SARASOTA, Florida – Rocco Baldelli and Nelson Cruz have not talked about it yet. For the moment, a glance is enough.
At 37, Baldelli began his first season as manager of the Minnesota Twins. His designated hitter is Cruz, author of 360 circuits in the major leagues and proud of a one – year contract worth $ 14.3 million in Minnesota.
Cruz is 38 years old.
"Until now, it was a supposed thing," says Baldelli, to be younger than his DH. "We both know, I know that he knows that I know he knows.
Baldelli is not the first manager younger than his players. Heck, current director of the Houston Astros, A.J. Hinch had less than three of his players when, at age 35, he was named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009.
Yet Baldelli's canoe debut, although far from an important moment for landing on the moon, marks a turning point in baseball history.
The millennium director has arrived.
The generation that has upset his elders perhaps more than any other before can now count a major skipper in his league.
Baldelli was born on September 25, 1981, the first year of a millennial generation that spanned until 1996, according to the Pew Research Center. It may not mean anything, neither more nor less than anyone who was the first Generation X or Y director, or the first baby boomer to become the Hall of Fame.
BRYCE HARPER: Dodgers enter the mix
SPORTS, BOOKS: Get the latest news right in your inbox!
However, millennial scorn is one of our most popular board games. He even got into baseball when Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, 65, joked at winter meetings that he was reading "Managing Millennials For Dummies" after a season in which the coaching staff had trouble connecting with his young players.
Maddon may not have realized that this experiential generation, eating fast and casual meals, also had executives in her ranks.
Baldelli does not run away from his status even in the face of one of the biggest tropes associated with his people.
"I love toast a lot to the lawyer," he told USA TODAY Sports. "I eat it on a semi-regular basis."
Of course, Baldelli is the gateway to a generation already taking over the top ranks of baseball. But it also represents a connection to a time that seems every year more distant.
Nicknamed the "Woonsocket Rocket", after his hometown of Rhode Island and his sublime athleticism, Baldelli was propelled to 21 years in the major leagues. He was socialized in the game by playing against some terrible Devil Rays teams in Tampa Bay, with a shortage of salty veterans such as Aubrey Huff, Al Martin, Tino Martinez and even, for two games, John Rocker.
The first director of Baldelli was the irascible Lou Piniella, who was eventually replaced by Maddon. He played a season in Boston under Terry Francona. There were no participation trophies.
"These are people from different backgrounds and experiences who have influenced it," said Derek Falvey, executive vice president and baseball director for 36-year-old Twins. "He is respectful of the new information in the game and what he has at his disposal. He came to an organization that needed it.
"But he also has a lot of respect for the tradition and the guys who preceded him."
One could say that Baldelli lived the baseball revolution.
Baldelli himself was a very enlightened player, a high school student who placed sixth overall in 2000, benefiting from a skill set of nearly five tools. He was recruited under the regime of Vince Naimoli, owner of Devil Rays, and Chuck LaMar, general manager, who had neither books nor films about their innovative tactics in baseball operations.
Baldelli remained in the organization long enough for Naimoli to sell the team to Stuart Sternberg, who dropped the word "Devil", hired Maddon and the new managing director Andrew Friedman, and set the stage for innovation in the setting in which the Rays beat all hopes. income weighting for more than ten years.
Baldelli has absorbed a lot, from Piniella's slower burns to Friedman's decisional science.
"I feel lucky to have spent time with one of the last waves of this period and this style," said Baldelli about his debut as a player. "And then, having the time I had in Tampa Bay, I saw all the changes that occurred in the game.
"When you're exposed to different things, you have to be open-minded and understand that you have the instinct and the thought of yourself, but it's always good to re-examine things on a daily basis and continue to grow and learn."
The best preparation for the director's office was perhaps his own career. Baldelli finished third in the 2003 Rookie of the Year vote, but missed the 2005 season and a good part of 2006 with a double blow: a torn LCA, followed by Tommy John's operation after s & # 39; to be blown elbow after knee surgery.
His saga on health took a much more serious twist by guaranteeing years, when a series of health problems eventually led to a 2009 diagnosis of mitochondrial canalopathy, which affects cells and leads to severe muscle fatigue. After a season with the Boston Red Sox at Francona, he was injured and joined the Rays as a special assistant in 2010. Baldelli eventually entered the field even though he was part of AL division training of the club's AL division, but was withdrawn after the return of muscle cramps. .
He announced his retirement in January 2011, his bow going from baby bonus to instant phenomenon to the star-cross player of the game by 29.
If one of his players has to face a baseball fight, he can probably get involved.
"I think we all apply our own experiences," he says. "The way we approach every day, every conversation, every interaction, everything counts. There are still many things that I have not known or seen. You learn from the following thing that happens every day.
"In terms of empathy and things like that, I hope I can do it in a positive way to help our guys."
Baldelli does not lack people who shoot for him. After his retirement, he worked for eight years with the Rays, including in the front office, in the development of players and, after four seasons, in the team of the manager, Kevin Cash.
He writes daily with Cash and Charlie Montoyo, the former Rays coach, who is also a freshman manager, with the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Sitting next to him for all these years and listening, he has the instinct of one who has never done it before," said Montoyo, 53, who said that Baldelli had expressed his relief that his pre-season speech was complete. the way. "The players like it. He'll have a loose clubhouse and he'll do well.
"He did everything in baseball. I'm not saying it just because he's my friend, otherwise I feel like I'm lying, but he'll be really good. "
If it fails, it will not be for lack of awareness.
Baldelli launched this effort this winter when he traveled to Georgia and the Dominican Republic to meet two of the young but promising unfinished young Twins, champion Byron Buxton and hitter Miguel Sano, on their home turf. He holds five-minute meetings with all the Twins camp players and goes first to the pitchers and the catchers.
"Taking the time to talk to someone sometimes means a lot more than what is said," he says. "The fact that two people meet and spend time together means a lot in itself."
Funny, it does not look like a member of a generation supposed to hate phone calls, communicate more effectively through GIF files and consider a voice message as an act of aggression.
Maybe it's not so difficult to understand children nowadays, after all.
"I think Rocco will actually be himself," says Erik Neander, 36-year-old Rays General Manager, "and I think he'll have a wonderful career as a manager."