Hey bartender! Tom Wilhelmsen’s long road back to organized baseball

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I’m always a sucker for “ballplayer gets lost in the wilderness for years but then comes back all the wiser for his experiences” stories.  Today Geoff Baker has a version of that one involving former Brewers’ prospect Tom Wilhelmsen, who is now a Mariners’ minor leaguer.

Wilhelmsen is no Josh Hamilton case, but he partied a bit too hard after he got his signing bonus back in 2002, got burnt out on baseball, wandered the Earth and then wound up tending bar in Tucson, Arizona. Including doing so this past offseason because, hey, even a ballplayer has to pay the bills.

Most guys who follow that path have several decades more of tending bar and telling the regulars about what pro ball was all about.  There are far worse fates than that — bartenders I know are a generally happy lot –and Wilhelmsen may still end up there, but for now he’s trying consolidate the gains he made after his improbably comeback win the Mariners’ system.

Neat read.

Yankees to hire Josh Bard as their new bench coach

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Aaron Boone has no experience as a coach or a manager at any level. As such, some have speculated that he’d hire a more seasoned hand as his bench coach as he begins his first season as Yankees manager. Someone like, say, Eric Wedge, who was a candidate for the job Boone got and who once managed Boone in Cleveland.

Nope. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, he’s going with Josh Bard.

Bard, 39, was a teammate of Boone’s with the Indians in 2005. He’s not without coaching experience, having spent the last two seasons as the Dodgers’ bullpen coach, but he’s not that Gene Lamont/Don Zimmer-type we often see in the bench coach role.

Which is fine because different managers want different things from their bench coach. Some are strategy guys, helping with in-game decision making. Others are relationship guys who help managers understand all of the dynamics of the clubhouse while they’re worrying more about lineups and stuff. Others are trust guys, who can serve as the manager’s sounding board, among other things. Some are combinations of all of these things. As Feinsand notes in his story, Boone said at his introductory press conference that he’s looking for this:

“I want smart sitting next to me. I want confidence sitting next to me. I want a guy who can walk out into that room and as I talk about relationships I expect to have with my players, I expect that even to be more so with my coaching staff. Whether that is a guy with all kinds of experience or little experience. I am not concerned about that.”