Minor League Manager
By Will Kimmey
One hundred victories stand as a benchmark in the major leagues, a total that represents a very strong team.
In the minors, its astonishing. Grady Little led the Double-A Greenville Braves to a 100-43 record in 1992. In what he called a dream season, the Braves played .699 baseball and became the first team to reach the century mark since the International Leagues Toronto Maple Leafs did it in 1960. It hasnt been done since.
Littles 92 G-Braves included the Southern Leagues top four prospectsshortstop Chipper Jones, catcher Javy Lopez and outfielders Mike Kelly and Melvin Nievesand set four league and 24 club records.
"Grady makes it real easy for us to play here," Kelly said on the eve of Greenvilles championship. "Even though weve had a lot of talented players come through here this season, everyone has done the job and Grady is the reason for that."
Over his career, Little proved he was more than a manager benefiting from a team stocked with great players. He managed a combined 16 years in the Orioles, Blue Jays and Braves organizations, compiling a record of 1,054-903 (.539). His teams qualified for postseason play eight times, and Little won five league championships and four manager of the year awards (three in the Carolina League with three different teams), including Baseball Americas in 1992.
Little enjoyed his greatest success in the Braves system, where he never had a losing season. He made stops at every rung of the ladder before heading to the majors as a bench coach with the Padres (1996), Red Sox (1997-99) and Indians (2000-present).
Former Braves farm director Chuck LaMar said in 1992 that Little had a unique blend of baseball knowledge and people skills.
"In August, when it was 98 and humid in Durham and the team was out of the pennant race, you would still see his team playing as hard as it could," LaMar said. "Thats the biggest compliment we can pay Grady. Each day he works to get his players a step closer to their goal of the big leagues."
In that task, Little was quite successful. He managed many of the stars produced by the Braves in their current run of success, including Steve Avery, Jones, Ryan Klesko and Lopez. He also guided major leaguers Greg McMichael, Kent Mercker, Eddie Perez, Jason Schmidt and Mike Stanton as well as top prospects like Kelly, David Nied, Nieves and Jose Oliva.
"You always hear people say hes a players manager," LaMar said. "Not because he gives into them and not because hes soft, but because his knowledge has their respect. His teams have managed to get better every year."
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