Pete Incaviglia didn't waste time getting to the Major Leagues. He went directly from the campus of Oklahoma State in the summer of 1985 to hitting fourth in the lineup for the Texas Rangers on Opening Day in 1986. Oh, there were a few rough spots in between.
A first-round Draft choice of the Montreal Expos in 1985, Incaviglia never reached agreement on a contract -- leading to the Expos to trade his rights to the Rangers, and prompting baseball to invoke what was known as the "Pete Incaviglia Rule." The measure, which was rescinded by Major League Baseball a year ago, prohibited teams from trading a Draft pick until a year after he signed.
Incaviglia spent nine years in the Majors before going to Japan in 1995 to play for Chiba Lotte. He didn't make his Minor League debut until two years later, when he appeared in three games for the Yankees' Triple-A team at Columbus.
When Incaviglia initially retired from playing, he coached and managed in the Minor Leagues in the Tigers organization for three years and then spent a year at home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. After a year out of the game, Incaviglia caught the bug for life in baseball's independent leagues.
Incaviglia took the job as manager of the Grand Prairie AirHogs, a Texas-based expansion team in the American Association, in 2008. He has managed in that league ever since -- except during the 2011 season, when he was busy helping to create another Texas-based club, the Laredo franchise he currently helms. With his club 32-23 entering Saturday, he is likely on his way to compiling a winning record for the seventh time in eight seasons as a skipper.
Incaviglia has had former Major Leaguers like Pat Mahomes and Nook Logan continue their careers on his team, and he has also provided the opportunity for Jordan Tata, Michael Holliman, Chris Martin, Chaz Roe and Fernando Hernandez to rejuvenate their careers.
Incaviglia is the subject of this week's Q&A:
MLB.com: What is the drive behind your life in the independent leagues?
Incaviglia: I love helping kids and managing. I feel I can help them move out of independent ball and get a chance in organized baseball. If I do that, I have made an impact.
MLB.com: Is this what you envisioned during your playing career?
Incaviglia: I never thought I would be a coach or manager. When you are playing, you don't think about managing. You think about playing and what you can do to be better. You never think down the road. But then I had guys like Johnny Podres when I was in Philadelphia, and Sparky [Anderson] and Jim Leyland with the Tigers say that they thought I would be good at the job. Next thing I know, I'm managing and have managed so long it has grown on me.
MLB.com: You had a chance to stay in organized baseball, but decided to turn to the independent leagues. Why?
Incaviglia: I enjoy independent ball more than the Minor Leagues. Big thing is, in independent ball, winning is important. You are teaching guys how to play the game, but you are teaching them about winning. It's not how many hits you get, or what your ERA is, but it is about what you can do to help the team win. It's like the big leagues. If [a manager] isn't doing his job, they bring someone else in. You have to earn the right to be on the field at this level. Nobody cares where you were drafted. It's about going out there every day and earning your opportunity. These guys are here because they love the game. They want a chance to play. They all have the dream of getting another shot in pro ball. But most of all, they just want to keep playing.
MLB.com: You started off in the bigs, and now you are at the other extreme.
Incaviglia: My career has gone backwards. I played in my first Minor League game after 13 years in the big leagues. It took me a long time to get to the Minors. I do everything backwards. When I was 21 years old, I was on charter flights. Now, I'm 52 and driving from Laredo, Texas, to Sioux Falls, S.D.
MLB.com: There are no flights. The bus rides get a bit long?
Incaviglia: I drive on my own a lot of time. Sometimes we have an off-day, like today, [so] I'll take my car. That way, I can stop off in Argyle, [Texas], and see my family, pet the dogs. My family always supports me. You realize you are getting old when you think about the kids. My daughter Renee is 29. My son Nicholas is 27. It also gives me some time to think about things.
MLB.com: You don't mind the challenges?
Incaviglia: It's all worth it to me, particularly when I help a guy get back to the big leagues -- guys like Chris Martin or Chaz Roe. David Peralta didn't play for me, but he was in the league before he went to Arizona. I got a lot of calls about him, and I told people, "If you take a chance on him, you're going to be real happy with that decision."
MLB.com: You also managed James Paxton for awhile, didn't you?
Incaviglia: James Paxton was a bit different than most the guys. He got caught up in technicalities after he was drafted. He had big league stuff. Everybody knew that. He just wanted to play baseball and wait for the Draft. He wasn't a guy looking for a second chance.
MLB.com: How did you wind up in Laredo?
Incaviglia: Well, the owner sold the Grand Prairie club and bought the franchise in Shreveport, La. They wanted to put a team in Laredo, so they moved the Shreveport franchise to Laredo. He asked me to go with him. I wasn't sure. We lived in the Dallas area. But I went to Laredo and fell in love with the people and the city and the passion they have for baseball. I couldn't say no. When we first got to Laredo, we didn't have a stadium. We built the organization from scratch. It's been fun. It is baseball at the grassroots. It's where you play the game because you really love it.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.