Eugene manager Gary Van Tol worked five games in an Emeralds uniform before the team’s home opener. And then he found himself briefly confused.
The Chicago Cubs switched their Northwest League affiliate from Boise to Eugene, Ore., in the offseason. And Van Tol followed the Cubs to Eugene, whose home opener happened to be against the Hawks.
So when the P.A. announcer introduced the Hawks first before the June 23 game, muscle memory took over for the former Hawks manager and Boise resident, who trotted a couple steps out of the dugout before realizing his mistake.
“A couple people saw and started laughing,” Van Tol said. “I’m thinking right away, ‘OK, wait. I’m with the Eugene Emeralds and not the Boise Hawks anymore.’ I had to catch myself there.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
Van Tol didn’t have any similar slipups this week at Memorial Stadium, where Eugene made its first trip to Boise this season and wrapped up a three-game series Tuesday night. The Emeralds return Aug. 17-19.
Van Tol lived a fairytale in Boise, where he started out as a volunteer coach in 2008. He founded the Idaho Cubs, a select travel organization, with the support of Chicago in 2010. The Cubs promoted him to manager for two seasons starting in 2013, and Van Tol led Boise to the Northwest League championship series that summer and the playoffs in 2014 while living at home with his wife, Christina Van Tol, an athletic administrator at Boise State, and four children.
Van Tol said he circled the date of his return to Boise on the calendar. But while sitting in the visiting manager’s office underneath the third-base bleachers, 100 yards from his old office, he admitted it was a bit strange.
“It’s weird. I don’t know if I can pinpoint a word,” Van Tol said. “But it’s definitely different being on this side spending seven years on the other side.
“It was a good run. I was pretty lucky because most guys in this business never end up getting an opportunity to manage or coach in the city or town that they live in. I owe a lot to the Cubs for giving me that opportunity with the team here.”
A minor league manager’s life includes lots of time on the road. Even when he managed the Hawks, Van Tol still traveled to Arizona for spring training and extended spring training. The club plays 36 games on the road. And then fall instructional leagues started in either Arizona or the Dominican Republic.
Van Tol said his family has visited him in Eugene and made trips to the Tri-Cities and Spokane. But now that he’s in an Emeralds uniform, he figures he’s lost those 36 days he spent in Boise for home games. So he’s tried to make up for it this week.
“Coming back, it was nice sleeping in my own bed for the first time since May,” he said. “Those hotel rooms, it is what it is. I’ve just taken the kids around to some appointments (Tuesday) morning and helped Chrissy out. It reminds me what I need to prepare for when I get back home, and that’s to be a dad.”
EMERALDS 15, HAWKS 8
E—Mitchell, Whiting, L.Castro. DP—Eugene 1, Boise 1. LOB—Eugene 15, Boise 7. 2B—Rice, Delarosa, Ely, C.Herrera, Padlo. HR—Rice, Ely, Mundell, L.Castro, Padlo. SF—Alamo. Sac—Delarosa.
|Miller W, 1-1||2||2||0||0||0||1||5.14|
WP—Meier, H.Jones. PB—W.Jimenez. HBP—by Lezama (Dewees), by Masek (Leonard), by C.Villarroel (Leonard). T—2:57. A—3,220.