Before Dave Brundage was even named the manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, he already had a place in IronPigs trivia. Question: Name the opposing manager in the first official game at Coca-Cola Park. Answer: Dave Brundage.
It was April 11, 2008 and Dave Brundage was in his second season as manager of the Richmond Braves, who beat the Lehigh Valley IronPigs that night in the very first International League game to be played at Coca-Cola Park. The following season, the Richmond Braves became the Gwinnett Braves and Brundage stayed at the helm through the 2011 season.
"They lost nine games in a row and it ended up being 12 in a row and then they beat us to win that 13th game and the fans stayed behind their team and I respected that," remembers Brundage. "When someone said, 'what do you remember about Lehigh Valley?', I said 'passion.' That's the only word to describe it and that was a factor in deciding to come here."
It was the Phillies who approached Brundage to come here when Ryne Sandberg joined Charlie Manuel's staff in Philadelphia. While Brundage isn't one to jump at every opportunity, he didn't need a lot of time to make a decision and after talking with his family about the move, he let the Phillies know he would love the opportunity.
"It was the opportunity to work for one of the top organizations in baseball and to work with some of the top people in baseball. It's very well known around baseball that the Phillies are one of the top organizations, with good people," said Brundage.
Brundage has either played for or worked with some of baseball's best managers, including Lou Piniella, Bobby Cox, Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove and Fredi Gonzalez. While Brundage says he has learned from all of those people, he styles himself after all the lessons he learned from Cox.
"I wouldn't classify myself as a fiery manager, like Lou Piniella. Am I going to kick my hat and get suspended for four or five games? Probably not. I don't have the pocket book that he seems to have," said Brundage. "I like to think that I'm more of a Bobby Cox kind of manager, because I learned so much from being around him. I believe in playing the game aggressive. My job is to get the most out of our players however I see fit, that's my job."
Brundage is familiar with a couple players he may well be managing at Lehigh Valley, including Rodrigo Lopez, Pete Orr and Joe Mather. He's also familiar with IronPigs hitting coach Sal Rende, who he's played golf with a few times, as recently as a month ago. "Sal and I are a lot alike. We can identify with each other," said Brundage.
Because Brundage has such respect for players, he hasn't given into the temptation to speculate about who may be on his roster at Lehigh Valley. He's learned from experience that a lot of things can happen in spring training and doesn't believe it's fair to the players to think that he'll be their manager. And as a player who never made it to the majors, he doesn't want to assume things about players that others assumed about him when he was playing.
"I've managed Pete Orr before and I would love to have him on my team again, but I would love more for him to not be here and be in Philadelphia. I spent six years at Triple-A as a player and every year, I'd hear that I would be returning the next year and I'd think 'how do you know? I might be in the majors next year.' I never proved them wrong, but I always remember that," laughed Brundage.