Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sojo sets table

By Jordan Mason

Tampa Yankees manager Luis Sojo stared across the table at third baseman Brandon Laird.
It was two hours before the Yankees’ hosted the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the second of a four-game series and the manager and his player exchanged words. Sojo was heard outside the locker room.

The moment served as another example of Sojo bonding with his players, which helps him teach the prospects in the New York Yankees’ farm system.

“1-0,” the manager screamed as he grabbed the early lead in yet another locker room game of ping-pong.

Outfielder Austin Krum said the relationship that Sojo has with the team is exactly what it needs. “It’s respect, but it’s also a friendship too,” Krum said. “It’s joking around, it’s having fun, it’s just keeping it lively.

“He’s definitely the kind of guy that you’d want to be leading your team.”

But that is not just because of the close relationship that he has with his players. The manager is a five-time world champion and spent five seasons with the New York Yankees.

He was a member of the Tampa Yankees as well just like his players. And that is not lost on his players.

“He has a special way with his words because you know he’s done it and been there before,” pitcher Lance Pendleton said. “It really helps because we know he’s been there and done that and he can help us get to the same spot.”

Sojo, who wanted to be a manager as a player with the New York Yankees, does that by preaching competition and teaching players to manage their own game.

And Sojo has experienced great success in his time as a manager. His team, the Norwich Navigators, won the Eastern League Championship in his first season as manager.

But the wins and the close relationships do not stop Sojo from dreaming of one day managing in the major leagues where he once played. “I want to manage one day,” he said. “But in the meantime I love what I’m doing.”

And that means there will be many spirited ping-pong games to come in Tampa.

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