This rookie manager has Weaver on his mind Dempsey learns what's involved


Now that Rick Dempsey has his own ballclub, the Bakersfield Dodgers, to run, no one can appreciate the grief the one-time Orioles catcher gave former manager Earl Weaver.

"I think about him [Weaver] every day," said Dempsey yesterday with a laugh. "There's a lot of situations where you don't know which way to go and I'm running thoughts through my mind, saying, 'What would Earl do in this situation?'

"I find myself reverting back to the way I learned to play the game from him quite often."

Dempsey, who took over the Single-A team, the Los Angeles Dodgers' entry in the California League, this season, returned to Baltimore yesterday in his role as spokesman for Sunny's Surplus, an outdoor sporting goods chain.

Bakersfield is out to a 13-1 start in spring training, and not so coincidentally, Dempsey is finding managing to be "a lot of fun."

Dempsey said: "You just let them go out and play and you see them put it all together and it's a lot of fun. I have a team very much like the ones Earl put out on the field in the '70s, when we played together, except we have better team speed, so I can work the hit-and-run and straight steals a lot more effectively than Earl was able to."

In addition, Dempsey said the Dodgers pitching staff has been "excellent," with only one instance this spring in which a pitcher has given up as many as three runs in one inning.

"I've got a real young ball team, but defensively they're about as sound as you can get out of minor-league guys. I would put them up against some major-league teams that I've seen on a defensive standpoint the last couple of years in the big leagues," Dempsey said.

Dempsey, 43, spent portions of 24 seasons in the majors as a catcher, but the 12 years he spent in Baltimore were by far his most productive, and he won the World Series Most Valuable Player award in 1983.

Dempsey left the Orioles after the 1986 season but returned last season, pushing Jeff Tackett for the backup catcher slot in spring training. Dempsey spent most of the year as a non-roster instructor and appeared in a handful of games when starting catcher Chris Hoiles was sidelined with a broken wrist.

Dempsey retired at the end of last season and began looking for managing slots. He was offered a post with the Frederick Keys, the Orioles' Single-A team, but turned it down to be closer to his family.

"Someday, I expect that I'll be back with the Orioles if things work out, but for now, I'm learning how to manage in the Dodgers organization, and as long as I can be close to my family at the same time, in the next couple of years until my son gets out of high school, it's got to be that way," Dempsey said.

In the early going, Dempsey, who said he had been pondering a managerial career for the past 10 years, said he hasn't been surprised by the demands of the job.

But he quickly adds that he's gained respect for all those who tried to teach him.

Dempsey said: "I have some kids who miss some signs. I've got some kids who are a little hardheaded and they don't want to listen to you, so I'm beginning to realize why my coaches and managers reacted the way they reacted. I made some mistakes, and now I know why. I'm in their place now. I can see how much of a pain it is to deal with some people. I must have been a pain to somebody at one time or another."

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