Astros manager a man of his word

* Astros manager Bo Porter promised Dave Trembley (pictured) a job if he landed a major-league managing position. When he did, he made Trembley, who once played senior ball in Kingston, a bench coach. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2015 Canadian draft list


By Bob Elliott

The first time I ever heard the promise was after closing time in a bar on Crescent Street in Montreal about 1982.

“You know,” the one Expos coach said to the other, “if I ever get a chance to manage in the big leagues, I want you on my coaching staff.”

“And,” replied the other coach, “if I ever get the chance to manage (burp), I’m going to hire youuuuuu.”

The promissory job offer is repeated often on bus trips throughout the minors, on charter flights in the majors and whispered in big league clubhouses as coaches in the game strive for one of only 30 jobs.

A couple of times we remember it coming true, yet for the most part it remains the game’s version of two pals saying “let’s do lunch.”

Never have I ever heard of a player-turned-manager hiring his ex-manager ... the guy who hit him sixth instead of fifth, who didn’t play him every day and once even pinch hit for him.

Bo Porter, manager of the Houston Astros, did it. He hired Dave Trembley a year ago to be his bench coach.

The outfielder played 275 games for Trembley-managed teams at class-A Daytona (1995-96), double-A Orlando (1997) and double-A West Tennessee (1998) in the Chicago Cubs system.

Like Jose Reyes and Lloyd Moseby, like Devon White or Inspector Gadget, Porter walks as if he has springs in his legs as he moves behind the batting cage before his Astros played the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

“Why wouldn’t anyone want Dave on his staff? He’s the constant professional,” said Porter. “He’s an extremely hard worker, fundamentally sound, treats people with respect and played a large role in my development.”

Trembley managed the Baltimore Orioles from 2007-10 and the two stayed in touch.

“Bo would be coaching third for the Florida Marlins and he’d say ‘you know if I get a job, you’re on my staff,’” said Trembley.

Porter was interviewed by the Washington Nationals (twice, once in 2009 when Jim Riggleman was hired), the Marlins (twice, in 2010 when Eddie Rodriguez was hired and in 2012 when Mark Redmond was hired) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (2011, when Clint Hurdle was hired)  for managerial vacancies before being hired by Houston.

“Bo phones at midnight and I’ll never forget his words: ‘we got the job,’ not ‘the Astros hired me,’ but ‘WE GOT THE JOB,'” said Trembley, then serving as a minor-league instructor with the Atlanta Braves. “I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes and said: someone was listening.

“He always said, 'if I get a shot, you’re with me,’ but that’s like the check’s in the mail. How many times do guys in the game say that to each other?”

As a Cubs minor leaguer, Porter wanted to be like Bo.

Not Bo Porter, but Bo Jackson.

And Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan.

NFLers one and all who made the majors.

Porter attended the University of Iowa, earning All-Big 10 honors under coach Hayden Fry as a deep back. Cubs farm director Jim Hendry allowed Porter to play both sports and had Trembley drive Porter to the Miami Dolphins combine on the Bethune-Cookman University campus.

“I asked Dave what he thought after, he told me I could make the NFL, but if I committed full time to baseball I’d be in the majors in three years,” said Porter.

And three seasons later, Porter was at Wrigley Field collecting a single off Danny Graves for his first hit in a 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. He played 89 games in the majors with the Cubs, Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers.

Trembley knows all about long-lasting relationships. In 1974 the Carthage, N.Y. native spent his final season playing senior OBA for the Kingston Ponies and coach Gerry Wager. The all-star catcher was looking forward to a Wednesday visit from four members of that team.

And moments later, behind home plate were Kingston and District sports Hall of Famers: shortstop Ron (Squirrel) Earl and first baseman Guy (Nick) White, plus centre fielder Roy (Boon) Baron and Mike White, son of legendary Dud White, pinch hitting for second baseman Bobby Gilmour.

“Those people were so good to me, they took me into the house for dinner, lent me money, made me feel at home,” said Trembley.

Memories and laughter ensued until the Astros took batting practice and Trembley had to go to work. They reconvened at Boston Pizza.

It was 1974 all over again.

Porter could relate to that.

“Those guys gave me a place to sleep,” said Trembley. “They got me a summer job.”

Trembley has an excellent memory -- except about the job.

I helped arrange for Trembley to play in Kingston and set up a job at Bennett’s Foods.

One problem, I didn’t get him a work visa.