When Don Buford was removed from his position as director of field operations last September, he indicated to Baltimore Orioles officials that he would like to manage.
Now, he will get his chance to "do something I've wanted for many years."
The Orioles have reassigned Buford to the Hagerstown Suns, their Class AA team, where he probably will get an opportunity to manage his son Damon, a notable base-stealer and center fielder with the Class A Frederick Keys last season.
Buford replaces Jerry Narron, who was promoted to manager of the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. Rochester's new pitching coach, Steve Luebber, also is moving up from Hagerstown. Rochester lost its manager (Greg Biagini) and pitching coach (Dick Bosman) to the Orioles' coaching staff.
Buford will thus join a small list of minority managers at the top two levels of minor-league baseball. According to the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the minors' governing body, four managed at the Class AAA or Class AA level last season.
"I think it is a step forward in a position where he will gain experience," said Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson. "This shoots holes in the old theory that minorities will not go to the minors to manage."
Peter Kirk, whose Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership owns the Suns and Keys, said: "If anything, the Orioles are in the forefront of attention to minority hiring. I know Don's really excited about this. He has a terrific personality and he's going to be very good in the community of Hagerstown with personal appearances."
Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said Buford brings "vast experience and knowledge and is familiar with our players. He's an Oriole through and through."
Buford, an Orioles outfielder and leadoff hitter from 1968-72, said from his California home last night that he was simply showing "the willingness to put forth the effort to obtain a goal. I just wanted to complete my total resume in baseball. Then, if an opportunity exists and I do a good enough job at this, I'll have done it all."
Buford will work with holdover coach Joe Durham. The Suns have not yet been assigned a pitching coach.
Roy Krasik, the director of minor-league administration, said Narron and Luebber were promoted to the Red Wings after doing "an excellent job and working hard" at Hagerstown.
The Suns were 81-59 last year and made the Eastern League playoffs for the first time, losing to the eventual champion Albany-Colonie Yankees in three straight.
In other changes, Tom Brown (pitching), Wally Moon (hitting) and Reid Nichols (base-running) were assigned as roving minor-league instructors.
Moon's departure leaves a managerial vacancy at Frederick, and Nichols' new duties (he was a coach at Sarasota) are an offshoot of Davey Lopes' appointment to the Orioles' staff.
"We felt we needed someone to work with Davey, to teach the techniques at that level," said Krasik.
As for Moon, Krasik said "he communicates real well with kids and his expertise is in hitting.
Buford, 54, was a coach on Robinson's staffs in San Francisco and Baltimore and was an assistant coach at Southern California, his alma mater.
"Donnie has always been the type of guy who wanted to be in uniform," said Robinson. "Even when he was a coordinator, he was on the field doing a lot of batting practice and drills."
Minority managers in classes AAA, AA
Class AAA Indianapolis Indians.... Jerry Manuel
Edmonton Trappers....... Max Oliveras
Class AA Greenville Braves..... Chris Chambliss
Birmingham Barons..... Tony Franklin