Ron Gideon was back in town for a two-game homestand against the Yakima Bears.
He was sitting in manager Fred Ocasio’s air-conditioned office Sunday while Gesa Stadium baked in 105-degree temperatures about an hour before game time.
Ocasio, the Dust Devils hitting coach from 2001-2005, used to watch Gideon in this same office, calling in game reports and reviewing situational hitting charts. That was before Ocasio replaced Gideon as manager in 2006.
The former Dust Devils manager remembers when there was NO air-conditioning in the manager’s office. As a matter of fact, it took some time before the team finally moved a swamp cooler in there.
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But those were different days.
“We were just saying how it never got as hot here as it is now,” Gideon said. “One year, we started the season in sleet and rain. Now it’s smoking hot from the get-go.
“One of the biggest differences is how the field keeps improving. It plays so much better than it used to.”
My first year covering the Dust Devils in 2005 was Gideon’s final year with the team before he moved on to become the Colorado Rockies’ roving field coordinator.
He always left an impression on me during his four-year stint in Tri-City. He had a crushing handshake and a booming voice that could put cracks in the clubhouse wall.
If I was asked to imagine what the voice of God might sound like, he’s what I would think of.
Gideon is a straight shooter whom I considered a great authority when it came to baseball. He has a solid understanding of the game, but, more importantly, he truly has a feel for what young players go through in their first few years in the game.
He wasn’t the first Dust Devils manager — that honor belonged to Stu Cole in 2001 — but Gideon remembers the club’s early days in Pasco, long before Gesa Stadium got its name.
He remembers his first batch of players in Tri-City, which included current Colorado Rockies ace Jeff Francis and reserve outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who were both fresh out of college.
“It’s one of those father-son things,” Gideon said. “You try to get them used to playing every day of the week instead of two or three times a week in college. It takes its toll on the body.”
In four years, Gideon watched a total of 158 players come through Tri-City. Though only a few of those players have reached the big leagues — 10 (and counting) so far — all of them in his eyes were worthy of attention.
“They’re what it’s all about for us,” he said. “Our days of playing are over. We’re in this for them, and to see those guys make it (to the majors) makes everything worth it.”