Once the Los Angeles Angels fired Joe Maddon and handed the job to third-base coach Phil Nevin, the club was getting a man who has paid his dues in the coaching world for more than 10 years.
Nevin played his last game in Major League Baseball in 2006 and announced his retirement in May 2007, and after dabbling in the media side of baseball, he was talked into taking over as the manager of the Orange County Flyers.
Two years after his big league career was done, he was now the head man for an independent league baseball team in 2009.
Former Angel Scott Spiezio joined Nevin on the Flyers staff and shortly saw the man, and the manager he was. During a losing streak, Nevin told Spiezio how he would make a statement to his players, via Sam Blum of The Athletic:
Before it began, Spiezio said Nevin told him if the team lost again, he would “blow his top off.” Make a show of it. It was all a plan. There was an internal calmness. But on the exterior, he would make it known he was unhappy with his team in a very clear way.
Spiezio said Nevin told him to make sure to provide an honest review.
“We end up losing, and we go in the clubhouse and he’s like breaking stuff and throwing stuff,” Spiezio recalled. “Yelling and screaming. Picks up the beer and breaks it. Everybody kind of sits there. Then we get back to the hotel, and he goes, ‘What did you think about that? Pretty good?’”
Nevin was determined to build a line of communication with his players and to show them there was far more to himself than a run-of-the-mill skipper, and it paid off:
Nevin was beloved by his Flyers players. He was the kind of manager who, yes, might lose his temper. But those types of shows served the same purpose as everything else — keeping a unified team that knew its manager supported the club.
“I don’t think I’d had as much fun playing baseball since maybe Little League or high school than I did playing for him,” said Travis Becktel, an outfielder on that team. “He knew the right way to turn things up or cool things down.”
Nevin wanted to create the experience of being in MLB even though those dreams for many of his players were miles away. To him, the little things mattered, such as a dress code for road games, and he would pay out of pocket to fund things that a small league team could not:
Most importantly, he communicated with players about their roles, their skills, their struggles. He’d “go to battle for his guys, 10 times out of 10,” former Flyers pitcher Mike Koons said. He had a way of making every player on the roster feel seen and respected.
“I’m sure Mike Trout and (Shohei) Ohtani are loving playing for that dude right now,” Koons said. “Because I know I did. And I was nobody.”
He is now far removed from coaching indy ball players, but his bases are still the same. Nevin wants to be the same manager he was for those Flyers players and bring that to his current Angels roster.
Angels feel more united following brawl
The Angels and Seattle Mariners created fireworks of their own in the second inning of Sunday’s game with a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in a bevy of suspensions on both sides.
Aside from accusations made by both clubs as to why the incident occurred in the first place, the teams will now have to navigate without key pieces. But a silver lining is a unification of the Angels clubhouse that was desperately needed.
Since the Angels were hurtling toward a black hole of losses and set a franchise record in doing so, they’ve lacked that singular moment to set them on a new course, but this incident with the Mariners could be a minor turning point.
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