This week, Tom Lawless will return to his job as the Houston Astros roving infield instructor.
Lawless pinch-hit while RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco was undergoing cancer treatments.
DeFrancesco returned last week. Lawless has stayed in Oklahoma City for the current eight-game homestand to assist the transition but will now return to his normal job.
“When you’re managing it’s different because you’re constantly in the game (mentally) and you have 25 kids you have to take care of,” Lawless said. “But it’s still baseball. You’re still instructing.”
From 2009 through 2011, Lawless was a manager for the Astros’ two Class A teams and the Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi.
This season, he will spend most homestands at Double-A Corpus Christi, which is loaded with several elite prospects, then rotate among the other affiliates during road trips.
A few players on the RedHawks roster, including pitcher Paul Clemens, played under Lawless coming up through the Astros organization.
“I’d run through a brick wall for Tom Lawless,” Clemens said. “That guy has been a tremendous man to me as a coach and a mentor. I’d do just about anything for him. He’s a phenomenal manager, a phenomenal man. To get to play under him again was a blessing.”
Last season, Lawless spent most homestands in Oklahoma City with the RedHawks and spent road trips working with infielders at Houston’s other minor league affiliates.
“Tom did a tremendous job pinch-hitting for me just like he did in 2012, when late in the season I went up to manage the Astros,” DeFrancesco said. “Tom has been with the Astros for a long while. He’s a good man and a good friend.”
Under Lawless, the RedHawks went 29-23 and were tied with Iowa for the lead in the Pacific Coast League American Northern Division.
“What he did for this team was awesome,” said catcher Max Stassi. “Tom did a great job filling in for Tony. He’s one of the best. He’s been around the game so long. He knows what it takes to play good baseball on a day-to-day basis, which he does phenomenally.”
Lawless, 57, has been in baseball nearly 40 years, including a 12-year major league career as a utility infielder. He’s the only player ever traded for the legendary Pete Rose.
Lawless said every aspect of being a minor league coach is rewarding, but managing is unique.
“Our job is to develop players, and you’re doing that both managing and as a roving instructor,” Lawless said. “Managing is a little different, but the bottom line is your job is to help kids.
“What a lot of them must learn is it is a lot different playing the game at the major league level compared to the minors. It’s a different world. You’re trying to help them prepare for playing at that level.”
Lawless said minor league coaches aren’t that different than high school or college coaches.
“You do it because you like love working with kids,” Lawless said. “Obviously kids in Triple-A have more skill with a dream to make it to the majors. But regardless of their talent level the ultimate goal is to help them reach their potential.
“I’m sure I’ll miss (managing) for a little while, but I like my other job. I like working with infielders. Plus, it’s the job that allows me to go home (to St. Louis) a little bit more.”