Once baseball gets in your blood, you can never get it out. Just ask Lake Oswego's Tommy Sandt.
He spent 37 years of his life in pro baseball, most of it as a coach, so rarely does an afternoon go by that Sandt isn't at least thinking about the game. So, when longtime friend Jim Leyland landed the manager's job early this year with the Detroit Tigers, one might have figured that Sandt would have been quick to join him.
After all, Sandt coached under Leyland for several years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and later with the Florida Marlins, where the duo won a World Series title in 1997. In fact, Leyland did call Sandt after getting the Detroit job, and he even mentioned that there might be a position available with the team but it would not have been as a coach.
Despite his love for the game, Sandt decided he would be better off staying home to be with family and friends. It will be the second summer in a row that he spent at home instead of traveling around the nation with a baseball team. During those two years, Sandt discovered how great it can be to live in the Northwest this time of year.
'I never realized how nice the summers are here,' said Sandt, who moved to Lake Oswego in 1980 when he played for the Portland Beavers. 'I've lived everywhere and this is about as good as it gets.'
No matter where you are or what you're doing, there's always time to stay abreast of what's happening in the Major Leagues, at least for a diehard fan. Sandt checks the box scores every day to follow the achievements of his former players, which is becoming a dwindling group.
'I check on Jason Kendall (who's now with the Oakland A's) and Brian Giles (with the San Diego Padres),' Sandt said. 'Other than that, there's not too many left.'
It's a good bet that more of Sandt's former players are coaching now rather than playing. In fact, when Leyland hired a coaching staff at Detroit, he surrounded himself with former Pirates, including Andy Van Slyke, Don Slaught, Rafael Belliard, Lloyd McClendon and Gene Lamont. Seemingly the only one missing from that group was Sandt. But he wasn't too upset over the apparent snub.
'You need to have (coaches) who are not too far from the players' ages,' Sandt said. 'Jim (Leyland) believes that and I agree with him.'
So, instead of being reunited with Leyland and company during spring training, Sandt waited until the Tigers made a recent trip to Seattle to play the Mariners. While it was great to see all of his old friends, Sandt said he realized right away that he didn't miss the daily grind that comes with being in the Major Leagues.
Yet, because of Leyland, Sandt has become a Tigers fan. To this point, Leyland has led Detroit to the best record in the majors, and it couldn't happen to a better guy, Sandt said.
'I just wish him the best,' Sandt said. 'He's a good man.'
Sandt still has a great memory of the '97 title team.
'It's a good feeling and I hope my friends that are still in (baseball) can experience that,' the coach said.
Instead of traveling the country with big leaguers, Sandt said he spent many of his afternoons this summer attending local Little League games, so he could watch the kids he instructs at the Metro Baseball Academy.
In addition to working for the baseball academy, Sandt also conducts instructional clinics for the Beavers. One of those camps, which is for 7-to-13 year-olds, still remains this summer. It will be held Aug. 26-28 at PGE Park. The cost is $125 and includes a T-shirt, a Beavers game ticket and instruction from several pro players and coaches. To register, go to www.portlandbeavers.com and go to the KidZone link.