MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Black the embodiment of class in return to SD

Black the embodiment of class in return to SD

SAN DIEGO -- Baseball people -- be they players, managers, coaches or executives -- are "inured" emotionally from changes, Rockies manager Harry "Bud" Black said upon his return to Petco Park on Tuesday.

Inured was his word.

"Because of what we go through, we become desensitized to big, emotional things," Black said during a long one-on-one interview hours before his current club took on the Padres, his old club. "When you get traded, when you go to the Minor Leagues, when you go through arbitration, when you change teams, get released.

"Some of these things, as you go through your career, you become less emotional about occurrences like this. That's not to say that coming down here today wasn't a different feeling."

Black managed the Padres for a bit more than eight seasons, following Bruce Bochy, who logged a franchise-record 12 years and went on to win the World Series three times with the Giants. Black was unceremoniously dismissed on June 15, 2015, replaced by Pat Murphy and now Andy Green.

The Padres had bulked up the roster that offseason, but were 32-33 and six games behind the division-leading Dodgers before the games of June 15.

General manager A.J. Preller called Black into his office and told him he was through. The meeting lasted all of a couple of minutes. Black walked out of this ballpark on that day and hasn't darkened its doors since. Until Tuesday.

It's Black's second act: He parked in a different lot, headed to a different clubhouse and sat in a different office behind a different desk.

"I walked across the street and came into stadium and made a left turn instead of right," Black said. "It just felt a little strange because this is the first time I've been back since I got let go. I'd never even been in this clubhouse. When I was coaching the Angels, we didn't play here in Interleague Play."

Black is one of those rare erudite baseball people who knows the game inside out and can explain his managerial machinations with grace and intelligence. A left-handed pitcher, pitching coach with the Angels and 16-10 in his first month managing the Rockies, Black has a degree in management from the Fowler School of Business Administration at San Diego State, circa 1979.

From there, Black went on to win 121 big league games, a World Series pitching for the Royals in 1985 and another with the Angels working under Mike Scioscia in 2002. In his Padres stint, his teams were eliminated on the final day of both the 2007 and '10 campaigns, his only better than .500 seasons in San Diego. Black had a 649-713 record.

That's a lot of losing, Black recognizes now.

"It's hard to win, man, it's hard to win," he said. "This game hardens you a little bit."

There isn't much of a sense of accomplishment, but there really aren't any bad memories, either. At 59, Black's challenge now is taking everything he learned through all his trials and tribulations with the Padres and Angels to his new job in Colorado.

"I have no animosity at all," he said this spring. "I've run into A.J. a couple of times, and things are fine. In this business, you work with people, and in most cases, you remain baseball connected and baseball friends. I can draw something -- no, check that, I can draw a lot from my experience here that hopefully will benefit us moving forward, us meaning the Rockies."

Black was the constant during his tenure in San Diego. He worked under two ownership groups, three club presidents and five general managers. The roster was in constant flux. The Padres still haven't made the playoffs since 2005-06, the last two years Bochy was manager. They are a young team with a $34.6 million active payroll and aren't even close.

As Black returns, only six of his players are still on the team: Wil Myers, Clayton Richard, Cory Spangenberg, Brandon Maurer, Austin Hedges and Yangervis Solarte. Darren Balsley and Glenn Hoffman were two of his coaches. Alexi Amarista, who played for him in San Diego, is on his Rockies roster.

"I truly have nothing but good memories about my time here," Black said. "They are all positive. They gave me the opportunity to manage. We had a couple of shots at it, and it didn't work out. We created a great environment in the clubhouse and out on the field. I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the players and the coaches. We went through some rough seasons."

In the end, though, a manager is paid to win. It didn't happen in San Diego. And it didn't happen in Colorado, either, for that matter. Black is the third Rockies manager since Clint Hurdle resigned 46 games into the 2009 season. They made the playoffs in 2009 under Jim Tracy and haven't been back since. Walt Weiss had a .463 winning percentage in four years.

It's Black's second act.

"I like our position player group, but our pitching is young. We have three rookie starters. I like our bullpen. So we'll see," he said, inured from it all, sitting in a different Petco office behind a different desk.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.