Chris Tremie a catcher on the inaugural 1993 Hickory Crawdads squad, holds a unique place in the team’s history. On July 1, 1995, the former Hickory backstop became the first Crawdad to go on to the major leagues when the Chicago White Sox called him up from AAA Nashville.
The native of Houston, Texas went on to have brief major league stints with the White Sox, Rangers, Pirates and finally the Astros before calling it quits after the 2005 season.
Tremie then signed on with the Cleveland Indians minor league system to begin his coaching career in 2006 as the hitting coach at short-season Mahoning Valley. His first managerial gig came the next season with then South Atlantic League rival Lake County (Ohio), which brought Tremie back to Hickory for the first time since 1993.
After he led Akron (AA) to the Eastern League title in 2012, Tremie, 46 moved up to manager at AAA Columbus and he is in his fourth season as the Clippers manager. Under his leadership, the Clippers made the playoffs the last two seasons and won the International League championship in 2015.
With his club in pursuit of another playoff spot this season, Tremie was named the manager of the International League team for the Triple A All-Star Game, which will be played tonight (July 13) in Charlotte.
I had a chance during the all-star workout in Charlotte to speak with Tremie about his memories of Hickory in the early days, as well as about his current success with the Clippers.
You were on the original 1993 Crawdads team, looking back 23 years ago, what do you remember about that season?
Tremie: It was a great experience for me. It was my first full season of professional baseball. Hickory was a brand new stadium, a very nice stadium. It wasn’t quite done when we got there, so that’s one of the memories I had. We didn’t have a locker room right at the beginning of the season, but it came in a little bit later. Just a lot of good memories and the town and the people that were there, and also the fans that came out.
One of the highlights of that season was the fan base with a lot of sold out games. I’m guessing the town was pretty well taken with the new club and baseball coming to town.
Tremie: They seemed to be really excited there. Like I said, it was my first professional season. At the time, I didn’t really know what to expect, kind of going into it new. Now, after being around, both managing and playing for a while, it was pretty special being there. Fans were really excited, the people in town were really nice when we were around and if they noticed us. They opened their arms to us as players and as a team in that city. It was good.
You got to play with Magglio Ordonez, who was there the first couple of years. What do you remember about playing with him at 18, 19?
Tremie: He was young, as you mentioned – 18, 19 years old – extremely talented. It was fun watching him play, even at that age and at that experience level. We knew he was going to be good in the future and obviously that rung true and he had a great career. It was a time I got to be around him when he was just a kid starting out. It was great to watch his career as the years went on.
You got to play for Fred Kendall, who had a long career both as a player and has a coach and manager. How did that come together for you, as far as looking ahead to your career as a manager and such?
Tremie: A good experience. He had been around a lot of experiences and Mark Salas was there as well throughout the early part of my career. Both of those guys taught me a lot. Things that I remember from those times I actually still use today, sometimes. I’ve very grateful for those experiences.
Best memory from 1993, or maybe a funny memory.
Tremie: Probably, my first professional home run, I hit in Hickory that year. I was really struggling at the plate at them time. That probably sticks out as one of the highlights. But also, being around the guys and dressing in the trailers for the first month was kind of funny. But we got it done. The facilities came along and finished up and they were really nice. I have nothing but good things to say about Hickory.
You were the first Crawdad to get to the major leagues. I don’t know if you remember that, or not. What was that experience like when you were called up?
Tremie: I didn’t know that. It was just like any other person that goes up for the first time. I was very excited but a little surprised at the time when it happened. I was not expecting it at that point in my career, given the kind of season I was having. Very exciting.
You got to come back as a manager to Hickory when you were with Lake County in 2007. What was it like coming back as a manager?
Tremie: It’s kind of funny. It was good memories, going to the ballpark and remembering what it was like when I was a player, and then going back there 14 years later. It was my first year managing, too. So, it’s kind of ironic that first year playing and the first year managing I was able to go to that ballpark.
Now, you’ve been with Columbus four years now and won the International League title last year. Describe what that experience has been like for you?
Tremie: First of all, I’m grateful for the players that I’ve been fortunate enough to be around the last few years with the Indians organization. We had a great group of guys that have played hard. It’s been a fun experience, especially at the AAA level all the years I’ve been there. Last year was special in the fact that we ended up winning the league, but the year before that we were in the playoffs and had a really good team, as well. Overall, it’s been a great experience being around quality people and quality players and watching them grow.
Looking ahead, are you looking toward a major league gig for you, or are you of a mindset of taking it as it comes?
Tremie: I just go about doing my job and enjoying myself and enjoying being around these players. I just do what I enjoy doing and whatever happens in the future, that’s what happens. Right now, I just take it day by day.