Brian Poldberg is staying home this season.
The nearly lifelong Carter Lake resident and Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson graduate is moving up from Class AA Northwest Arkansas to manage the Class AAA Omaha Storm Chasers in 2014.
He'll be able make the commute from his full-time home to Werner Park for home games. Poldberg lives within blocks of the house where he grew up. Only the lake separates him from Eppley Airfield, the launching point for the Chasers' predawn road trip flights.
“I love being in the small town, and you've got the big city (Omaha) all around it, so you've got the best of both worlds,” Poldberg said. “I wish (Werner Park) was a little closer, but it's a lot closer than Arkansas.”
Poldberg, 56, has spent the past six seasons managing Northwest Arkansas and, including his time managing the Royals' Memphis affiliate in 1992, he is 495-485 at the Class AA level. Overall in 14 seasons as a minor league manager, he's 934-953.
Now Poldberg replaces Omaha fixture Mike Jirschele, who guided the team for 14 seasons — including the last 11 consecutively — before being promoted to the big league staff last week.
“Most of the guys who will play there I’ve had at one point or another, so there’s no big surprises there,” Poldberg said. “It’s going to be a little different at the Triple A level with a little more experienced (player) with more knowledge of the game.
“In some ways that makes it easier, and in some ways harder. There are guys who think they should be in the big leagues, so you’ve got to deal with things more on the mental side of it. But it’s also nice to have veterans taking care of team issues in the clubhouse instead of having to yell and holler about things myself.”
After retiring as a player at the end of spring training in 1986, Poldberg got his start in coaching as a player-coach for low Class A Appleton (Wis.) in 1987, a club he began managing the following year. He’s also managed Royals farm clubs in Baseball City, Fla., Eugene, Ore., Springfield, Ill., Lansing, Mich., and Wilmington, Del.
His other roles within the organization include spending 1991 as the Omaha hitting coach. A former catcher, Poldberg was the Royals’ roving minor league catching instructor in 1993 and again from 1997 through 2003. He was on the major league coaching staff in Kansas City from 2004 through 2007, spending two years as the bullpen coach, one as first-base coach and one as third-base coach.
He’s made his offseason home in Carter Lake for all but four years in the late 1980s.
Poldberg will be reunited with Omaha pitching coach Larry Carter, who had the same role for Poldberg for five seasons at Northwest Arkansas, and hitting coach Tommy Gregg, who spent 2008 on Poldberg’s staff.
“I don’t think we’ll miss a beat as a staff,” Poldberg said. “And I think Jirsch and I are similar in a lot of ways — we’re both pretty easygoing, but when it’s time to play we expect players to go out there, hustle and do things right.”
Poldberg has gotten an earlier opportunity to work on a daily basis with Kansas City’s glut of high-end prospects of the past few seasons — sending them up to Omaha after their work in Class AA.
After winning the Texas League championship in 2010 and reaching the playoffs for the fifth straight season in 2011, the Naturals’ on-field fortunes have faded — they’ve gone a combined 117-162. But Poldberg helped produce less-heralded players like Brian Fletcher, Rey Navarro, Lane Adams and Zach Jackson — all of whom starred in the postseason during Omaha’s run to the Triple A national championship.
Poldberg has been in the Kansas City organization since 1983 as a player, coach or manager. He started his professional playing career in 1980, when he signed with the New York Yankees as an undrafted free agent following a college career at Wayne State, Fort Hays State and Emporia State.
Poldberg eventually played three seasons with the Omaha Royals. He retired without ever having reached the majors.
“I might have gotten called up that season (1986), but my knees hurt so bad it was hard to do it any more,” he said. “My whole life was baseball, and coaching was another avenue.”
When he played in Omaha, family and friends frequently got to see him in action. It’s going to be possible again.
“I really enjoyed playing in Omaha,” Poldberg said. “I’m older now, and I guess some people will still come out … but not many people go to watch the manager.”