MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Players praise Black's managing style

Bell, Gwynn Jr., Hairston recall skipper's qualities as he's set to take Nats' reins

Players praise Black's managing style

WASHINGTON -- After learning that Bud Black will be named the sixth full-time manager in Nationals history, Heath Bell, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Scott Hairston have nothing but good things to say about him.

All three players not only played for Black when they were with the Padres, they also played for the Nationals.

Take Gwynn, for example: He said Black was the first manager to let him play often in the big leagues. That was 2009, and it turned out to be Gwynn's best season in the Majors.

"I think the Nationals pitchers are going to love him," Gwynn said. "He is a lot harder on the pitchers than he is the position players, because he was a pitcher. But it's in a way that guys respect him and they want to get better. I played for him for two years, and I never met anyone who didn't love Buddy."

After becoming the manager of the Padres after the 2006 season, one of Black's first calls was to Bell to inform him that he could have a big role coming out of the bullpen. Prior to the call, Bell never spoke to Black in his life.

MLB Tonight: Bud Black

"We didn't know each other. It tells you the kind of person he is," Bell said. "There were times I saw him go over to guys who went 0-for-4 and said, 'You are going back in there tomorrow. Don't worry about it. It was just bad luck. Trust me, you are getting back in there.' And that person was in there the next day."

Black could relate to his players, having played 15 seasons in the Major Leagues with six teams. He won 121 games with a 3.84 ERA overall, and during his tenure with Kansas City, the Royals won their first World Series title in 1985.

Black brought those experiences to the Padres.

When Hairston played for Black, he had one of his worst seasons. In fact, Hairston remembered Black calling him into his office to talk about his slump. Although it was not a good year, Hairston said Black was "a joy to play for."

"I know a couple of times, he came up to me when I was going through hard times," Hairston said. "He sat me down and said 'Everything is going to be OK. Relax a little bit, trust your abilities. You know you can play. Go out and have fun. I believe in you.' He didn't have to do that."

Bell went so far to say that that Black will manage the best team he ever worked with. While Black dealt with a quality pitching staff in San Diego, he never had an offense that could take him deep into the postseason.

Hairston said the lack of offense didn't have anything to do with Black.

"I feel Bud never had a talented team. He had one or two talented players, but not the whole team," Bell said. "I feel he gets the best out of you. You have that confidence -- no matter if you make a mistake, he is not going to bench you, he is not going to sit you. As long as you are doing things right, you are trying your best, guys will love to play for him."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.