LOUISVILLE — Jim Riggleman still walks around with his bat. On a recent afternoon, he slid the wooden stick behind his back and stretched. Like he did when he was in Washington, he leaned on the bat like a cane with his right hand while watching his Louisville Bats, the Class AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, stretch and play catch.
This is Riggleman’s life, one he created for himself when he abruptly resigned as the Washington Nationals’ manager in June 2011 because of a contract dispute with General Manager Mike Rizzo. But Riggleman, 60, is long past that zany moment in Nationals history. After speculation he may never manage again, here he is, entrusted with the development of some of the Reds’ top prospects. Life is normal.
“I’ve really enjoyed it here,” said Riggleman, leaning back in his chair in his office before a recent game against the Syracuse Chiefs, the Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate. “It’s just been a really good experience. It’s just flying by.”
Riggleman, a Rockville native, misses the Washington area and reflects, with a tinge of gratefulness, on the opportunity to manage the Nationals in his home town from midway through 2009 until he resigned.
He was hired a month after that to serve as a special assignment scout for the San Francisco Giants, thanks to an assist from his friend, Manager Bruce Bochy. The next season, the Reds hired him to manage the Class AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The Houston Astros came calling, offering an interim manager position, but he turned it down to remain in Florida. The next season, he was promoted to Louisville.
While Riggleman has savored his experience in the minor leagues, he misses managing in the majors, and that is the obvious ultimate goal. Teams have approached him about major league coaching jobs, he said, but he turned them down.
“I just didn’t feel like I needed to do that,” he said. “I really appreciated what the Reds did for me, taking me on here. To just be in the big leagues, that doesn’t do it for me. If I had an opportunity to manage in the big leagues again, I certainly would take that opportunity. But I’m also not obsessed with it. It’s something that I always had wanted to do. I still have a desire to do it.”
After Riggleman left, Davey Johnson shifted from the front office to dugout, guiding the Nationals to a 98-win season in 2012 and their first National League East title. This season, though, the Nationals have essentially trampled their playoffs hopes with disappointing play.
Riggleman doesn’t discuss the past much. He feels he has talked enough about his brash decision to walk away from a team with a promising future two years ago, which he made because he had no more guaranteed years on his contract and his attempts at negotiation with Rizzo failed.
“There’s a number of people in the game who would probably never touch me,” he said. “But there are a number of people who are like, ‘Hey, who knows what happened? If we want to talk to Jim, we’ll talk to him.’ There are no surprises here. I knew that when I made my decision.”
Riggleman says he doesn’t worry about the impression some may have of him because of that decision. He is still in baseball, and that’s all that matters.
“I made a decision to do what I did, and it’s over,” Riggleman said. “I’m very comfortable with where I’m at.”