Shelby will miss Baltimore; looking forward to Milwaukee
I caught up with John “T-Bone” Shelby on Wednesday for a few minutes on the phone, and we talked about his new gig in Milwaukee as the Brewers’ outfielders’ coach and “eye in the sky.”
When it became clear to Shelby, the Orioles’ first base/outfielders coach for the past three seasons, that he wouldn’t be back in Baltimore, he started sending out feelers for jobs. One was to old friend Ron Roenicke, who he has known for decades.
Roenicke and Shelby were both first-round draft picks in 1977 – Roenicke with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Shelby with the Orioles – and they were managers together in the Dodgers’ minor league system in the 1990s. (And Orioles fans know Roenicke’s brother, Gary, and T-Bone played together in the outfield on some great Orioles’ teams in the early 1980s).
When Ron Roenicke landed the managerial job in Milwaukee earlier this month, he contacted Shelby.
“He wanted me and I wanted to coach for him,” Shelby said.
There wasn’t an available spot for Shelby on the field, so the “eye in the sky” position was created – Roenicke served a similar role for the Dodgers in 1992-93.
Shelby will suit up with the team pre-game and participate in normal coaching activities, but once the game begins, he can’t be on the bench and must watch – and position outfielders – from a skybox. He’ll travel with the team and be a regular staff member except while the game is being played.
“It’s going to be a little different, not being on the field,” Shelby, 52, said. “I’ll be overseeing the outfielders, and I’ll do the same things before games, drills and things, I just won’t be on the field when the game begins, and that will be different. But I’m still excited.”
Shelby, who has been a big-league coach since 1998 (for the Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Orioles), had discussions with other teams, but wanted to remain in the majors. Going to Milwaukee will allow him to be near his family in Kentucky three times a season when the Brewers visit the Cincinnati Reds. Most of his family, anyway. One son, John III, plays in the Chicago White Sox organization and another, Jeremy, was drafted by the Orioles last season.
Shelby will also get to work with Rick Kranitz again. The Orioles’ pitching coach from 2008-10 was hired by Roenicke to handle the pitching staff in Milwaukee. Shelby and Kranitz spoke by phone Tuesday.
Even though he is moving on, Shelby, who played seven seasons in Baltimore, said the city and the team will always be special to him.
“I’m going to miss Baltimore. I enjoyed my time with everyone … and I would have liked to have been there when things got turned around,” Shelby said. “But I got to see a little bit of that at times this year. I’ve still got a lot of good friends there and I’ll still be paying attention to the Orioles.”