Sveum's tenure with Sox ends

Sveum's tenure with Sox ends

BOSTON -- All because of what resulted when he happened to wave his arm around and when he decided to put it up as a stop sign, Dale Sveum became a lightning rod among fans and the ever-present talk radio circuit during his two years as the third-base coach for the Boston Red Sox.

On Wednesday, that tenure came to an end, for reasons that had nothing to do with Sveum's often-scrutinized decisions.

Rustin Sveum, the 11-year-old son of the coach who was universally respected within the confines of the Red Sox clubhouse, wanted to spend more time with his father. So when the boy read in a newspaper that the Milwaukee Brewers -- Dad's most successful stop during his playing days -- had a job opening, an idea was formed.

Ultimately, that led to the senior Sveum deciding to leave the Red Sox to fill the same position for the Brewers.

The Sveum family maintains its primary residence in Arizona. The Brewers train in Arizona. Translation: Sveum now gets to spend an extra six to seven weeks living with his family.

"The kids are at an age now where I need to be home as much as I can, and that's what pretty much fueled this whole thing," said Sveum, who also has a 16-year-old daughter, Brittane. "The main thing was there were a couple of job openings, and my son noticed it in the paper in the transactions. He just kind of mentioned, 'Hey Dad, why don't you try to get a job with the Brewers so you can be home for Spring Training?'

"That kind of just hit me, and I was kind of like, 'Maybe it's not such a bad idea to just throw my hat in the ring.' It kind of just hit home for him to say something like that."

When the Brewers decided that Sveum was their ideal fit to coach both third base and infield defense, Sveum had to go through the difficult task of telling the Red Sox he was leaving.

Sveum has a long-standing relationship with Red Sox manager Terry Francona (they were teammates on the Brewers in 1989-90) and developed strong working ties with many of the players, captain Jason Varitek most prominent among them.

"That's the bitter part, when I had to call Tito and Theo [Epstein], and one of the best relationships I had was with Jason Varitek," said Sveum. "I think those are the hardest things to come by. Still, I haven't made all the calls I need to make to talk to people and stuff and let them know what happened and why I'm leaving. I know a lot of players probably won't understand. It's tough. That's the hardest thing about it."

Though the fans could obviously see Sveum coaching third base on a nightly basis, what they didn't see was all the work he put in with the infielders, making sure their technique and positioning were just as they should be. They didn't see all those afternoons when he threw early batting practice to such players as Varitek, Doug Mirabelli, Kevin Millar and Gabe Kapler.

"He'd throw [BP] twice a day," said Francona. "I'd walk into the coach's room, and he'd be preparing. He prepared so extensively. Again, I just appreciated it. We gave him a job here and said, 'Dale, run with it,' and he ran with it."

Sveum was a tireless worker, one who had an amazing ability to rise above all the boo-birds who heckled him.

"Obviously, everybody that has coached third base in Boston knows what you're getting into there," said Sveum. "Yeah, those things don't bother you. You know if you hold a guy, you're going to get booed. If you send a guy, and he does get thrown out, you're going to be chastised. I mean, there are so many more papers and websites that cover the Boston Red Sox, it gets overwhelming.

"But you know what you're getting into. You can use examples of Atlanta, when their third-base coach got somebody thrown out at home with one out on a double down the line. It's no big deal there, and it doesn't get publicized. But if that happens to me in Boston, I wouldn't be able to leave the ballpark until three o'clock in the morning. That's just the way it is there.

"I'm not saying we all don't make mistakes or would like to have something back, but it does get a little overwhelming there as far as what happens with third-base coaches. You can never make the right decision. The best thing about it is, you're dealing with some of the most passionate baseball fans in America. It definitely keeps you on your toes. It doesn't bother you. I guess maybe if you had a bigger ego, it might, but I don't have that much of an ego to where it really affects me that much."

The way Sveum handled the extraneous factors that came from the Boston environment was exactly what Francona expected, and the reason he recommended him to Epstein a couple of years ago.

"Part of the reason I knew he'd be a good choice when we first talked about hiring him was that I knew he had broad shoulders, and I knew he could handle being a third-base coach in Boston," Francona said. "I saw him a lot. I played with him. We sat on the bench, I watched him manage in Double-A, and I knew he was good. But I thought, to be the third-base coach here, you had to be more than good. You had to be tough and thick-skinned. I'll tell you what, he's all those things. He brought a lot to our organization."

Francona noted how well Sveum handled what was, at times, a difficult situation.

"I don't think anybody likes being booed," said Francona. "I thought he handled it better than humanly possible. He laughed, the guys did a great job of letting him know that he's one of us. He handled it great. He would laugh at it a little bit. Not that he didn't care. It goes back to how I feel about things. You prepare, you do the best you can and you answer the questions. That's what he did."

The Red Sox are now in the process of finding a new third-base coach. They are expected to interview one candidate from outside the organization, and two or three from within.

"We are grateful for the contributions Dale made to the success of the Red Sox -- on the field and in our clubhouse -- over the last two seasons," said Epstein. "We wish him the best with the Brewers."

Though the Red Sox didn't want Sveum to leave, it was all but impossible for them to question his motives for doing so. As Epstein typically tells players and coaching members of the Red Sox during tough times, "Family comes first."

"We didn't want to lose him," Francona said. "Out of respect to him, I didn't see how we could say no. It's a hard one, because you value somebody's baseball [skills], and at the same time, Theo said right away, 'We're going to have to let him do this.' I appreciated Theo having the respect of [Sveum's] family situation enough to let him do this. It's hard to let him go."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.