July 13, 2010
By David Driver
For the Statesman Journal
Used with permission
In recent weeks, Dave Brundage has watched his daughter ride a horse. He also been on hand to see one of his sons play tee-ball and watch an older son play in another organized youth baseball game.
These may seem like normal activities for a father of three. But those moments were not possible during many years for Brundage, who is in his fourth season as the manager of the top farm team of the Atlanta Braves.
When Brundage, a graduate of McKay High School in Salem, became the manager of the Triple-A Richmond Braves in 2007, his wife and three children stayed in Oregon.
The family used the same arrangement during the 2008 season, the last year for the Braves in Richmond before the club moved to suburban Atlanta.
Brundage, a former Oregon State star, made the move with the Braves to Georgia for the 2009 season.
In July 2009, his family also made the move to Georgia after it took them about a year to sell their home in the Portland area.
"It seemed like a good move all the way around," said Brundage, who led Richmond to the International League title in 2007.
"We had an opportunity to be together as a family. I feel my life has come together. We always say family comes first, but that is not the case a lot of times in baseball."
Last season also was a good one on the field for Brundage. He got to manage, if just for three games, Jason Heyward after the outfielder was promoted from Double-A Mississippi.
Heyward, considered one of the top prospects in the game, appeared set to begin this season with Brundage in Gwinnett but made the Atlanta roster out of spring training.
He is hitting .251 with 11 homers heading into the all-star break.
"It was a good step for him," Brundage said of the time Heyward spent with Gwinnett. "He is a good human being, a very honest young man with a lot of talent."
Gwinnett was 81-63 last season and had more wins than any farm team of the Braves.
When the 2009 minor league season ended, Brundage joined the major league staff of the Braves for the last month of the season. He lives 10 minutes from the stadium in Gwinnett and made the drive to Turner Field in less than one hour.
Kurt Kemp, the director of player development for the Braves, has been impressed with Brundage.
"He does a good job with the players in the clubhouse," Kemp said in a telephone interview while driving to see a Braves minor league team in Danville, Va.
"He is much more ingrained with what our system is about. He had been with a different organization for a long period of time" after 12 years in player development with Seattle.
Kemp said it is a bonus to have the top farm club of the Braves be less than one hour from the big league park in Atlanta.
"It allows more people in the organization to see those players and staff members," Kemp said. "We are about 32 miles from stadium to stadium."
If Atlanta needs a last-minute replacement for a home night game, the team can call Gwinnett as late as 5 p.m. and call up a player to the majors that day.
Bobby Cox, the Atlanta manager since 1990, has said that this season will be his last at the helm of the Braves. So does Brundage have a chance at the vacant spot?
"I have declined a lot of (chances to comment) on that situation," Brundage said. "I will say it would be an honor to be considered for that position. That is as much as I want to say."
Will Brundage have a chance to be interviewed for the Atlanta job?
"I have no idea," Kemp said. "I would not be able to give you a good answer or fair answer. David and I have talked about this. We have the utmost respect for Bobby. We don't even think it is right to discuss what will happen down the road. The time for that will be after the season."
This year, Brundage is managing top prospects such as first baseman Freddie Freeman, right fielder Mitch Jones and pitcher Craig Kimbrel.
Freeman began this season as the No. 2 prospect in the Atlanta system, according to Baseball America. Kimbrel was listed at No. 5.
Kimbrel, perhaps the closer of the future in Atlanta, is 1-0 with an earned-run average of 0.82 with 12 saves in 25 games out of the bullpen this season.
Freeman is hitting .287 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs, and Jones is hitting .254 with 15 homers with 38 RBIs.
Despite a strong offense, the Braves were the victim of a no-hitter earlier this season by Chris Tillman, a right-hander for the Norfolk Tides who also has pitched in the majors for Baltimore this year.
Brundage's team draws about 5,000 fans per game in Gwinnett. One of the top youth baseball programs, East Cobb, is not far away.
"It has been a great situation, moving to north of Atlanta and having a built-in fan base," Brundage said.
The move also has been good for Brundage, his wife, Dameron, and children, Beau and twins Baylor and Barrett.
"I feel like things are complete," Brundage said. "I feel like my life has come together."