple-A, he was the manager in, I think it was Evansville," Francona recalls. "You could tell then he was really good. He was kind of a young manager, and he always had time for me when I became a young manager. The other thing is, he makes my dad [former Major Leaguer Tito Francona] feel like he's the most important person in the world, and this was my way of showing him my appreciation. I didn't even know if he'd be interested because he's done this before, not as a manager. He was so great when I called him. I'd be honored to have him be there as part of what we're doing.""I actually told [Francona], 'Look, I've been to about five or six of these, and I was blessed enough to manage two of them," Leyland said. "If you want to take some younger guy that's never been there or something, go ahead.' But he said, 'No, I'd really like it if you would come.' I said, 'Well, then, I'll be there.' "I just felt a little funny because maybe [he'd like] a younger manager that hasn't been there yet, but I was thrilled to be asked. I think it would be disrespectful if I didn't go. I want to go."
"I wanted him to understand it would be an honor for me," Francona said. "He was great about it. I was just excited about the fact he would say yes."Francona will also be assisted at the All-Star Game by his regular Boston coaching staff, including first-base coach Luis Alicea, pitching coach John Farrell, third-base coach DeMarlo Hale, hitting coach Dave Magadan, bench coach Brad Mills and bullpen coach Gary Tuck.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.