The Hickory Crawdads scored three runs over the first two innings and made them stand up Wednesday night in a 3-2 road win over the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns.
The victory was a milestone win for Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale, as he set the club’s all-time mark for managerial wins at 229. The record was formerly held by Ragsdale’s predecessor Bill Richardson, who managed the team from 2010 to 2012. Ragsdale’s record with Hickory currently stands at 229-169.
The native of Jonesboro, AR played with the Crawdads to conclude his career in 2009. He returned in 2011 as an assistant under Richardson, before taking the managerial reins for the first time in 2012 at Arizona Summer League Rangers, where the club won the league title.
In Ragsdale’s first season as the manager in 2013, the Crawdads went 76-63, highlighted by a SAL record 178 homers by the power-laden lineup that included soon-to-be major leaguers Ryan Rua and Joey Gallo.
Last season, the Crawdads won 80 games for the first time since 2004.
This year, the team has already clinched its first playoff spot since 2011 and currently holds the South Atlantic League’s best record. He was rewarded this season with a selection to manage the Northern Division in the SAL All-Star Game.
Last week, I took a moment to interview Ragsdale about the impending record-breaking win, what he’s learned along the way over three seasons, and about some of the players that have already broken into the big leagues.
I know you are going to play this down, but you’re coming up on the club mark for wins by a manager. I know you’re not going to say,” It’s not my wins and losses,” but it’s still a nice thing. You’ve had some guys that have come in here and played hard for you and that’s no small thing. A lot of that comes from what you and the coaching staff do.
Ragsdale: I couldn’t care less about it, to be honest. I think what I do appreciate, as I look back on the last three years, is a couple of things. The players have done a great job. Obviously, they go out and perform. From the first year of that talented team, they went out played, and last year winning 80 games with the club. This year making the playoffs and winning the first half and are continuing to play pretty well, at times. I’ve had a lot of good players and a lot of good kids that play hard.
And I think, as an organization, they’ve done a great job of getting players that can play. I’ve just been fortunate that I’m at a level where I’ve had a bunch of guys that are pretty good come through here the last three years. As far as the wins and losses go, I’ve just reaped some of the benefits of what the players and the organization as a whole has done. I’m lucky. I’m just here as a small part of it. I’m happy for the kids and happy they’ve won a lot of baseball games.
What do you know now that you didn’t know three years ago, or how do you think you’ve gotten better?
Ragsdale: Probably just with each individual player how tough it is a times and how you have to relate to each guy individually. You can’t just blanket certain ideas over everybody and expect guys to be able to react. You’ve got to be able to get into each and every guy and have different ways to say the same thing so that it clicks with certain guys. You’ve got to find out what motivates one guy and what motivates the next guy.
I try to get them go out and compete every day because it’s a hard game. It’s a long, long season and these kids don’t necessarily know how to go about it each and every day. So, you’ve got to help them along the way. That’s what we’re here for. I think that’s probably the big thing is figuring out how to get each and every guy ready to go every day. We don’t get the job done every day, but most days, they go out and they’re ready to play and they’re motivated. Most days it’s pretty good.
What did you learn from Bill when you were here in 2011?
Ragsdale: A lot of stuff. Whether it was on-field stuff and how to go about things and just adding on to how to get guys ready at this level, being with him. Whether it’d be days off and whether it’d when to work out and when not to work out. Things like that – everyday things – everything from writing a lineup out. I remember how he used to write the lineup out and I still do it the same way.
There’s a lot of things I take from him and I take from other guys that I’ve been around and that I’ve played for in the 16 years that I’ve been doing this. Bill helped me out a lot. He kind of took me under his wing a little bit and I am very appreciative of everything he did for me and allowed me to do when I was here with him.
You want to keep doing this a few more years?
Ragsdale: I love it. It’s a challenge some days. It’s a long season, but when you see the kids, when it clicks for those guys and they get the thing that you’ve been working on and they have success, it just makes you feel good. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to be a part of. It’s fun to stand in the third-base box and to be a small part of the game still. Not that wins and losses matter, but we do put value in wins and kids learning how to win and kids wanting to win. So, it is fun to still be out there and have a small part of the game that goes on every day and to see the kids have success. It’s fun and I enjoy it a lot.
How cool is it now to see the Claudios and Ruas and Gallos, etc. get to the big leagues and you having a part of it way back when?
Ragsdale: I’m just happy for those guys and it does put a smile on your face when you see guys that work hard and see guys that have some talent and finally put some things together.
You see guys like Claudio that maybe the talent wasn’t anything that jumped off the table, but he always came in and competed and you’re so happy for guys like that that have been able to have success and continued success and reach the big leagues and stay there, and hopefully stay there for a long time.
It puts a smile on your face. I enjoy watching the games on TV – all those guys. Hopefully that’s the case for a lot of more years and a lot of more players can continue up the ladder and help our big league club win ballgames.