Although Team Mexico was eliminated in heartbreaking fashion in their semifinal matchup of the World Baseball Classic, their efforts throughout the tournament have Benji Gil aiming for a larger role in Major League Baseball.
Mexico finished with the 11th-ranked offense and a pitching staff that ranked 5th, but Gil seemed to push all of the right buttons alongside a resilient bunch who seemed to never quit. The opportunity to manage his nation’s team in the WBC was the perfect opportunity to showcase who he can be in a leadership role, after serving as the Angels bench coach this past season.
The coming out party for Team Mexico came in their 11-5 drubbing of Team USA in pool play, something that Angels starter Patrick Sandoval called one of the best days in his career. But for Gil, the culmination of the WBC and how it played out provided validation and a clear vision, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
Now he wants to become a major league manager. It’s what he’s working toward. It’s a reason why he took a job on the Angels’ coaching staff before last season and a reason why he chose to manage Mexico in the WBC.
“Anything that keeps you getting closer to the end goal,” Gil, 50, said. “And the end goal is to manage at the big league level some day and win a world title.”
Many around MLB and the WBC are saying that this showing from Mexico will springboard the future of baseball in the country, and Gil’s been the perfect manager for the job, earning the highest of praise from his players:
“For us, he’s a leader, a leader to follow,” said Mexico catcher Alexis Wilson, who has also played under Gil in Culiacán. “He’s a mentor for me and for many, someone who has given us that confidence you need.”
With so many current big leaguers on the roster, the ability to strip them of all egos in hopes they unite and play as a team is one of the most difficult tasks in international tournaments. But if not for a late-game collapse from the bullpen, their run wouldn’t be over and their ticket to the big dance would have been secured.
The Angels have a special talent tree of coaching as it stands, and Gil’s being recognized by former MLB players and coaches:
“He’s the best manager in Mexico,” said former major leaguer Edgar González, Mexico’s manager in the 2017 WBC. “And he’s the best because he’s a great motivator. Guys have to be able to motivate players nowadays.”
Gil returns to the Angels with a refreshed view on baseball after managing a team of incredibly talented ballplayers, and although he’s in a bench coach role, the future will have much more to offer as a big league manager.
What’s next for Benji Gil?
Teams around MLB will certainly take notice of the job Gil did during the WBC. In addition to being both bilingual and having success in managing a new group the way he did as a first-time manager, he should certainly have a solid one-up when openings arise.
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