CLEARWATER, Fla. - Ryne Sandberg spent six seasons as a minor-league manager in destinations like Kodak, Tenn., and Des Moines, Iowa. The Hall of Fame player started his coaching career on baseball's ground floor.
He worked his way through the minors - like a prospect does on his way to the big leagues - before taking the Phillies' reins during the 2013 season. Paul Molitor, also a Hall of Famer, followed a similar route before being named manager of his hometown Minnesota Twins last fall.
The paths they traveled back to the majors converged Monday when Molitor and Sandberg became the first Hall of Famers to manage against each other after they had been inducted as players into Cooperstown.
Sandberg and Molitor met before the game in the Phillies dugout and threw out simultaneous first pitches before a 3-0 Phillies win at Bright House Field.
"In the past, there's been some Hall of Famers that wanted to manage or coach at the major-league level but not go through the channels to earn that right," Sandberg said. "For me I had to go experience for myself but also to earn the right."
They shared minor-league stories each summer when they met at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Sandberg was a manager in the Cubs system and Molitor was an instructor with the Twins. They are the first Hall of Famers to be full-time managers since Frank Robinson guided Montreal and Washington from 2002 to 2006.
"The fact that it's never happened before is little piece of trivia," Molitor said. "But for me it's just about managing against a friend. We all know it's about the players."
Sandberg and Molitor both played at elite levels. Sandberg was a 10-time all-star. Molitor is a member of baseball's 3,000-hit club. Their current roles require them to guide both elite and non-elite players. Patience is required.
Sandberg said he played with a patient approach. He was a .230-career hitter during the season's first month. Early season slumps were the norm. Working his way out, Sandberg said, required a lot of patience.
"I think that was something I took into the minor leagues and also realizing how hard of a game I remember it being," Sandberg said. "It was not a piece of cake. It was hard work. It was dedication."
Molitor said he wishes he was more patient. He said he's able to show patience with a player when he sees them work hard.
"It's the guy that maybe doesn't show the urgency or maybe the work ethic you'd like to see that you get a little more frustrated," Molitor said.