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"Ryno is the best second baseman of my time."
--Shawon Dunston,
former Cubs shortstop


 
Larry Rojas
Sandberg's first professional manager

Larry Rojas was Ryne Sandberg's first manager in professional baseball, in Helena, Mont. They were from radically different worlds Sandberg a painfully quiet 18-year-old from Spokane, Rojas a former Olympic sprinter for Cuba with a dense accent and a hair-trigger laugh.


Larry Rojas. (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Phillies)

Yet they forged a strong bond built on the overriding demands of life in the low minor leagues: drilling the fundamentals and becoming a professional.

"We would play a game, he and I, warming up," said Rojas, still a scout in the Philadelphia Phillies system. "We'd stand 60 feet apart and throw to each other. Five points if you hit them from the waist to the chest, 10 points neck to the head. It's to develop accuracy. Nobody could beat me at that.

"But Ryne beat me once."

The payoff was reflected in the record book. Sandberg once went four seasons without a throwing error.

But Sandberg remembers more that Rojas "taught me how to wear my uniform, how to wear my socks, how to be respectful of umpires, how to get my work in every day and just how to be a baseball player."

 
 
   

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