The Chargers welcome the Raiders on Sunday, with Oakland fans turning Qualcomm Stadium into the Black Hole.
Black Hole? That’s something one Harry Ralston Black is familiar with.
Better known as Bud, this time last year Black was digging out from disappointment. The ex-Padres manager and Rancho Santa Fe resident was passed over for numerous openings as a skipper.
Maybe his time on the dugout’s top step was history. Maybe this savvy baseball man was better suited for executive offices above the field.
That was his job last year as the Angels’ assistant general manager.
“It was a great experience for me to get back in that type of role,’’ Black said. “I did that in the late ‘90s with Cleveland to a certain extent. I was younger, obviously, from retiring as a player.
“But, again, it sort of reinforced what I came to realize over the course of my time in Anaheim and in San Diego; that collectively, to win, it takes everybody, from ownership, general manager, his group of support staff, Major League team, scouting, player development.’’
The Colorado Rockies thought in order to develop a winner, they needed Black in cleats. They named the personable Black as their seventh manager in franchise history last month.
Black isn’t the only one on the move. He’s confident the Rox aren’t on the rocks, instead offering a wealth of young players that can contend in the spirited National League West.
From Nolan Arenado to Carlos Gonzalez to DJ LeMahieu to Trevor Story, Colorado is a mile high with skilled laborers.
“That’s the thing, not only I knew that, but other people in the industry, people that I talked to, my close friends and others talked about, where this group is talent-wise, position players-wise,’’ Black said.
“I don’t need to go through the names. I mean, they are real players. And they are at a stage in their career where they can continue this and maybe do some better things. It’s tough to top National League batting champion, leading in homers, RBIs, Gold Glovers. This is a good group.’’
It’s a bunch that will grow accustomed to Black taking an interest in them, regardless of their status. Charles Nagy, who lives in Solana Beach and is the Angels’ pitching coach, gives Black high marks.
“He is very subtle with a lot of things,” Nagy said. “And he’s right more times than not. He’s left-handed, I’m right, but I’d watch him do day-to-day stuff and say, ‘Yeah, that works.’ And he’s interested in you.
“I call him a friend. He’s the reason my wife and I moved to San Diego and I sent my kids to St. James Academy (in Encinitas). My wife and I would travel and were looking for a place, and Bud and his wife said, ‘You might want to come visit us.’ Here we are all these years later.”
And there goes Black, after managing the Padres from 2007-15 to a 649-713 mark. It was a stint which included a 2010 playoff bid which fell just short, the same season Black, a 15-year major-league pitcher, was named the National League Manager of the Year.
In San Diego, it was about making do with little hitting.
In Denver, it’ll be about making Coors Field smaller, which is no small feat for pitchers hurling at high elevation.
“You sort of know what you’re getting in for,’’ said Black, who hurled an eight-inning win at Denver when pitching for the Giants in 1993. “But, again, if you make pitches…regardless of the ballpark.’’
But few are like Coors Field, where singles turn into extra-base hits and clearing the fence is no chore.
The trick for Black is to keep the hitters hitting and his pitchers from running smack into frustration with each fly ball that morphs into a home run.
“There’s 30 big-league gigs, and I think they are all tough in their own way,’’ Black, 59, said. “Every team, every city, every managerial job is different, and they all have their, I think, unique challenges. This one, obviously is as it relates to where we play.’’
Black’s playing days are long gone. Many thought the same about his managerial run.
“It’s a big job,’’ Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich said. “There’s a lot of responsibilities. We were first and foremost looking for the right leader.”
Black is just that and the Rockies are fortunate to have him.
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Read his book, “Game of My Life Chargers” which is available at local book stores and at amazon.com.