Twenty-seven years later, Mike Lowell remembers to the decimal point what he batted in his first season as a professional baseball player.

“Oh, I know,” he said by phone the other day. “Unfortunately, I know. I hit .260. I thought I was miserable.”

To Lowell, who went on to a 13-year major league career in which he played in four All-Star games and won two World Series, .260 was more than a number. It was a feeling. And at age 21, after a decorated career at Florida International University, it might have suffocated him in the summer of 1995 in Oneonta, N.Y., home to the New York Yankees’ short-season A-ball team.

But every time that Lowell felt himself struggling or grasping for the smallest strand of confidence, his manager knew how to lift him up.

You might say that Rob Thomson had a knack for that.

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“I was a 20th-rounder, and I’m like, ‘Man, if I go on a bad streak, am I going to get released?’ Because the investment the Yankees made on me was probably [the same amount as] the hot dogs that they sell in the third inning of a game,” Lowell said. “What I remember with Thoms is he was like, ‘Good AB. Way to put the at-bats together.’ And you start thinking, ‘Man, maybe it’s going to be OK.’”

So, Lowell couldn’t have been happier when the Phillies elevated Thomson from bench coach to interim manager after firing Joe Girardi on June 3. He isn’t even mildly surprised, either, that Thomson is making a positive impact. The Phillies won their first eight games under Thomson and were 11-2 with him at the helm entering Friday’s day-night doubleheader in Washington.

Lowell, now an analyst on MLB Network, wonders only why it took so long for Thomson to get the opportunity. Not only hadn’t he managed in the majors before Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski tapped him on the shoulder. He didn’t even manage again in the minors after that 1995 season in an Upstate New York hamlet, 165 miles northwest of Yankee Stadium.

Thomson, 58, explained that he was slated to manage Oneonta again in 1996. But fate got in the way.

The Yankees assigned Thomson to fill in on the coaching staff at triple-A Columbus after the third-base coach got hit in the face by a line drive during spring training. Thomson hit it off with Columbus manager Stump Merrill, who asked him to stay on for the entire season. He coached at Columbus again in 1997 before becoming the Yankees’ minor-league field coordinator.

“It sort of all played out that way,” Thomson said, “and that’s why I never managed again.”

Thomson did interview for the Toronto Blue Jays’ managerial vacancy that went to John Farrell in 2010. Seven years later, the Yankees brought him in for an interview before they hired Aaron Boone.

Typecast as a sidekick

But Thomson also built such a solid reputation as a coach that he got typecast in a supporting role. Tampa Bay Rays senior adviser Mitch Lukevics, formerly the Yankees’ longtime farm director, listed several qualities that came to mind about Thomson: “Good person, good work ethic, a passion.”

Thomson worked on Joe Torre’s staff with the Yankees and served as a bench coach for Girardi with the Yankees. When the Phillies hired first-year manager Gabe Kapler, they brought in Thomson to ride shotgun. When Girardi replaced Kapler, he asked Thomson to stay on.

“I have no idea why guys get opportunities in the big leagues to manage when they never managed a game before and why guys coach like Rob Thomson for all this time and never get an opportunity,” Lukevics said. “That’s a long gap, 1995 to now, and it’s really hard to explain. All I can think is the superiors to Rob felt he was more important in the roles that he was in than he would be as a manager.”

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Regardless, Thomson’s managerial roots were planted in Oneonta. The team went 34-41, although win-loss records mean next to nothing in the minors. Lowell was the only position player to reach the majors. Five pitchers made it, albeit for brief spells. Left-hander Steve Randolph had the most longevity with 109 appearances, mostly for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

As a short-season team in the now-defunct New York-Penn League, Oneonta had a roster dotted with players who ranged in age from 19 to 22 and got drafted only a few weeks before the season began in late June. Thomson, then 31, was more than their manager. He doubled as a teacher, and many first-year players needed the lessons on how to live the life in pro ball.

“Every once in a while, I’d have these little meetings about all the professional things, like how to sign a baseball,” Thomson recalled. “The manager signs on the sweet spot, and everybody else, if you’ve got a big name, put it at the biggest part of the shoehorn [of the laces], you know? Things like that.”

There were other things that Thomson never thought about, such as teaching a pitcher where to go after being removed from the game.

“We had a kid one time, I went to take him out, it was his first appearance in pro ball,” Thomson said. “I reach out my hand for the ball, I turn to the catcher, I turn back, and he’s running back to the bullpen.”

Sticking up for players

Lowell remembers Thomson as an advocate for the players. Maybe it had something to do with his own playing career, which lasted only 216 games over four seasons in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system and petered out in A-ball in 1988.

Advances in analytics have allowed for players to be judged in more sophisticated and complete ways. Evaluations in 1995 were still based largely on traditional metrics, such as batting average, home runs, and RBIs. One bad slump, especially in a 75-game season, could be damaging to a career, especially for a late-round pick.

“Thoms would say, ‘Guys, if you go 0-for-3 and hit the ball hard, it’s going in my report that you had three good at-bats,’” Lowell said. “So if you go into that streak where you’re 1-for-15 and, man, you just feel like you’re a little bit unlucky, there’s a little bit of comfort knowing that your manager is putting in a good word. When the manager feels like this is a process, you feel like you can put the work in and get better.”

Thomson seems to exhibit similar patience with the Phillies’ young players.

It isn’t the same as A-ball, of course, because the stakes are through the roof for a Phillies team with a $238 million luxury-tax payroll and a decade-long playoff drought. But Thomson has shown confidence in rookie infielder Bryson Stott and outfielder Matt Vierling. He also has eased the pressure on them by stressing that he doesn’t expect them to carry the same amount of the load as, say, Bryce Harper and fellow stars Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins.

“Thoms let you know that there’s a little bit longer leash than maybe you thought there was,” said Lowell, 48. “That can kind of settle you down. When you settle down, your talent takes over. He just has a good way of relating to players.

“By what guys are saying, it seems like there’s a different excitement with him there. When you reel off nine victories, I think that helps. But a manager can change a little bit of the cultural dynamic in the clubhouse. I really do believe that.”

After Thomson got promoted, Lowell sent him a congratulatory text message that included an inside joke. Years ago, he found out from another coach that Thomson’s end-of-year evaluation in Oneonta projected Lowell would be “an organizational player” rather than an everyday player in the majors. Whoops.

“I told him, ‘Congratulations from your favorite organizational player,’” Lowell said, laughing. “He said, ‘I was never really good at evaluating talent.’ Not only am I happy for him because I think it was a long time coming, I think he has the personality to handle what’s in front of him in Philadelphia. It’s high expectations, it’s a lot of accountability, but I think he has that makeup. I really do.”