07/17/08 8:16 PM ET
Leyland stays busy during break
Tigers manager coaches All-Star team, meets with President
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
"I hope the players aren't as worn out as I was last night," he said.
After all he had done over the last three days, he had plenty of reason to feel tired. When all was said and done, however, he had no reason to change any of it.
One night, he was in the American League All-Star dugout with manager Terry Francona, talking and executing strategy as they tried to maneuver their way through a 15-inning Midsummer Classic without running out of players. The next night, he was at the White House for a baseball dinner with the President.
All in all, it was not a bad way to spend the break. Or, as Leyland described of being in the home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium for the first time in his life, it wasn't bad "for a [former] backup Double-A catcher."
Though it was Leyland's second straight All-Star Game, he had more of a chance to enjoy this one, since he wasn't the manager. That said, it wasn't exactly a relaxing night for him as he sat in the dugout and worked with Francona through all the extra innings.
At one point, Leyland said, he joked with Francona after Rays catcher Dioner Navarro reached base, that he could go in and pinch-run.
"It's something I'll never forget," Leyland said. "I felt so bad for Terry. It was so strenuous. I wasn't even managing and it was strenuous. Terry, it was tough for him."
It was also the end to a long day. He was part of the Red Carpet Parade of All-Stars that went up Sixth Avenue through Manhattan in the afternoon. At one point, he said, he looked around and saw Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski waving along the street with his son, Landon.
Once he arrived at Yankee Stadium, the festivities continued. He was in the introductions as the current All-Stars lined up alongside the Hall of Famers who were in attendance.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I was choked up. I've never been on the field with that much talent."
Leyland had originally been slated to coach third base, but with his reflexes and without a helmet, he wasn't sure he wanted to do it. Instead, Francona sent him out to home plate for the exchange of lineup cards.
The capper to the break, however, was his trip to the White House for a baseball dinner. He had only a few hours of sleep between the end of the All-Star Game and the time his limousine arrived to take him to Washington.
The guest list included Hall of Fame players, current players John Smoltz and Kevin Millar, baseball officials, broadcasters such as Harry Kalas, author George Will and, of course, the President.
It's the third time Leyland has met with a sitting President. He not only attended the White House ceremonies honoring the 1997 World Series champion Marlins, but he also played a round of golf with President Clinton that offseason.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "It was something I'll never forget."
All in all, it was an incredible, but busy stretch in which Leyland spent what otherwise would have been three days off. Yet, as he prepared to get back to work Thursday, Leyland was hardly lacking energy.
"I'm fired up," he said. "I threw [batting practice] to my son at 2 o'clock this afternoon."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.