Trebelhorn takes O's future in hands

Thrift-built depth allows new minor-league boss to be in field, not just office

April 01, 1999|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN STAFF

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles' minor-league system has been making strides in recent years under Syd Thrift. Now Thrift's successor, Tom Trebelhorn, plans to keep it moving upward.

"One of the problems in the past is that they didn't have enough players. There was no depth and Syd had to act basically as a Triple-A general manager, signing a bunch of six-year free agents," said Trebelhorn. "But we are younger now and more athletically gifted, so it's easier for me."

As the new director of player development, Trebelhorn will be able to spend less time on paperwork and scrambling for talent to buttress the Rochester roster. That will free him up to be in the field often, evaluating firsthand.

"Tom will be hands on," said Don Buford, Thrift's assistant who will work under Trebelhorn. "He taught school and he's very organized. The focus will be on teaching and the atmosphere in camp is more relaxed. He likes to make things fun."

A former major-league manager (Milwaukee 1986-91 and Chicago Cubs 1994), Trebelhorn, 51, advanced from the Orioles' coordinator of minor-league instruction under the Frank Wren stewardship. His experience in the big leagues will automatically receive respect from young players.

"The credibility factor is important," said Trebelhorn. "They know I've done it and the same with the staff. They believe you must have done something right to be in the big leagues and you can tell them stories about Robin Yount and Paul Molitor and how you pitched George Brett."

Change for the Orioles' farmhands began with the invitation of 28 top prospects to an early camp in Fort Lauderdale where they could mingle with the big-leaguers.

"We all believed that would make for a more coordinated effort," Trebelhorn pointed out. "The major- and minor-league staffs could interact and there would be some continuity. The camps being separate made for logistical difficulties, so this was one way to remedy that."

The lack of continuity in the Orioles' front office -- with its attendant different philosophies -- is not productive for the minor-leaguers, according to Trebelhorn.

"Too much change is not a very good process," he said. "They like to be comfortable, in a routine, and if plans alter too much, they feel disrupted. Everybody new who comes in wants to reimplement and rebuild and that is tough on them."

The organizations who succeed are those who remain reasonably intact with their leadership, according to Trebelhorn.

Ideally, Trebelhorn believes that the Orioles and their farmhands should be training at the same facility but said the current arrangement is "workable."

"The early camp worked well and I feel better about the whole picture," he said. "But it would be wonderful to have a self-contained complex."

He no longer nurtures visions of returning to managing at the big-league level or becoming a general manager.

"That's too big a job for me now," he said. "The demands of those jobs do not equal my interest. Over time, those jobs take a huge toll on you. I enjoy knowing every kid by sight and you can do that here."

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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