Wallach's managing fire returns with Isotopes

Wallach's managing fire returns with Isotopes

LOS ANGELES -- Baseball America ranked Tim Wallach the best managerial prospect in the Pacific Coast League this year, even if he ranks no better than second-best managerial prospect in the Dodgers organization.

From all indications, Don Mattingly is the odds-on choice to succeed 69-year-old Joe Torre, whenever Torre decides he's done in the dugout, even though Mattingly hasn't managed in the Minor Leagues.

After only one season at the helm of the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate at Albuquerque, however, Wallach caught the eye of the publication that watches over his league. So did opposing managers and club officials, who voted Wallach the PCL Manager of the Year. On Monday, it was announced that Wallach will return for a second year at Albuquerque.

Wallach, 52, is no rookie, to baseball or managing. In 17 Major League seasons as a player, he was a five-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove third baseman and two-time Silver Slugger winner. After serving as hitting instructor for the Dodgers' Class A San Bernardino affiliate in 1997, Wallach made his managerial debut taking over the team the last 2 1/2 months of 1998. In 2000, he returned to his alma mater, Cal State Fullerton, to serve as coach before taking over as manager of the Angels' Class A affiliate in 2001. In 2004-05, he was the Dodgers batting coach under manager Jim Tracy.

There are gaps in that resume, during which Wallach was a youth coach, which allowed him to also watch the games of his two sons, who both became Dodgers. Matt, a 23-year-old catcher drafted in the 22nd round in 2007, hit .251 at Class A Great Lake last year. Brett, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher drafted in the third round this year, was 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA in 12 starts for Rookie-level Ogden this year. Coincidentally, Mattingly's son Preston also is a Dodgers farmhand.

Now that the sons are professional players, Wallach is back on track as a professional manager.

"I've got that fire again," Wallach said after completing his first season managing at Triple-A. "I loved teaching hitting [as a Major League hitting coach], but once the game starts, you don't have much control over anything. Managing got my fire going. I wanted to see if it was something I could do. I knew I'd like running a game."

Wallach led the Isotopes to a postseason berth with a 76-63 record. He also sent 21 players to the Major Leagues in a season filled with roster moves.

"At Triple-A, it's not all development," said Wallach. "You've got guys ready to play in the big leagues. They gave me a little rein so I could manage at the end of the game."

Wallach said he was happy to return to Triple-A this year, but it's not his endgame.

"Manage in the big leagues -- that is now a goal," he said. "I feel like I know what I want to do. I feel like I can. It was a great experience and you never know until you do it. You don't realize how quick things happen and you can get caught off guard. It's how prepared you are. I made mistakes early in the year and I learned from them. You have to be thinking ahead of the game. You can't be even with it."

Wallach said he was lucky to have played for a handful of notable managers -- Buck Rodgers, Bill Virdon, Dick Williams, Tom Lasorda, Felipe Alou and Jim Fanning.

"Fanning was one of the best baseball guys I've ever been around," Wallach said. "I was fortunate to have seen all ends of the spectrum. I learned from all of them. I'd like to think I took some things from all of them. I'm not much of a yeller. But I learned how to deal with players from Tommy and Buck. And the game stuff as much from Felipe and Williams, who was probably the best game manager of them all."

Wallach said the demands on a manager have changed since he played.

"When I came up, it was more about managing the game," he said. "Williams didn't spend any time worrying about what the players thought. Now, the most important thing is to get the guys to play for you. Tommy did it so well. Buck, too. Tommy was the best. It's funny how it's evolved. They all managed the game. Now it's more important to manage people."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.