Pat Borders broke into professional baseball in 1982. Before his playing career ended in 2006, it consisted of two position changes, appearances in 1,099 major league games over 17 seasons, two championship rings and a World Series MVP trophy.
Following about nine years away from pro ball, Borders is back in the game to impart his experience on young prospects experiencing the pro ranks for the first time. He begins in June his first season as manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Phillies' short-season single A affiliate, often a landing spot for many of the most-recent draftees.
Borders, 51, was hired to fill the vacancy left by Shawn Williams, promoted to the same position at single A Lakewood. This season will be Borders' first as a pro manager or coach. After retiring to his hometown of Lake Wales, Fla., to spend time with his wife and kids, he did coach at Winter Haven High, the school his children attended.
Most prominently known as the MVP of the 1992 World Series, when his Blue Jays beat the Braves in six games, Borders was also Toronto's catcher and eight/nine-hole hitter when the Jays beat the Phillies in '93. His general manager while with Toronto was, of course, Phillies interim president Pat Gillick, who last week described Borders as "a self-made player."
"I spent six years in the minor leagues before I got my first taste of the major leagues, so that 'Never give up' attitude is what I'd like to maybe instill in (the players)," Borders said before the Crosscutters' annual winter banquet. "I had to switch three positions, from third to first to catcher.
"You've got to keep your eyes open. What are your real talents? What can you do? What's going to get you to make you stand out beyond the next player? I knew I wasn't a third baseman. I went over to first base. I definitely knew I wasn't going to hit (enough) to be first base, and what can I do? How can I get myself to the big leagues?"
Behind the plate was where Borders made his living. After spending the 1988-94 seasons with the Blue Jays, he played for eight other big-league clubs. Borders, Gillick said, "made it on make up" and "on hard work day in and day out."
"He wasn't the most blessed player with tools, and he made himself a player," Gillick said. "He willed himself to be a player."
Phillies' director of player development Joe Jordan, who hired Borders, said, "All you've got to do is get around him a little bit and talk to him, and really get into how this all happened for him and you find out he's got the intangibles that these guys need."
Borders said this was the right time for him to get back in the game. There were, he said, other opportunities for him to manage or coach. His knowledge of Gillick played a part in him joining the Phillies organization. The former longtime catcher said he feels a "sense of duty" to his former GM.
"If he's going to give me a shot," Borders said of Gillick, "he's got first choice."