Hall of Fame veteran 1B/DH Jim Thome was named to just five All-Star teams over the course of his 22-year career from 1991 to 2012, slugging at least 20 home runs in all but six seasons.
Thome will return to the Midsummer Classic spotlight once again next month, except not as a player or Home Run Derby participant — rather, as a manager.
Both the 48-year-old and his former Cleveland Indians teammate Dennis Martinez will serve as managers for the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, July 7. This season's All-Star festivities will be held in Cleveland, the city in which Thome played the first 12 seasons of his career before signing with the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of the 2003 season.
Among the coaches on Thome's American League staff will be his longtime mentor, manager/coach, and friend — 2008 Phillies World Series champion Charlie Manuel — as bench coach, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber, who writes:
Manuel and Thome have had a father-son relationship ever since Thome was in rookie ball with the Cleveland Indians in 1989. Manuel was Thome’s hitting coach and manager with the Indians and later with the Phillies in 2005.
Thome, who hit 612 home runs in his 22-year career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, often credits Manuel as the biggest influence on his career. They remain close and speak regularly. When Thome asked Manuel if he would be by his side for the Futures Game, Manuel didn’t hesitate.
Unlike in its previous 20 seasons, the 2019 Futures Game will not feature the U.S. vs. World format; it will instead mirror the MLB All-Star Game look — American League vs. National League — for the first time this year. The game will also be shortened, from nine innings to seven — reverting back to the length used in the first-ever game in 1999.
The Futures Game had been lopsided, with the U.S. winning won 13 of 20, including eight of the last nine contests.
“I’ll try not to mess him up,” Manuel joked to Lauber, who reports the all-time winningest Phillies manager was asked by both Thome and Major League Baseball to participate in the game.
"I told them, of course. I look forward to it. I think it’s an honor," Manuel told Lauber, adding he thinks Thome — a MLB Network analyst since retirement — would make a good manager because of his communication skills.
"I never have been a bench coach. I’ll probably try to manage. I’ll probably get mad if [Thome] doesn’t do what I tell him to do.”
Under Martinez on the National League will be fellow former Indians Carlos Baerga, Charles Nagy and Omar Vizquel. Yet, with Thome making his managerial debut alongside Manuel on the American League coaching staff, Phillies fans just might have to root for the opposite league come July 7.
“We’re going to win the game,” Manuel told Lauber.