Detroit Tigers Manager candidate series: George Lombard
The Detroit Tigers manager candidate series continues as George Lombard is one of the most interesting candidates for the vacant manager position.
George Lombard might not be a household name in Detroit just yet, but he is one of the front-runners to become the Tigers’ next manager. And Lombard’s fascinating life story and journey to the big leagues both as a player and as a coach will captivate Detroit Tigers fans if he wins the job. From being a descendant of one of the pilgrims on the Mayflower to being the first player to hit a home run during an MLB game in China, Lombard’s story makes him the most interesting person in Detroit’s shortlist of managerial candidates.
Lombard was a second-round draft pick of his hometown Atlanta Braves. They offered him a contract that was worth more than his single father had made in his entire life. His dad raised him and his two siblings on a meager salary from his job at GM and Lombard knew that that money could really help out his family. That was enough for him to forego his commitment to play both football and baseball at the University of Georgia. Even though at the time he was considered a better football prospect. In his senior year of high school, he was named both a Parade All-American, alongside Peyton Manning, and a USA-Today All-American. Lombard was expected to be Georgia’s starting running back as a true freshman. It’s no surprise then that he was a stolen base specialist, and racked up 100 minor league steals before he turned 20 years old.
Lombard played in parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues, including the 2002 season with Detroit. In 2002 he played on the same team as Detroit’s last first overall draft pick Matt Anderson. He played half of his 144 career games in 2002 with Detroit and it was by far his most successful season. He hit five home runs and stole 13 bases in just 72 games for the Tigers.
Telling Posy’s story
All three Lombard kids were excellent athletes. His older brother, Matt, played tennis and soccer and his sister played basketball. But they both went on to college rather than pursue careers in athletics. Matt went to law school and his sister, Rosemary, went to Harvard where their grandfather was a dean for 41 years.
Lombard’s mother, Posy, dedicated her life to fighting racism. During college, she would travel to protest and march in the civil rights movements. She attended a speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and stood against armed KKK mobs. She was jailed multiple times for her efforts and Matt, now an attorney found the CIA’s 300-page file on his mother. Rosemary had an internship during graduate school with Rep. John Lewis who remembered their mother from her days as a civil rights leader. Sadly she passed away in a car accident when Lombard was just 10 years old.
During the initial baseball shutdown, Lombard wanted to practice his public speaking to build his resume for any managerial position opening up next season. He began by telling his mother’s story to the Dodgers players during a zoom conference call. After that, he went out and spoke with high school athletic directors, and eventually his mother’s high school where raised over $10,000 for charity. The Los Angeles Dodgers, where Lombard has been a first base coach since 2015 announced that they were partnering with Lombard and the Posy Project, a fund created in his mother’s memory. After speaking with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Dodgers foundation donated $42,000 in her honor to the Equal Justice Initiative.
Is Lombard the next manager for the Tigers?
Probably not. Our Brian Johnston pointed out while discussing another managerial candidate, Will Venable, that whoever is hired as the Tigers’ next manager must be able to handle Detroit’s young pitching staff. Like Venable, Lombard is a former outfielder and the majority of his coaching experience focuses on the offensive side of the game. He began coaching with the Boston Red Sox. He was the manager of their Gulf Coast League team for two seasons and a hitting coach for one. He went back to his hometown Braves to be their minor league field coordinator briefly before getting his first major league coaching position as first base and baserunning coach with the Dodgers.
Lombard is the perfect coach for Detroit’s possible 2021 outfield of Jacoby Jones, Derek Hill, Daz Cameron, and Travis Demeritte because they all are very similar players to Lombard during his playing days. Fast outfielders that have trouble getting on base. But Detroit’s rebuild isn’t built around defense first outfielders. The Tiger’s are relying on their top tier pitching prospects to open their next competitive window. Lombard will have to prove to Avila that he’s able to manage the development and workloads of what could be a pitching rotation headlined by two or three rookies next season. If he does prove himself, he has always been known as a player’s coach and would be a natural successor to Ron Gardenhire.