Pirates manager Shelton utilizes Steinbrenner influence

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton’s first managerial job as a 29-year-old was unlike any other in the rookie leagues — New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was a regular at his home games.

Talk about learning how to handle pressure.

Shelton’s opportunity came in 2000 with the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League team, which played games at New York’s minor league complex in Tampa, Florida. That was about a mile away from “The Boss” and his fourth-floor office at the Yankees’ spring training ballpark.

Sitting in the third-base side dugout at Steinbrenner Field before Sunday’s exhibition game against the Yankees, Shelton cracked a big smile when asked if having Steinbrenner as a regular presence back then helps him today.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” he said.

Steinbrenner, who died in 2010, placed an emphasis on winning at all levels of his organization.

The big-league Yankees in 2000 would win their third consecutive World Series and fourth in five years under manager Joe Torre, Shelton’s squad did its part, going 38-22 to win the North Division by four games over the GCL Pirates.

Shelton also credited former Yankees vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman, who was based in Tampa, for his development.

“I think the one thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that there were a lot of major league coaches, major league managers, that came out of this system from when I had the opportunity to start here ,” Shelton said. “I tell people all the time, the fact Mr. Steinbrenner was around as much as he was, was it challenging? Yes. Did it make us better every day? Yes. The attention to detail you had to pay as a rookie ball manager because you knew he was here … made me a better person. It made me more detailed, and it’s definitely made me a better coach. It paid off in the long run.”

Shelton is entering his third season with Pittsburgh, and while a great deal of work remains after the Pirates went 19-41 in 2020 and 61-101 last year, he has seen one of Steinbrenner’s important on-field traits take hold.

“I think the one thing that can always be said about our group is they play hard every day,” Shelton said.

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