On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers made official what was initially reported two weeks ago as they announced that former Cleveland Indians first baseman Ryan Garko will be the Double-A Tulsa Drillers’ manager in 2016.
Garko has not been in pro baseball since he retired as a player in 2013.
“I’m very excited to join the Dodgers organization and to come to Tulsa,” Garko said.
Garko, 34, played for the Indians from 2005-09. He also spent time in the majors with San Francisco in 2009 and Texas in 2010. In 463 major league games, Garko batted .275 with 55 homers and 250 RBIs.
His best seasons were in 2007 and ‘08. In ‘07, he batted .289 with 21 homers and 61 RBIs. He batted .314 in nine postseason games. The next season, he had 14 homers and 90 RBIs with a .273 batting average. He also was fourth in fielding percentage (.996) for American League first basemen.
Garko spent most of 2010 with Triple-A Oklahoma City and 2011 playing in Korea. His last season as a player was in 2012 when he was at Double-A Montgomery, a Tampa Bay affiliate. During the following winter, he signed a minor league contract with Colorado, which was then Tulsa’s parent team, but he was released near the end of spring training.
Garko spent the 2013-14 school year as an assistant coach for his alma mater, Stanford. He resigned after one season to spend more time with his family and pursue interests outside of baseball.
“No city or affiliate has a better reputation than Tulsa, and I look forward to bringing my family there,” Garko said. “As a team, our goal is going to be to develop major league players, but to also win a championship.”
Tulsa’s last pennant was in 1998 — the longest drought in the Texas League. The Drillers open the 2016 season April 7 at Corpus Christi. Their home opener is against Corpus Christi on April 14.
Garko was born in Pittsburgh, but moved to California when he was 3 and went to Servite High School in Anaheim. He played for Stanford from 2000-03, and won the Johnny Bench Award as the top college catcher in ‘03. He was drafted that year in the third round by Cleveland. Garko transitioned from catcher to first base by the time he reached the majors.
In 2010, Garko was named to the College World Series Legends Team.
The Drillers’ managerial position had been open since mid-September when Razor Shines was not retained by the Dodgers after Tulsa went 62-77 in his one season in Tulsa.
It was speculated at the time that a leading contender for the Drillers’ managerial opening was former Tulsa and major league catcher Bill Haselman. This year, he was the manager of Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, which won the California League pennant. Many of Rancho Cucamonga’s players are likely headed to Tulsa in 2016, but Haselman was named Monday as Oklahoma City’s manager.
The Dodgers’ other farm teams also will have new managers — Drew Saylor at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Gil Velazquez at Single-A Great Lakes, Shaun Larkin at Rookie-advanced Ogden and John Shoemaker at the Rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers.
The Dodgers will announce later the coaching staffs for the Drillers and other affiliates.