Morandini set to start his career as a skipper

| Friday, June 17, 2011

More than 20 years ago, Leechburg native Mickey Morandini started the journey to make his dream of becoming a major leaguer come true.

Friday, Morandini will begin working with another group of players who have similar dreams.

The 1984 Leechburg graduate and 1988 U.S. Olympic gold medalist will make his debut as a professional manager with the Williamsport Crosscutters, a short-season Single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Williamsport will open its season at home against the State College Spikes, a Pirates affiliate, at 7:05 p.m. at Bowman Field.

"It's exciting; I'm really looking forward to it," said Morandini after a lengthy workout Wednesday afternoon.

Since March, Morandini has been working with prospects at extended spring training camp in Clearwater, Fla.

"We've been preparing for this since March 1," Morandini said. "We have maybe 15-18 players from extended spring, and we have about nine or 10 draft picks from last week."

Morandini represented the Phillies last week at the first-year player draft, much like Steve Blass and Bill Mazeroski have done for the Pirates.

"That was neat. It was really an honor to be able to go there as part of an organization I spent a lot of my career with," Morandini said. "I drove over to Secaucus, N.J., and got to see a lot of guys I played against."

Morandini replaces Williamsport manager Chris Truby, a former Pirates farmhand who was promoted to the Lakewood BlueClaws of the South Atlantic League.

At the short-season Single-A level, a manager's challenge is try to win games while, more importantly, developing players.

"It's a fine line," Morandini said. "You want to win any time you go between those white lines, but you want your players to get to that next level."

Drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round in 1988, Morandini became the highest-drafted local player until last week when Plum's Scott McGough was selected by the Dodgers — also in the fifth round.

Morandini played 1,298 games during his 11-year big league career, including the 1993 World Series with the Phillies.

He's a 2005 A-K Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

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