PITTSBURGH — As Derek Shelton sat on the dais in the PNC Park interview room, he couldn’t help but notice that almost all of his staff had temporarily dropped their pre-game responsibilities and s was gathered across the room, wanting to be there for their manager’s moment.
Shelton had already processed the news that he and the club had reached an extension beyond the 2023 season. But as he stared at his stick, he couldn’t help the tears from his eyes, the tremor in his voice, the tremor of his speech. It was then that he understood what it all meant.
“I walk in and they’re all over there,” Shelton said. “It’s for your family. You work hard to get this job. Yes, it’s moving.
A moment like this is never guaranteed for a manager. There is no shortage of cases where a manager leads a team through the rebuilding process only to be fired before he has the opportunity to see the product of his struggle. Shelton, however, had no doubt that this day would come.
“I think the positivity that we’ve tried to portray as a staff and the consistency that we’ve tried to portray as a staff has been really important,” Shelton said. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel and we’re moving in the right direction, and that’s really important to me.”
Pirates general manager Ben Cherington, who broke the news ahead of Saturday’s game against the Reds, did not reveal details of Shelton’s extension, or whether he was preparing anything regarding his own possible extension. . What Cherington shared, however, was her enthusiasm.
“He’s worked tirelessly for over three years now to help put us in a better position to win,” Cherington said. “All the work that goes into building our culture – the way we prepare for games, the way we treat each other, the relationships that are built – I think we’re starting to see the fruits of that. work.”
The timing of the extension coincides with the Bucs’ 14-7 start to the season, their best start to the season since 1992. The early success, however, had no impact on the deal. Cherington said extension talks began during spring training; about a week ago the deal was done. With pen to paper, Shelton can continue the process of keeping the good vibes going.
Shelton and the Pirates have undoubtedly weathered some tough times. They have lost 100 games in consecutive seasons in 2021 and 22. The roster turnover, at times, has been dizzying. They have made headlines several times for unflattering reasons. Amid these struggles, Shelton maintained equanimity in the clubhouse. On Saturday, Bryan Reynolds echoed a sentiment shared by many on the team.
“He’s the right guy to lead us,” Reynolds said. “He was the same guy even though we were losing 100 games a year. There was no panic. There was no personality change, which can’t be easy. I know that as a player it’s hard to show up and be the same guy, but he did it.
“I think we knew there were going to be tough days, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you walk into it,” Cherington said. “Certainly part of my faith and trust in him was watching how he reacted to that. I hope we helped each other a little. He always responded with determination, with a fresh and positive outlook, with an emphasis on controlling what we can control in the future. I learned from him. I hope he learned from me and that we continue to learn from each other.
Shelton’s work extends beyond the queues he builds and the decisions he makes. Cherington repeated that Shelton was not just the manager of the Major League team, but an important leader in baseball operations, describing the skipper as an “elite communicator”. After the news broke on Saturday, coaches and players praised Shelton without hesitation, not just as a manager, but as a person.
“I think he knows his players well,” third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes said. “He knows (with whom) he can joke and with whom he must keep it short and sweet. For me, he’s been great, whether it’s something I’ve had off the pitch or on the pitch, we always check.
For Shelton, Pittsburgh has become a second home over the past three years. He won’t incorporate the word “yinzer” into his vernacular for fear of angering star reliever David Bednar and bench coach Don Kelly, both from the area. He expressed his love for the city. He expressed his love for the community. Now he will have the opportunity to continue to call this place his home.
“I’m very proud to be here,” Shelton said. “And (I’m) very proud to continue to be here.”