Barber: Brandon Hyde, from Santa Rosa to Baltimore Orioles manager
Barry and Lucy Hyde got the news via a phone call from their daughter-in-law, Lisa. Their son, Brandon Hyde, native of Santa Rosa, graduate of Montgomery High School and alumnus of Santa Rosa Junior College, was the new manager of the Baltimore Orioles. There were cheers, and a few tears.
Sometime during the phone conversation, Brandon Hyde’s 10-year-old son, Colton, walked into his house in Evanston, Illinois. “Colton!” Lisa Hyde greeted her boy. “Daddy got the job with the Orioles!”
There was a pause. And then Colton asked, “Is that good news or bad news?”
“Which is exactly what we were thinking,” Lucy Hyde said with a laugh as she recounted the story.
Certainly, it’s good news. Brandon Hyde has realized a dream. For a decade or more, everything he has done in baseball can be seen as a ladder to this opportunity. At the age of 45, he is one of 30 Major League Baseball managers. It is a testament to his will and to his reputation, which is golden.
But this job comes with some red flags. The Orioles made their decision late. They hired Hyde on Dec. 14, weeks after other MLB managerial vacancies had been filled, making it harder for Hyde to populate his coaching staff. He has yet to fill several positions, though he did make one crucial addition - Tim Cossins, his old friend and fellow Santa Rosan who is now Baltimore’s catching coach.
“Getting Tim for me was my No. 1 priority,” Hyde said by phone recently from Evanston, which is about to become one of his former homes. “I’ve worked with him as much as anybody, and he’s incredibly loyal.”
Beyond the timetable, the team that Hyde inherits is a mess. The Orioles lost 115 games last season, most in franchise history, and finished 61 games out of first place, a number that doesn’t sound real. And the current crop of talent in their farm system is generally ranked in the lower half of the 30 MLB organizations.
And then, of course, there is the nature of the manager’s job. Hyde has been a major-league first base coach and bench coach, a minor-league manager and hitting coach, and a farm-system director and field coordinator, and he did all of it well. But those jobs are mostly performed behind the scenes. Hyde has never experienced the public scrutiny and second-guessing that he will encounter now that he’s making out the lineup cards in Baltimore.
“It is a concern,” said Lucy Hyde, like Barry a retired school teacher. “We all try to insulate ourselves and don’t try to read some of the bad press. He’s in a honeymoon period right now. It’s gonna turn, of course. It will be up and down. But I think he’ll handle it well. He’s very level headed.”
That’s one of the things you hear about Brandon Hyde. People in baseball talk about his attention to detail and his steady approach to teaching. From all accounts, he’s a good communicator. But he’s no showman. As Barry Hyde said of his son’s previous boss with the Chicago Cubs: “Nobody’s Joe Maddon. He comes into a press conference and weaves a story. That’s not Brandon. He’s gonna answer the question, but he’s not a storyteller.”
Brandon Hyde is clear-eyed about all of these challenges - and the ones he doesn’t even know about yet.
“I’m sure as the year takes place, I’ll be hit with all sorts of things you can only experience when you go through it the first time,” he said. “The scheme is ever-changing. I think you prepare yourself. One of my fears is to not be prepared for something, to not have thought ahead for a situation. But I think managing in the bigs, it’s like being a farm director in that you’re not gonna know certain things that come your way until you experience them. I’m looking forward to that.”
Hyde likens the challenge to the year he spent in the Cubs’ front office under general manager Theo Epstein.
“I knew what the job looked like, but I didn’t know what that job was at all,” he said. “You just throw yourself into it, do the best you can, and have your ears and eyes wide open. That’s how I’ve always approached it.”
This offseason was bonkers for Hyde. As Maddon’s bench coach, his name had creeped into discussions of potential managers. But he never got an interview until October. And then, in rapid succession, he got four of them, with the Angels, Blue Jays, Rangers and Twins. They all ended up going “in another direction,” as potential employers like to say.
The experience was valuable to Hyde, who says his interview skills improved after a couple of bumpy introductions. It was also a grind.
“I really interviewed like the entire month of October,” Hyde said. “And those teams weren’t close to each other (geographically). You’re talking about yourself - which isn’t a strength of mine. At that point, you’re kind of ready for the offseason. You went to work Feb. 7, now it’s November and you’re looking forward to being with the kids and the family and the wife.”