After 22 years, Tom Brookens will be back in a Detroit Tigers uniform next season.
Brookens, who played for the Tigers from 1979 to 1988, is Jim Leyland's new first base coach, the team announced Monday. He will also coach outfielders and baserunning, duties previously overseen by Brookens' predecessor, Andy Van Slyke.
(Thanks to those who passed along the news today in the comments of earlier posts.)
The other finalists for the job were minor league roving instructors Mike Rojas and Gene Roof.
Brookens has been managing in the Tigers' minor league system for the past five years, starting at the lowest levels and working his way up through the organization. He began at Class A Oneonta, managing two years in the short season (75 games) league. In 2007, Brookens moved up to Single-A West Michigan, where he led the Whitecaps to a first-place finish and league championship. For that effort, he was named the Midwest League's Manager of the Year.
For the past two seasons, Brookens has managed Double-A Erie. And while he compiled a 139-154 record with the Seawolves, he's coached several prospects who could be called up to Detroit in the next few seasons to come. Overall, his managerial record is 310-262.
Now that he's coaching in the majors, could the next step for Brookens be to replace Leyland in the manager's seat after 2011? That certainly seems to be his current career track. (Matt Walbeck once seemed to be on the same path, but apparently took himself out of consideration when he left the organization to take a job with the Texas Rangers' staff in 2007. Walbeck has since moved onto the Pirates' minor league system.)
A first base coaching gig usually isn't a stepping stone position to a manager's job (bench and third base coaches often seem to be favored), but Brookens paying his dues through the minors, along with a possible two-year internship in the majors, could be an equalizer for him. I guess we'll see about that.
In his 10 seasons with the Tigers, Brookens played all over the infield, but mostly at third base. He compiled a .246/.297/.369 average and was a member of the 1984 World Series championship team.
(If only Brookens could've been a coach on Phil Garner's staff between 2000-2002. With their similar mustached looks, Brookens, Garner, and Doug Mansolino might have caused great confusion among opposing coaches and players. Which one of those guys is giving the right sign? But maybe that would've perplexed their players, as well.)