Cash's learning curve helped along by peers

Rays manager is one of many 30-somethings at the helm of sports teams

Cash's learning curve helped along by peers

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Once upon a time, Rays manager Kevin Cash was seen as a rarity -- a man in his 30s leading a pro franchise -- but these days, it has become more common across the sporting landscape.

The Padres have a 39-year-old manager in Andy Green, who is just six months older than Cash. The NFL's Los Angeles Rams hired Sean McVay at 31. And then of course there's Tyronn Lue, who at 39 years old coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA Championship.

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"I would love to talk to Tyronn Lue," Cash said. "He just won a championship and he's got arguably the best player in the NBA playing for him. I'm sure he's got some unique experiences and stuff that he's learned that could always be a benefit."

Cash has also benefited from his experiences. Entering his third spring with the Rays, he knows he's more seasoned than the Cash who took over at age 37.

"You continue to learn," he said. "Obviously, there's more comfort working with the players, working with the staff and then also that line with the front office is much more comforting."

The Rays manager doesn't shy away from admitting in the early days of the job that, "I probably caught myself kind of on my toes."

Those days are behind him, and players who were around for Cash's first two seasons now see a different leader.

Cash on team excitement

"Just being comfortable. I think that is the biggest thing, seeing game situations, being a manager for longer really slows the game down. It just allows you to make the right decisions," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "From the time he made those decisions in the beginning until now, it happens a lot slower, he's much more prepared for that now."

Cash's inaugural seasons were a bit different than other young coaches because he is managing in his hometown, but Cash continues to see it as a blessing.

"It's been tremendous," he said. "Every aspect of that has been great, other than the fact I have to put my tickets in the comp tickets system."

Friends and family tickets aside, Cash appreciates the support of those close to him. Especially fellow managers: former boss and Indians manager Terry Francona, who Cash said is an invaluable sounding board, and Cash's predecessor Joe Maddon, who last season led the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908.

"To Joe's credit, he's winning a World Series last year, and when we were going through some rough patches [here], he never missed a beat," Cash said. "[He had] impeccable timing of shooting a text or a voice mail in support."

"What impresses me the most about him is his levelheadedness, especially [during] the season we had last year," Rays first baseman Logan Morrison said of Cash. "I always felt like he was even-keel, especially when you lose that many games."

Cash will try to steady the Rays' ship heading into year three with a career record of 148-176, and in doing so will remember the common advice Maddon and fellow managers delivered.

A theme that has stuck with Cash the most.

"When times are difficult, as difficult as it is to stay consistent, stay consistent," Cash said. "It goes through the clubhouse and they can sense that."

Mike Nabors is a contributor for MLB.com based in Tampa Bay. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.