South Jersey native Jeff Datz of Seattle Mariners grateful to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel for influence

Posted: August 15, 2012

SEATTLE - Jeff Datz, the Seattle Mariners third-base coach and a graduate of Clearview High in Gloucester County and Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) is completing his 11th season as a major-league coach, and he says he never takes a day for granted.

Nor will Datz forget the person who opened the gate to the big leagues.

"I will forever be grateful to Charlie Manuel," Datz said about the Phillies manager in an interview last month at Safeco Field. "He gave me the opportunity to coach in the big leagues."

Indeed he did.

At the time, Datz was working in the Cleveland Indians minor-league organization. Manuel was the Indians manager in 2002 when he was looking to hire a bench coach, and he gave Datz the opportunity.

"I saw a guy who was mentally tough and was a leader," Manuel said. "He was the kind who came to the ballpark early and left late, and he was all for the team."

It turns out that Datz and Manuel didn't get the chance to work together long on the big-league level. Manuel was relieved of his duties just past the midway point of that 2002 season and was replaced by Joel Skinner.

After the 2002 season, Cleveland hired Eric Wedge as manager. Datz stayed seven more seasons as a coach at Cleveland with Wedge as a manager.

In 2010, Datz was hired as bench coach of the Baltimore Orioles.

When Wedge got the job as Seattle's manager before the 2011 season, Datz reunited with his former boss.

"Datzie is a consummate baseball guy," Wedge said.

Datz was an all-around athlete at Clearview, playing baseball, football - a linebacker and quarterback - and basketball.

He was a four-year baseball starter as a catcher at Glassboro State and a member of the 1979 Division III national championship team.

In 1982, Datz signed with the Houston Astros after being drafted in the 18th round. Datz spent seven years in the Astros' minor-league system.

In 1989, he spent most of the season with the Detroit Tigers triple-A Toledo team. That season, he earned a September call-up to the Tigers and appeared in seven games, getting two hits in 10 at-bats. That was his entire major-league resume.

"That was my only cup of coffee, but I was so grateful to get there and for the opportunity," Datz said.

As a catcher, Datz was known for his defense.

"He could catch and throw and was a fighter," Manuel said.

As a hitter?

"He wasn't very good at that," Manuel said.

Datz doesn't dispute that.

"Once I got to the minor leagues, that slider just ate me up," he said. "I couldn't spell h-i-t let alone hit the slider."

His final year as a minor- league player was 1990 with triple-A Columbus.

The next two years, Datz was an area scout in Northern California/Northern Nevada. Datz then served as a coach and then manager in the Indians minor-league system from 1993-99. In 2000 and 2001, he was the Indians minor-league field coordinator before being hired by Manuel.

He said managing in the minors really prepared him for his current job. Datz managed in the Cleveland system in Rookie League, single A, double A, and finally for triple-A Buffalo.

"Being a manager was a great experience because I knew how badly I wanted it and how hard you have to work for it, and that is what I tried to teach to the young players," Datz said. "One of the greatest feelings as a manager at triple A was calling guys in my office and telling them that they were going to the big-leagues."

Datz said his main goal is to reach the World Series. He came closest in 2007 with the Indians, who beat the New York Yankees in the ALDS and led Boston, three games to one, in the ALCS before the Red Sox stormed back to win the final three games, by a combined 30-5 score.

"We were one game from the World Series and didn't get it done," Datz said. "Everybody said you will be back, but you never know how many chances you will get in this game."

The 52-year-old Datz, who resides in Shingle Springs, Calif., with his wife, Stacy, said that he hopes to one day get the chance to manage in the majors, but he isn't overly consumed by the idea.

"A lot of people ask me, and if the opportunity comes to interview for a managing position, I would love to do that," he said. "I think any coach would love that opportunity down the road."

For now, he appreciates the chance he has had to spend his entire working life in baseball.

"I pinch myself and thank God each and every day," Datz said. "My wife and I are blessed to be in this great game and at the major-league level."

Contact Marc Narducci at 856,779-3225, or @sjnard on Twitter.

comments powered by Disqus