Bud Black was a Major League pitcher for 15 seasons. However, he still thinks back to a moment that happened near the start of his career as a defining point for not only himself, but also how he now views the game and what it takes to succeed.
“Early in my tenure with the Royals, I was pitching against the Twins. It was about the fifth inning and I got into a little bit of a jam,” Black recalled. “Venerable pitching coach Cloyd Boyer came out and the bases were loaded. he came out and said, ‘Blacky, there’s a time when you have to prove you’re a Major League pitcher.’ He paused and I listened for advice on how to do that. He then said, ‘This is one of those times.’ He turned around and walked back to the dugout.
“I absorbed that and the next hitter hit an absolutely bullet to the shortstop and we turned a double play. I walk to the dugout and get high-fives from everybody and we went on to win the game. But thinking back to that moment, the message I got, and he never really told me what his message was, was that you have to prove you’re a big leaguer. And not just one time, but every day. His comment, I always held to that motto every day. Whether it was winter time or in the weight room or in the middle of a game. Every day, you have to prove you’re a Major Leaguer. And I think that’s part of what helped me be a long-time big leaguer because I never took that for granted.
“If you don’t prove it every day or lose that edge, you’ll be gone quickly.
And how does that story translate over to Black now that he’s a manager?
“I’ve told that story to a lot of pitchers, but never in a game,” he said. “You say it to somebody and the guy hits it off the wall, it doesn’t mean they’re not a big league pitcher. But that rang true to me that day.
“Do I watch every game and see bases loaded and I see what a guy does, and then the next time it happens, and the next month and next year when it happens? Yeah. Guys are going to be in those positions all of the time. Offensively, there’s going to a guy on third with two outs. Can a guy get him in? I’m going to watch the young guys like Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, Mike Tauchman, Raimel Tapia, and all of these young guys that happen every day on how to win a game.
“I’ve watched thousands of games. I see a game a certain way. I watch what these guys do all the time and I know who I can trust and not trust.”