South Georgia "Nuts" about Backman
ALBANY, GA- The South Georgia Peanuts have named former big leaguer Wally Backman field manager for the upcoming season.
"I'm very excited to be back in baseball," said Backman. "I can't even begin to tell you how much I missed the game."
Backman grew up in Beaverton, OR and attended Aloha High where he hit .548 as a senior. Wally came from a baseball background as his father played in the minors for the Pirates organization. After high school, Wally was selected in the first round of the 1977 draft (16th overall) by the New York Mets. He progressed quickly through the system as a second baseman, and earned a September call up for the 1980 Mets, hitting .323 in 93 at-bats.
"We're thrilled to have Wally on board with the Peanuts, said General Manager Keith Michlig. "He's a name most people familiar with Major League Baseball will recognize. More importantly, he has been recognized for his ability to work with young players at our level. His expertise will only help solidify our efforts to develop players and help them take that step towards the major leagues."
Backman's speed and high on-base percentage made him a valuable number-two hitter. The switch-hitter teamed with leadoff hitter Len Dykstra to become known as the "Partners in Grime" for their hustling, dirty-uniform style of play for the 1986 World Champions.
A vital part of the World Championship team in '86, Backman was later traded to Minnesota after the 1988 season. In 1990, Backman signed with Pittsburgh, where he was used primarily as a third baseman and helped the Pirates to an NL East title by batting .292 in 104 games. He spent two years in Philadelphia as a utility infielder and pinch-hitter before ending his career with 10 games for Seattle in 1993.
After retiring, Backman managed for seven years in the minor leagues. His first position was with the Catskill Cougars of the Independent Western League in 1997, and he went on to manage two other Western League teams, Bend and Tri-City.
"Independent baseball is like a chess game because you get to make your own moves," shared Backman. "In affiliated ball, you can't make any of the personnel decisions, and that often hinders your success. I feel that chemistry is a big part of game and I plan on getting the most out of my players."
Backman later went on to manage Class A Winston-Salem in 2001 and Double-A Birmingham in 2002 and 2003. His 2002 team won the Southern League title. In 2004, he was named The Sporting News' Minor League Manager of the Year after leading the Arizona Diamondbacks Class A Lancaster affiliate to the California League championship series.
"I've learned from some of the best minds in the game," said Backman, who played for the likes of Davey Johnson, Lou Pinella, Joe Torre and Jimmy Leyland. "I feel that I have my own style of coaching, but I have definitely taken a piece from every manager I've been around."
In his New Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001, Bill James ranked Backman the 106th best second baseman in baseball history. Backman's son, Wally Jr., was a 30th round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in the 2004 amateur draft and has since moved up to Single A in Spokane, WA.
"I think the fans of South Georgia will appreciate the competitive spirit Wally Backman will instill in our guys, shared Michlig. "We look forward to displaying a gritty, hard-working brand of Peanuts baseball."
The South Coast League is a six-team based independent professional baseball league located in the Southeastern U.S. First pitch is scheduled for May of 2007.
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South Coast League Stories from December 20, 2006
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