One player’s choice for manager: Chip Hale

While searching for sunshine and a dry fairway, I ran into a strong endorsement Friday morning for one of the seven candidates to become the next manager of the Mariners.

Playing a round of golf in Litchfield Park, Ariz., a pleasant young guy with a fluid swing joined our threesome. He looked a little familiar and carried himself with just enough swagger to make me think he might be an athlete. But that’s what I thought about the big, strong, long-hitting guy I played with onThursday and it turned out he managed a local cell phone store (but did play some college baseball).

So Friday, I exchanged small talk for a couple of holes with this guy named Bill, neither of us asking what the other did for a living. Then my curiosity got the best of me.

“Where do you work?” I asked. “Out of state most of the year,” he said.

“So what do you do?” After a brief pause, he said, “I’m a baseball player.”

Reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago with Chip Hanauer, who said he was always reluctant to tell people he met on the street what he did for a living. If he told them “unlimited hydroplane driver” he knew he’d be peppered with questions. So he would say, “I’m an insurance salesman,” knowing that likely would end the conversation.

The ballplayer’s name is Bill Murphy, a left-handed pitcher on the Toronto Blue Jays’ 40-man roster. He spent much of his time in the Diamondbacks’ system and reached the big leagues for the final month in 2007. If you’re a fan of high-def TV and watched the MOJO series titled “The Show,” then you may know Murphy. He was one of six members of the D-backs’ Class AAA Tucson team whose season was chronicled in the TV series.

His manager during some of his time with the Sidewinders was Chip Hale and, knowing Hale has interviewed for the Mariners’ job, Murphy couldn’t contain his praise. He said Hale has the energy, charisma, communication skill, work ethic and knowledge of the game to make a great major league manager. He doesn’t have any major league managing experience, but he was everything a Triple-A player in Tucson would want of a manager.

I asked Murphy if Hale can handle a difficult clubhouse — the 2008 Mariners were described as “dysfunctional” — and he just smiled. Hale won’t be intimidated by a cantankerous veteran and he also won’t stand for anyone who doesn’t do the little things right. Want to see players on the field early doing baserunning drills? Go to Safeco Field next year if Hale gets the job.

Hale also loves to tell a good story, including one of personal experience from one of baseball’s all-time memorable plays. Hale, while playing for the Portland Beavers in 1991, hit the fly ball that caused outfielder Rodney McCray to run through the outfield fence.

The Mariners are expected to name their manager by next weekend and GM Jack Zduriencik has a good group to choose from, even though none has managed in the big leagues.

If Chip Hale gets the job, Bill Murphy will be thrilled for his former skipper. And not at all surprised.

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