“We are very excited to introduce Ron Gardenhire as the new manager of the Detroit Tigers,” said Al Avila, the Tigers’ executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager. “After an extensive search, we are confident ‘Gardy’ is the right person to lead our ballclub in our pursuit of World Series championships. Ron has extensive managerial experience at the Major League level and has a proven track record of player development.”
Gardenhire emerged in industry circles as a favorite for the job since interviewing with Tigers officials on Tuesday in Detroit. Some in the organization compared him favorably with Jim Leyland, who led Detroit to American League pennants in 2006 and ’12 and currently serves as a special assistant to Avila. Leyland has not been directly involved in the managerial search, but his opinion is widely respected among Tigers officials, and his respect for Gardenhire is well known.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be named manager of the Detroit Tigers,” said Gardenhire. “After managing against the Tigers for so many years, I know firsthand what a great baseball town Detroit is and that the fans here are some of the most passionate in all of sports. I’m truly grateful to Christopher Ilitch and Al Avila for entrusting me to lead the team back to competing for American League Central Division titles and to our ultimate goal of winning a World Series.”
The Tigers need no introduction to Gardenhire’s managerial strengths, having watched him across the division while he led the Twins to six American League Central titles from 2002-10. Among the known Tigers managerial candidates, Gardenhire has by far the most managerial experience, a factor Avila cited among his criteria for a new manager when he announced last month that Brad Ausmus — who managed the Tigers for the previous four seasons — would not be re-signed.
“Ron has a proven track record of success managing and leading both young and veteran players, which we believe is important as we move forward,” said Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. “All of us at the Tigers are really looking forward to the passion and the experience he brings to the ballpark each and every day.”
Let���s get started, Gardy! pic.twitter.com/fEig1IXSFx
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) October 20, 2017
Gardenhire and the Twins parted ways after the 2014 season with a 1068-1039 record over 13 seasons. He was rumored to be a candidate for the Tigers job a year later with Ausmus’ status uncertain once Avila took over for Dave Dombrowski as GM, but Avila announced that September that Ausmus would stay on.
Gardenhire interviewed for the Padres and Nationals jobs two years ago before getting back into the game this spring with the D-backs on manager Torey Lovullo’s staff.
Gardenhire, who turns 60 next week, underwent treatment for prostate cancer last offseason, but he returned to the dugout in May. He had a reputation as an old-school manager during his Twins tenure, but his work with the D-backs showed his ability to work with various schools of information and instruction.
Ron Gardenhire speaks to the media for the first time live from Comerica Park.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) October 20, 2017
“Last year with the Diamondbacks was a special thing for me, they took care of me,” said Gardenhire. “I got a little sick, got a little cancer, got well and they stood behind me the whole time, so I appreciate that organization giving me that chance.
“I just went through the analytics department and I told every one of those guys I love them, because they’re going to help me,” he added. “Everyone needs help. Fortunately for me, this last summer with the Diamondbacks, I got involved with it and actually saw it first hand. I saw the information, so I could see how much is out there. I don’t know if it’s new knowledge, but it’s sure put in a different way and makes a lot of sense. It was a lot of fun.”
Also important was his experience managing and developing younger players.
“Love the guy,” former Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who blossomed as a hitter under Gardenhire in Minnesota, told MLB.com. “He’s definitely a man of experience and managed in some meaningful games. He is a good friend of mine and also someone that raised me in the game of baseball. I am truly happy for him.”
Gardenhire also interviewed for the Red Sox managerial opening Wednesday, but Astros bench coach Alex Cora — who also reportedly interviewed for the Tigers vacancy — has emerged as the favorite for that opening.
Others to interview for the Tigers job included former Braves and Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, former Marlins manager Mike Redmond, White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens and Tigers coaches Dave Clark and Omar Vizquel.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.