Miley, Manto & Weber – Oh My!

Hearty congratulations go out to a deserving triumvirate of International League legends. That last qualification has been cemented with the circuit’s Tuesday announcement that longtime SWB manager Dave Miley, former SWB player Jeff Manto and the longtime Voice of the Toledo Mud Hens, Jim Weber, will be enshrined in the IL’s Hall of Fame in the Class of 2014.

Miley’s mention is one that has struck a chord with the grizzled baseball veteran. One of his many strengths is his ability to stay even on a day-to-day basis. Something most of the game’s best do with aplomb. Sure, he gets fired up in big moments, in necessary moments, but the long marathon that is baseball requires a consistent baseline that does not peak too high, nor dip too low.

However, while exchanging messages with the big man himself to coordinate a series of interviews yesterday, his excitement was clear. This means something to him. Perhaps the quotes that display this best came in THIS PIECE penned by the team’s beat writer with the Times-Tribune, Donnie Collins. History was delivered in THIS PIECE by the Times Leader‘s beat man for the squad, Dave Rosengrant, including a great nugget about Miley’s connection to Opening Day 2014.

But it’s his connection to this franchise, to NEPA, to the IL and to the game itself that resound when the eye-catching merits that make up his Hall-of-Fame résumé are broken down.

– Two-time IL Manager of the Year

– Winner of over 1,000 games

– Skippered both Louisville and SWB to their only respective Governors’ Cup titles

– In 2013, tied the all-time record by managing his third Triple-A All-Star squad

The ultimate competitor, Miley champions the mindset that all sports fans want their managers, coaches, players and front office personnel to possess. It’s a philosophy that can be summed up with a single word, but has a much more layered composition. It’s one that has helped separate the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees from the rest of the field. Win. That bleeds into every step of the process. From the individual handling of each player, to the designing of a daily preparation schedule. From crafting a lineup to those deep-into-the-night discussions of what the team needs to be successful, the focus goes beyond the end result to the very first step, and each subsequent one along the way, on a path to excellence that has been consistently achieved over decades.

Miley has, in many ways, come to represent SWB baseball. Since he arrived here along with the affiliation switch, many things have changed. The affiliation, the nickname, the colors, the ballpark, front office and game day personnel. Heck, even the food and drink options have vacillated. But the rock has been Miley. A man from Tampa who spent a lifetime within the Cincinnati organization – connects with NEPA. He does so in part due to his longevity, certainly. But it goes beyond that.

He connects because, while he’s a brilliant baseball man and a proven winner, he’s one of us. He’s a blue collar guy. He can be gruff, in a way that reminds us all of someone we spend the holidays with every year. However in that same vein he makes you smile with a wry, blunt and at times self-deprecating sense of humor. He’s human in a very real, day-to-day way. The emotions he displays inspire. Who can forget some of his greatest on-field fireworks? The gesticulation is all we need in the stands to know exactly the point he’s making to a man in blue on a given night. While it’s not done often, it’s seemingly always sparked with purposeful merit. And it’s done in a way that makes us all feel that he is “our” manager. That he is mentoring “our” team. In Minor League Baseball, that tether from skipper to stands does not always exist. In part due to the often high amount of turnover the minors lend themselves to. In part due to the disconnect some in the industry possess in today’s game; that internal buffer that will only allow you so close. But even when those elements are not present, what happens at PNC Field each night is somehow simply, different.

And that is why NEPA and her fans smile when they hear the words, much in the same way the man himself assuredly did. Dave Miley is a Hall of Famer.

On June 7, fans are welcome to witness Miley’s piece of history for the formal enshrinement ceremonies on the same night his team faces Toledo. Miley will receive the highly-sought after “Curtain Call” statue and the first 2,500 fans into PNC Field will get their own Miley statue. In town will be Weber, who has broadcast over 5,000 consecutive games for the Mud Hens. The wordsmith had one of the greatest quotes about reaching the Hall in THIS PIECE by The Blade‘s John Wagner.

Manto has his own ties to SWB. The 1993 Red Baron counts current Phillies GM Ruben Amaro among his teammates from that unit. He led the team in homers (17) and RBIs (88) while hitting .289 over 106 games played. The next year he was the league’s MVP. Jim Mandelaro of the Democrat & Chronicle has more in THIS PIECE on the former Rochester Red Wing.

Congratulations to all! Well-deserved honors for each of the three men, and a pleasant reminder to all of us. First pitch, is not all that far away…

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