First-year Lexington Legends manager Scott Thorman spoke frequently about producing a relaxed atmosphere for his team during the Legends’ Media Day on Tuesday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Continuity is one factor working in the Legends’ favor as they look to ease any jitters during what will be the first extensive minor-league campaign for most of their members. Twelve of the 25 players on Lexington’s opening-day roster played for Thorman last season when he was leading the Burlington Royals, Kansas City’s rookie-level club based in North Carolina.
“I think the familiarity between our staff and our players is huge with these guys,” Thorman said. “The moment when we can reduce their anxiety and put them in a positive environment, it helps their performance.”
Thorman, 35, joined the Kansas City organization in 2014 as a bench coach in Burlington. He was Burlington’s manager the previous two seasons, taking home manager of the year honors last year after guiding the club to the Appalachian League finals.
Between 2006 and 2007, Thorman played 175 games with the Atlanta Braves, for whom he was a first-round pick in 2000. Over his 12-year professional career, he played in the World Baseball Classic twice and in the 2008 Olympics, all for Canada, his home country.
For players, the minor leagues are about finding out what you can do and learning what you have to do, Thorman said. His staff’s biggest job is managing expectations and helping a group of young professionals deal with the highs and lows of the sport. Winning matters, but it comes second to getting guys to where they want to be.
Like most of his players, where Thorman wants to be is the major leagues. That might come in time for the young skipper, but for now, he’s excited to embrace the latest challenge put before him.
“As a member of player development, nothing gets us more excited than developing players and getting them to the next level,” Thorman said. “All that other stuff seems to find a way to work itself out.”
Glenn Hubbard, the Legends’ bench coach, who is in his fourth season with the team, was the Braves’ first base coach while Thorman played for Atlanta. Thorman said he is honored to now work alongside Hubbard.
“It’s pretty cool how baseball comes full circle,” Thorman said. “I utilize his knowledge every day.”
Thorman didn’t realize a decade ago the depth of expertise he was exposed to during his time with the Braves. In addition to learning under Hubbard, a former National League All-Star, Hall of Famer Bobby Cox was in his second stint as manager of the club when Thorman was around.
“He was at an advanced position in his game where he had that respect, where he walked in the room and everybody kind of stood at attention,” Thorman said.
Cox used to call him Thor. “I was just happy he knew my name,” Thorman said with a grin.
Wednesday is the Legends’ final non-game day until May 1. That’s 25 games to start the season, which kicks off with a road swing through South Carolina (Charleston, then Greenville) beginning Thursday.
Infusing fun diversions into the schedule where possible has helped Thorman’s teams keep their minds right in the past. He organized a team fishing trip last year at Burlington; might a trip to Kentucky Lake be in the Legends’ future?
“We’re exploring our options right now,” Thorman said of off-the-field event planning. “We rely heavily on the players’ input, because at the end of the day it’s about them and that’s why we’re here. We need to make sure that their off-field health is as good as their on-field play.”
Season opener: 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Charleston
Home opener: 7:05 p.m. Thursday, April 13, vs. West Virginia