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Richard Justice

New skipper Redmond was always meant for this role

Justice: Redmond was meant to be a manager

New skipper Redmond was always meant for this role
Mike Redmond's teammates respected him for his toughness and his smarts, and they loved him for his sense of humor and decency. His managers appreciated how he saw the game from every angle and how he always put the team first.

There was always something about Redmond that prompted people to see him not just as a player, but as a future manager. As Kevin Millar, one of his former teammates, told the Miami Herald, "He was put on this earth to be a manager."

Maybe it was the relationships Redmond built through the years. Maybe it was how he cobbled together a 13-year Major League career on grit and desire, proving that hard work and resolve can go a long way toward making up for a lack of pure talent.

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To say that the Miami Marlins made a perfect hire in hiring Redmond, 41, as their new manager would be silly. No matter how prepared he is, there are things we can't know about him until he has been in the arena.

That said, the Marlins probably couldn't have hired many people more highly regarded across the board. Redmond may do for the Marlins what Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny did for the White Sox and Cardinals this season.

They, too, were players who had a certain presence. Their success surely emboldened the Marlins to hire a guy with just two years of managerial experience, that in the low Minors for the Blue Jays.

Baseball never came easy for Redmond, at least not after he got into professional baseball as an undrafted free agent of the Marlins in 1992. There were plenty of times he believed in himself when virtually no one else did.

Through the years, Redmond built a resume that was as much about respect and relationships as numbers.

Let's be honest about that. Redmond's numbers won't blow you away. In 13 seasons as a backup catcher, he never had 300 at-bats in a single year, as managers worked him into limited roles, mostly against left-handed pitching.

But Redmond's managers also wanted him on their team because they liked the example he set around young players. He was the guy the Minnesota Twins handpicked to mentor a young Joe Mauer.

"He always stayed prepared, was always ready to play," said Wayne Krivsky, a scout for the Twins who recommended Redmond to his general manager, Terry Ryan, in 2005. "You always heard good things about him from people on the field. I think a lot of people universally thought of him as a future manager."

Redmond played seven seasons with the Marlins, five with the Twins and one with the Indians. During his years in Minnesota, Redmond's teammates called him, "Old Dog."

By that time, Redmond was beat up physically and clearly seeing the end of the road. Still, he would show up, and within a couple of minutes have guys laughing at something he said or did.

"He's got the charisma you look for in leadership," Ryan said. "He can get along with just about anyone. He knows when to have fun, doesn't took himself too seriously. But he also knows when it's time to tend to business. He has earned everything he has gotten in this game. He's one of those guys that when his contract was up, he wondered if he was going to get another one."

Mostly, it was the way Redmond played and prepared that left an impression on the Twins.

"He brings everything to the table," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told CityPages.com in 2009. "The way he carries himself, the way he knows his job, the way he knows his responsibility. He studies the game. He helps his teammates. He's one of those special guys that only comes around once in a while, and you enjoy the heck out of him on your baseball team."

In that article, Redmond was quoted as saying, "I'm probably the least talented guy on this team. But I love to win. I love to compete. I have to compete. And it's the only thing that's kept me in the game this long."

Redmond's playing career seemed to be over when he tore up his shoulder in 1997. When he returned a year later, the Marlins didn't have a roster spot for him in their system.

As Redmond was considering what to do next, an injury opened up a spot at Triple-A. Then veteran Charles Johnson was traded, and Redmond was summoned to the big leagues.

In the beginning, all Redmond wanted was one lousy at-bat.

"I'm dead serious," Redmond told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2007.

Redmond ended up getting a lot more than that. Now he's about to live a different kind of dream.

"I could have easily said, 'It's too hard. Forget it. Let's move on. I'll coach,'" Redmond told City Pages.com in 2009 when asked about his playing career. "But deep down, something told me to hang on for one more year."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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