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 Gibson comes full circle facing Tigers

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PostSubject: Gibson comes full circle facing Tigers   Sat May 17, 2008 2:03 am

05/16/2008 11:03 PM ET
Gibson comes full circle facing Tigers
Former Detroit player, coach faces old squad on D-backs staff
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Kirk Gibson has moved on.

He holds no hard feelings about the way his tenure in Detroit ended. He has more important things to worry about as the Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach than revenge just because his former employer is back in town.

The single-minded focus in Gibson allows him to do that, because he has his current job on which to concentrate. By the same token, however, the fierce competitor in him doesn't have room for sentimentality.

His old manager, Jim Leyland, knows that competitiveness well.

"The best thing he had going for him, which is what I like in all players, he came here every day to try to beat the other team," Leyland said. "That's what he came for. He was out there to beat you."

This weekend, he's out to beat the Detroit Tigers. It's not because of their past, he says, but because they're the present opponent.

"Whether it's Detroit or Colorado or the last group that left, that's what I prepare for," Gibson said Friday afternoon. "We scout and try to figure out what way we're going to approach the series, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and we'll develop from there. So from that standpoint, it's really no different. It doesn't give me any more satisfaction to beat the Tigers than it did the Rockies.

"We have a saying: It's that winning's a whole lot better than losing. It's a lot more fun."

The Tigers had plenty of the latter when Gibson started his coaching career with the Tigers on manager Alan Trammell's staff. They went through 119 losses in 2003, of course, but started the Tigers' rise with a 29-game improvement the next year. All the while, he worked with youngsters like Brandon Inge, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Marcus Thames, Craig Monroe and others. There's just a few of them left now, but there's a history.

That's part of Gibson's attachment to the Tigers. The rest, of course, comes from Gibson as a player, a history that began in the Minor Leagues with Leyland as his manager.

"Gibby was the toughest player I ever managed," Leyland said. "I'm talking tough -- hard-nosed -- not a tough player to manage. He was a tough son of a gun. I really enjoyed Gibby. We worked hard. I was a Minor League manager and he was coming up. We worked our tails off. I didn't get Kirk Gibson to the big leagues. I'm just thrilled I didn't keep him from getting there."

They don't talk regularly, Gibson said, but they enjoy talking when they run into each other. Gibson described it as a mutual respect.

As Leyland likes to remember, he was on both ends of Gibson's career. He picked him up at the airport in Florida for his stop in the Florida State League in the 1970s, and two decades later, he had to tell Gibson he was being released from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"And in between that, we worked our tails off," Leyland said. "He ended up having a great career."

The fact that some of the greatest moments of that career happened in a Tigers uniform will keep Gibson entwined with the franchise, whether he ever has anything to do with it again. But that doesn't mean he feels like a Tiger right now.

"I don't feel like I am right now," Gibson said. "I was with the Tigers, then I went to L.A., Kansas City, Pittsburgh, then I came back to Detroit. Right here, I follow the Tigers every day. When I get up in the morning, I get online. I certainly have interest because there's some history there.

"But I'm not a Tiger now. I'm a Diamondback. We're shooting for a goal to be the world champions. And being way out here in Arizona, in the desert, I'm pretty detached down here right now. We're a long ways away."

And as a coach, Gibson feels like he's a long way removed from his days as Trammell's bench coach. He has learned plenty under another ex-teammate in D-backs manager Bob Melvin, not to mention in the way the D-backs operate as an organization.

"The organizations do things a little differently," Gibson said. "We're into sabermetrics, numbers and stuff like that. We have to prepare. We have to dig stuff up. We have to learn. It's kind of how they do it. It's all new for me. It's like when you go into a new class, almost. You really have to bring yourself up to speed. I come here and I work hard."

He has a passion for learning, something that many don't understand about him. Leyland does.

"I think a lot of people all their life had the impression that Kirk Gibson was some hard-nosed jock," Leyland said. "And I don't think anybody ever understood how bright a guy this guy is. This guy's very intelligent. He's a very smart guy -- smart business, smart guy, smart baseball. He's a very bright guy. I think people just saw him as a tough, hard-nosed player, but there's a lot to this guy."

There's plenty to him these days, but there's just not as much about the Tigers as one might expect.

"Obviously I played for Detroit. We had some great memories there," Gibson said. "We won a world championship there. There's some of these players that we have a history from coaching and stuff. But, you know, it's been three years. A lot's happened over that time. A lot of stuff has been going on."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Gibson comes full circle facing Tigers   Mon May 19, 2008 3:15 pm

Gibby gets the upper hand.....as usual.
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PostSubject: Re: Gibson comes full circle facing Tigers   Mon May 19, 2008 3:32 pm

Gibby is a bench coach and they explained that he is there to work with the manager and for the manager to bounce ideas off of for input. He is learning from one of the best, as to how to manage! Let Gibby give it a try! He will yell, when needed.


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