COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In six weeks, Soda City ushers in a new era of Columbia Fireflies baseball. On May 4th, the now proud Kansas City Royals Minor League affiliate will open the season on the road at Augusta.
Fireflies Manager Brooks Conrad looks forward to returning to the field of play.
“You miss your players and interaction with those guys,” said Conrad. “You miss developing those relationships.”
Last season never came to pass due to the onset of the pandemic. For Conrad, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise spending a full year at home. The 41-year-old last did that when he was in high school.
“As a family man with four children, I really relished that time together with them,” Conrad continued. “I grew in a lot of other areas that I had not thought about before.”
Conrad, thankful for the time away from the park, adds he’s chomping at the bit to get back to the dugout.
His bench coach Glenn Hubbard feels the same energy toward being back in a clubhouse.
“The reason I am still in the game is that I still love to teach the players,” said Hubbard. “See them from day one and see them at the end of the year, and you know, in some way, you’ve helped them get better. Helped them in their journey to get in the big leagues.”
The 63-year-old Hubbard spent twelve seasons playing in the bigs, ten with the Atlanta Braves from 1978-1987. He made one All-Star appearance in 1983. Hubbard captured one World Series crown with the Oakland A’s in 1989.
Hubbard made his way back to the Braves’ dugout in 1999 to work alongside Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox. During his 12-year coaching stint with Cox, his most significant takeaway was understanding the importance of patience and not panicking.
“I remember, we were like five games out,” recalled Hubbard. “We were playing in Cincinnati. We just got beat 14-2.”
“I was shaking my head after the game, and Bobby said, what’s up? I said, Bobby, we just made four errors. We only scored two runs. He says we’ll be alright. We ended up winning the league by six games that year.”
“Bobby Cox never panicked. He never panicked. He was always so prepared. He was like a chess player that was three chess moves away from the other manager. I saw him out-manage a lot of managers.”
Even with all those great years and memories as a first-base coach in Atlanta, Hubbard says the most satisfying experience has been working in Low-A ball, watching and helping players develop.
“I want the players to realize hard work works,” said Hubbard. “If you have to be out there at 1 o’clock for early work, you need to be there at 12:30. You need to show me you’re willing to work. Because you will get better by the end of the year.”
Like Hubbard, Conrad expects Fireflies fans this season to watch a team that hustles and enjoys playing the game.
“Putting yourself in their shoes, if I come and watch the game, I want to be entertained,” mentioned Conrad taking on the fan perspective. “I want to see guys that are having fun playing the game. I want to see guys out there playing hard for their teammates and compete until the last out is made every time they take the field.”
“As a manager, those are some things we talk about. We want to see our guys have fun. We want to see our guys compete as a team and for each other until the last out is made every day. See where that ends up at the end of the season.”