(Busch Stadium) While the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds have had some intense games over the years, don’t expect the fireworks to fly this week between managers David Bell and Mike Shildt.
“I have a lot of respect for Shildty,” said Bell, who was on the Cardinals staff with Shildt in 2017. “The years leading up to that, I got to know him in Spring Training, mainly just being in the same building. Always enjoyed talking baseball with him–very knowledgeable and just had a lot of respect for the way he thought about the game. We got close. We had a close relationship for that year. I certainly follow him and follow this organization, for all the reasons I said. Just all the years spent here, the people I know, and certainly when we come in here you’re competing against him but you have a special eye on them too.”
Bell spent the part of four of his 12 big league seasons playing for St. Louis and then returned for another four in various coaching roles. This will the first time he manages against his former team in Busch Stadium as the earlier “home” series this season for the Cardinals was in Mexico.
“My time here, in St. Louis, as the bench coach, as a player, as a hitting coach was–I’ve spent more time in St. Louis than anywhere else,” Bell said. “When I come here, it still feels like home. The people I’ve met here, the relationships here, is something that mean a lot to me and my family. I have my family here with me and it feels like coming home in a way. But that process as a bench coach, I certainly wouldn’t be in this role or be anywhere near prepared if wasn’t for those three years working with Mike (Matheny).”
And even with the end goal of becoming a manager in mind, Bell has been surprised at just how much the position has offered.
“I think I’ve enjoyed it more than I anticipated,” he said. “I knew I was going to love it, but you’re not sure until you get into the role–just the kind of the grind of the daily schedule and things like that. I have a great staff, the players have been awesome to work with, the front office is great, it’s just overall a really good situation to be in. I think the only surprise is maybe I’ve enjoyed it more than I anticipated.”
So where does one start when they take over as manager?
“You start building relationships from day one with everyone you possibly can in the organization,” Bell said. “People talk about creating a good environment or create a culture, really to me what that is, is getting to know people. Spending time building relationships, communication, trying to build an environment where people can be who they are and through that, bringing out the best in everyone. That was my goal, that was something early on I recognized would be a difference maker.”
Bell left his role as bench coach with the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2017 season to join the San Francisco Giants as their Vice President of Player Development.
“I could’ve stayed in that job and really enjoyed it for a long time, but now that I’m in this role, I look at that year and realize it made me much more well-rounded,” Bell said. “It made me understand how things work better. It brought out the importance of if I ever did become a manager, how important it was to work well with your front office and collaborate and constantly work with everyone in the whole organization. There’s so many pieces to it, so many parts of what makes a successful organization. From that standpoint, it did broaden my view of what’s important.”
Entering tonight, Cincinnati has a record of 27-32 this season, 6.5 games out in the NL Central.
“We’re really on the brink of creating something that we can sustain for a long time,” Bell said. “Being in this division, I’ve always looked at this team and it’s a solid core of really, it was a solid core of position players, but I recognized early on it’s also a solid core of young arms and young pitchers that were kind of right on the brink. They haven’t had a lot of success, but really right on the brink of a lot of success.
“We added some depth, which allowed us to kind of slot some guys into maybe more natural roles and things like that. I think through creating that depth, a lot of these young arms are blossoming right now. So we’ve added to a strong core with depth, and also with some of the guys we brought in have experience on winning teams. That’s something you can’t teach. That’s been a part of kind of creating a new environment and new expectations for our team.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com