It doesn’t sound like Ryne Sandberg harbors ill feelings toward the Cubs.
It sounds more like he doesn’t have any feelings about the Cubs at all, which is a shocking destination for a Hall of Famer who logged nearly three decades associated with the North Siders, believing all the while that his blood was Cubs blue and Chicago his home.
“I see myself reaching goals and being where I want to be, and that’s in the major leagues,” Sandberg said Tuesday while visiting family here in Chicago. “I fulfilled that goal with the Phillies.
“I would think that wouldn’t have happened with the Cubs, so with what I want to do with my career, which is stay in the game and get back to the majors, I’ve been able to do that with the Phillies and it feels very good.”
Sandberg spent four years managing in the Cubs’ minor-league system, never realizing until Mike Quade was hired that Jim Hendry wasn’t going to promote him to the big leagues.
After returning to the organization from whence he came, Sandberg was a year into a stint with the Phillies’ Triple-A team when Theo Epstein took over the Cubs. Having fired Quade, Epstein quickly let Sandberg know that without major-league staff experience, Sandberg would not be considered for the job eventually given to Dale Sveum.
So when Sandberg arrives at Wrigley Field in August, wearing a major-league uniform for the first time since 1997, well, don’t look for him to shed a tear.
“How do I think I’ll feel? I hope we’re 10 or 12 games ahead, in first place in our division,” Sandberg said. “That’s what that feels like to me. That’s what I hope for at that time, that we’re headed toward the playoffs.”
Yes, when he says “we” now he means the Phillies, the team that drafted him in 1978 and brought him to the majors in 1981 for a month, just prior to his trade to the Cubs.
He’s the Philadelphia third-base coach and infield instructor, and since the Phillies didn’t hire a new bench coach, Sandberg will serve in that role as well when he’s not on the field, sitting next to manager Charlie Manuel, who enters 2013 in the final year of his contract.
Conventional wisdom in Philadelphia is that Sandberg is the heir apparent, but as is his way, Sandberg insists his focus is only on the task at hand.
“My six years in the minors were a great learning experience and it’s prepared me for my job this year, and prepared me to take on more responsibilities,” Sandberg said. “It’s a great chance to sit next to Charlie and that’s a gift, another opportunity to learn. We really hit it off the last two years, in spring training and September. We’ve already spent a lot of time together.
“He’s the one who brought me on staff, so if there was any problem I wouldn’t be on his staff this year. We’re both very comfortable with it and it’s a great situation for me.”
Still, Sandberg said from the first day in Peoria six years ago that his goal was to be a major-league manager, and he doesn’t pretend that’s changed.
“This is my job this year and I’m excited about that opportunity,” Sandberg said. “Getting back to the majors has been a goal of mine all along and I’m ecstatic about the upcoming season.
“This is baseball. No one guarantees you anything. When I was a player, I started over every season and always went to camp trying to make the team. That kept me working hard and focused. I look at this the same way.
“I’m completely focused on my job that starts in 10 days and really excited about it.
“What I do like is the progression of being in the majors this season. I worked my way up, just like I did as a player. Now, I have the chance to do my job and work toward winning a World Series.
“The dream of the ring is what keeps me going, keeps me driving forward. That, combined with the relationship I have with the Phillies, and being back in the game, being part of this coaching staff, is a big part of it.”
Since the 1991 season, when both Don Zimmer and Jim Frey were fired, Sandberg felt like something of an outsider with the Cubs, as regimes and managers came and went, but now he regularly sees Zimmer in Florida and Frey in Pennsylvania.
Dallas Green — a close friend who traded for Sandberg as Cubs GM — is a senior adviser to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., so Green is always around, and Amaro is the son of Sandberg mentor Ruben Amaro Sr., who was an infield instructor in the Phillies’ organization when Sandberg was a minor leaguer, and then a Cubs coach from 1983-86.
“Through the two years with the Phillies, it has felt like I was being welcomed back, by the fans and the entire Phillies organization,” Sandberg said. “The Phillies have a way of making everyone feel like they’re a part of something bigger, that your job — no matter what it is — is part of the Phillies trying to win the World Series.
“They give you responsibility and they want your input. It’s a great feeling. It’s great to be a part of it. It feels like home to me.”
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.