BY JACOB MCDERMITT
Drew Saylor, a Wadsworth graduate from 2002, recently won the 2018 Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year.
In doing so, he beat out the other 255 managers by leading the Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to the Cal League championship this past season. The team won a total of 87 games- good for the second-most in the minor leagues.
“I’m incredibly humbled by it, to be in the same cast as guys like Terry Francona, Gregg Little. Obviously it is just an incredible honor,” said Saylor. “I think that any time that you get an award like that it’s not necessarily something that is one individual. I think it’s a collaboration. Looking at how much work that my staff and players put into the season, at the end of the day that’s what the award is: it’s a celebration of everybody that had a hand in our success this year.”
The season started off shaky for Rancho, with the team only starting 17-22. After that, however, they turned it around to win the first-half Southern Division title.
They finished the second half of the season 52-18 despite losing quite a few top prospects, including their best starter, reliever and Cal League MVP.
The Quakes capped it all off with a sweep of Visalia to win the championship. Saylor was quick to point out how the players’ ability to buy in to the system was the biggest reason that, despite the turnover, the team found such a high level of success.
“When people came in and understood that they were able to go out and compete at the highest level they could but that they were going to be supported positively allowed guys to come into our team and our affiliate and really be able to pick up where those guys left off,” Saylor commented. “We had gaping holes but the guys that came in just bought into the vision and bought into our culture and I think that’s one of the reasons you saw us not really miss a beat when it came to the second half of the season.”
Saylor also became the winningest manager in franchise history this season, with a record 231 wins over his two years. Again, he attributed it to others. This time, he pointed to the teamwork and unity of his staff.
“It’s a collaboration,” said Saylor. “It was three years of a lot of work that myself and the front office did, creating an environment of a positive and encouraging team and that need has to expand beyond just the athletic field. We took a lot of different, unique paths and unique ideas to be able to get that to our fans, to the fan experience, to our school visits, to visiting Loma Linda Children’s Cancer Centers and it was a lot of different things we did.”
Rancho’s success this season allowed him to explore other options and he has accepted a coordinator role with a Major League team. The name has been omitted at his request because it is not yet official, but he is very excited by the opportunity.
“I will be tasked with trying to do the same thing we did with Rancho and now apply it to an entire organization from triple A on down to the Dominican Summer League,” said Saylor. “I think that I can do it. I’m excited about the opportunity and to challenge myself and see what we can produce.”
Saylor graduated from Wadsworth in 2002. He went to Kent State University and played baseball there before being drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 13th round of the 2006 draft.
After his playing days came to an end, he began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Cleveland State and Akron, and went far and wide as a member of the Rockies to places such as Grand Junction, Colorado; Boise, Idaho; and Pasco, Washington. In 2016, he was hired for the minor league program. Since then, he has gone 231-176 in his two seasons as manager, leading the team to the playoffs both seasons. Despite how many places he has traveled, Saylor has never forgotten his connection to Wadsworth.
“I have very fond memories of Wadsworth High School. I think the closeness and comradery that everyone is something that transcends time and location,” said Saylor. “I’ve traveled all over the country for baseball and it’s crazy to see a lot of people who are former Wadsworthites are around and it’s that natural support system. That is one of the things that you can take pride in. As everyone grows and matures you understand where you come from and how special it is and it transcends time and space.”