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'A great communicator': Former colleagues see bright future for reported Orioles manager Brandon Hyde

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

It's one thing to boast that a major league managerial job was always in a colleague's future once he actually lands one, as has reportedly been the case for Chicago Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde with the Orioles.

It's another entirely to tell his father to his face a decade earlier. But that's what Reid Cornelius, the pitching coach on Hyde's staff when he last managed in 2009, did when Hyde's family visited them that summer in Jacksonville.

"I just remember talking with his Dad," Cornelius said. "It seems like Brandon was in there — I can't tell you exactly if we were all three in there. I just remember thinking that Brandon is doing a super job and he's going to be a big league manager.

"The way he prepares, the way he sees the game, he seems to be two steps ahead of the next guy across the way in the other dugout, and he had a good way of communication with his players, too. He was easy to play for. He asked for effort, but he ran a ballgame very well from the dugout.”

Hyde has spent the time since he managed the Double-A Jacksonville Suns to a Southern League championship, the last of his five seasons as a minor league manager, in myriad roles in the game. He was a big league bench coach three times, interim big league manager for a day, and player development director and first base coach in between the bench coach stints.

Every one of those jobs likely provided the different skills a progressive front-office leader like executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias will ask of his field manager, though it's often the actual managing that gets overlooked as organizations look to ensure all the boxes are checked on their wish list.

The Philadelphia Phillies endured some spectacular in-game blunders with new manager Gabe Kapler last year. New York Yankees rookie manager Aaron Boone had to grow into the role early in the season, too. But for all his presumed willingness to engage in a holistic organizational move towards data and player development that would have made him attractive to the Orioles and Elias in this hushed process, Hyde left those he worked with while holding an actual manager's title impressed.

Jacksonville's hitting coach that year, Theron Todd, echoed Cornelius' sentiment that Hyde had a job like the Orioles' one in his future.

"Brandon is very, very determined, very focused, very detail-oriented," Todd said. "A great communicator."

Before managers needed to be as versed in analytics and the game became more diverse in that sense, they were simply asked to run things on the field. As a former catcher at Long Beach State and in the Chicago White Sox farm system, Hyde used that to his advantage as a player and brought it into his coaching experience.

"You see the game from a different standpoint of anyone else on the field," Cornelius said. "You're constantly in contact with the manager — putting on the pickoffs, the throw-overs, the bunt plays, defensive positioning. You see [the manager], so I think you get a feel for how the game runs better as a catcher."

"You know how catchers are — very knowledgeable of the game," Todd said. "He just, from the time I met him and got to be around him more in spring training, I could just see his knowledge, and how he communicated to the players.

"His preparation was unbelievable, and sometimes, you have people who are like that who want to do everything, because they're so focused. It can hurt them and it can help them, but I think really it helped Brandon throughout his career. I'm not saying he was a micro-manager, but he knew how he wanted things to be done, and he had great relationships with players and with the coaching staff."

As the Orioles' presumptive selection, Hyde's skill-set certainly has evolved since then. He learned how major league outfits operated as both the Marlins' bench coach and later on Joe Maddon's World Series-winning staff in Chicago. But he also oversaw a big surge for the Cubs' farm system in his year as director of player development in 2013, and dealt with a front office that used both traditional scouting and analytics to improve the product on the field.

The statistics and data were more crude back in Jacksonville in 2009, but Hyde would parse the traditional stat sheets to learn whatever he could from them. He wouldn't be Elias' reported selection had he not evolved with the game, but the motivation for the Orioles' expected use of data and technology won't change from how Cornelius described Hyde from a decade ago.

"He was constantly looking for a way to get an advantage to beat you," Cornelius said. "That's what he was always looking for."

Once Jacksonville's season wrapped in 2009, Hyde went to manage in the Arizona Fall League, the last time he managed in a full-time role before taking on a coordinator role with the Marlins the following year. His pitching coach that year for the Mesa Solar Sox was Dennis Lewallyn, a future peer of Cornelius as minor league pitching coaches in the Atlanta Braves organization.

The pair stole off to golf one day during spring training, and Hyde's name came up. Cornelius reported that Lewallyn joined the list of prophets that day.

"I remember saying, ‘I think he's going to be a big league manager,’ " Cornelius said. "Dennis had the same thought. He said, 'I told him that when I worked with him in the fall league. I told Brandon, ‘You're going to manage in the big leagues some day.' I think that once you're around him, work with him, see how he goes about his business, and how he applies it as he runs a ballgame, I think you come away impressed."

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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