Drew Saylor Named 2018 Minor League Manager Of The Year
Drew Saylor long promised his wife that when his playing career ended, he would get a "real” job. So after the former Kent State infielder and Marlins draft pick played his final game in 2010, he returned home and worked at an Enterprise Rent- A-Car in Parma, Ohio.
Saylor dutifully kept his promise, even becoming part of Enterprise’s management trainee program. But after a year and a half on the job, it was clear to his wife Amanda — Saylor’s high school sweetheart since their days at Wadsworth (Ohio) High —that he wasn’t being fulfilled.
"Right around August (2011), Amanda said, ‘You should try to get into coaching,’ ” Saylor said. "She encouraged me to get back into baseball. She encouraged me to get back into something I’m passionate about. She said, ‘I feel you are the most excited and energetic when you get to teach people the game.’ ”
For both Saylor and the Dodgers organization, it was a blessing that she did.
Saylor, 34, managed high Class A Rancho Cucamonga to a historic season in 2018. The Quakes won 87 games, tied for second-most in the minor leagues. They went 52-18 in the second half—tied for the second-best record in a half in California League history—despite losing top prospects Gavin Lux, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin to promotions and Cal League MVP Rylan Bannon, standout starter Dean Kremer and top reliever Zach Pop to the Manny Machado trade. And Rancho finished it off in grand fashion, sweeping Visalia to win the Cal League championship series.
Despite a constant churn of players and the loss of most of their stars, Saylor kept the Quakes on the winning path until they claimed the ultimate prize.
For that, Saylor is the 2018 Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year.
“Drew was always extremely well prepared and a great leader for the team,” Dodgers farm director Brandon Gomes said. “He had those guys ready to play at the best of their ability every single day. We had an ever-shifting roster there and he was able to always get the W’s.”
Saylor’s coaching path took him from being a volunteer assistant at Cleveland State and Akron to being a coach in the Rockies system in far flung-locations like Grand Junction, Colo.; Boise, Idaho; and Pasco, Wash. Through it all, he realized a positive attitude was key, not only to survive the grind of coaching and being away from family, but also to get the best out of players.
Saylor maintained that belief after then-Dodgers farm director Gabe Kapler hired him away from the Rockies in 2016. That belief and attitude proved particularly critical this year after Rancho Cucamonga got off to a 17-22 start.
“May 15 stands out to me,” Saylor said. “It stands out to me because the way our team was performing wasn’t the way we wanted to be. The attitude, the atmosphere wasn’t where I wanted it to be. So my staff and I decided to see it through a positive lens. We were going to start to celebrate the things they did well, and soon that permeated into the clubhouse and onto the field. Guys were playing with more confidence, and then the wins started racking up and that positive enveloped everything we did.”
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With that attitude set by Saylor, the Quakes rallied to win the first-half Southern Division title before embarking on their historic second half.
“You knew what you were getting everyday with him,” said outfielder Cody Thomas, who played at Rancho Cucamonga the entire season. “The same energy, the same enthusiasm, it was very consistent. As a group, we bought into his goals and visions and that led ultimately the season we had. He was incredible for us. I feel honored to have had him as a manager.”
The final outcome was a year for record books in 2018. For Saylor, it’s a long way from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car counter, and it was his wife Amanda that made it all possible.
“My wife knew what challenges lied ahead if I got back into baseball,” Saylor said. “Every time I look back at that moment it becomes more inspiring to me. Just looking at the season, it was a gift every single day I got a chance to come to the ballpark.”
Editor’s note: The Dodgers and Saylor parted ways after the season. He intends to continue coaching with a different organization in 2019.