Any North County local, or visitor, quickly realizes how blessed we are to experience this slice of paradise.
The beaches, the people and the vibe are difficult to match.
It’s nearly as challenging deciphering how our region became a cradle of major league managers, but that’s true too.
A recent Cactus League tour came with a reminder that the Valley of the Sun is brimming with those sprouting North County roots.
While most wave the Padres flag in these parts, there are also familiar faces not wearing the brown-and-gold. Although, many of them got their cleats wet with the Padres before expanding their horizons.
With opening day around the corner, we checked in with those just as comfortable in North County as they are in between the white lines.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the dragon up north that the Padres slew in last year’s playoffs. But manager Dave Roberts, a Cardiff resident, is back to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Roberts, a former Padres player, executive and coach, is hard to root against even if wearing the dreaded Dodger blue. He was a three-sport star at Rancho Buena Vista High, starting as a quarterback, point guard and center fielder in his sophomore year.
The Padres, to many, are favorites to win the National League West. But discount Roberts’ Dodgers, who won 111 games last year, at your own risk. Roberts, who swiped the biggest bag in Boston Red Sox history and is a cancer survivor, won’t be reaching for a white flag now or ever.
Despite significant changes to the Dodgers as Roberts approaches his eighth season with L.A., he likes what he sees.
“There’s an edge to this group,” he said.
Most thought Bruce Bochy’s managerial career was said-and-done when he waved goodbye to Giants fans with tears in his eyes and three world championship trophies in the lobby. But Bochy, another ex-Padres player and coach, surprised baseball by returning as the Texas Rangers’ manager this season after being retired for three years.
“There’s so many things about the game that I missed,” Bochy, 67, said. “(Being) in the dugout, the competition, being on the team.”
Bochy peeks around and notices two guys who used to be on his squad during his 12-season tenure as the Padres’ skipper.
Phil Nevin remains on the top step of the Los Angeles Angels dugout, invited back after serving in the interim role last year. Nevin, who lived in Poway, was a standout on some so-so Padres teams under Bochy’s direction. Nevin was also Bochy’s third-base coach in S.F. in 2017.
“We’ve talked a lot this winter about it,” Nevin told mlb.com. “I’m happy he’s back…maybe some friendly side bets here and there.”
Few have their wagers on the rebuilding Oakland Athletics, but Mark Kotsay, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, returns as their manager. Like Nevin, he was under Bochy’s thumb while with the Padres.
“From playing for him as a 25-year-old kid to being 47, I still look to him for advice and mentorship,” Kotsay said.
Ex-Padres manager Bud Black returns to provide positive leadership for the Colorado Rockies as he kicks off his seventh year with the club.
Black still resides in Solana Beach and wouldn’t you?
North County is a great spot to be in and an even harder place to leave.
Multiple MLB managers currently at the helm will attest to that.
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports