DETROIT – Former Lipscomb baseball standout Steve Liddle found himself back in Major League Baseball when the Detroit Tigers announced their 2018 coaching staff Wednesday.
Liddle joins the organization as the new bench coach under Ron Gardenhire, who was named the 38th manager in franchise history in mid-October, after having stepped away from the game the last five years.
Though he had an opportunity to join the Los Angeles Dodgers staff a couple years back, the chance to hook back up with his old boss was the only way Liddle saw himself returning to coaching.
“I’ve been out of baseball for five years, so this presents a unique opportunity for me and I am excited about it,” Liddle said. “I am excited to be back with Ron because we worked together for so long in Minnesota. To be frank, one of the reasons I’ve been out of the game for so long was because I didn’t want to work with anyone else.”
Liddle and Gardenhire’s relationship goes back nearly two decades when the duo shared a dugout at the Minnesota Twins. Liddle served 11 years on Gardenhire’s staff from 2002 to 2012 as bench coach and third base coach before hanging up his uniform when the Twins failed to renew his contract following the 2012 season.
The decision for Liddle to return to the dugout did not come without its hesitations. His wife, Anne, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, so naturally Liddle’s first thought was to stay home and support her.
“This was something I really had to pray about,” Liddle said. “When I talked to my preacher at Smyrna Church of Christ, he told me ‘perhaps God gave you the answer when Gardenhire got the job.’ It wasn’t just one of those deals that I knew I was going to accept, I really had a lot to think about it.
“My wife has been battling breast cancer this year, but right now she’s doing well. Ron calls once a week to check on her and to see how she is doing, so that was one of his concerns as well, knowing I may not be able to accept the offer with her situation. But after talking with Anne and her doctors, I got the green light and here we go, off to Detroit.”
Liddle believes the blueprint of success laid out in Minnesota with a young and somewhat inexperienced squad was what made Gardenhire an attractive fit in Detroit.
“We did it at Minnesota, and I think that was one of the biggest reasons for him being an overwhelming favorite for the job,” Liddle said. “We know how to be patient with young players. We taught them how to excel and that was one of our strengths. We rode that for about 10 years there with a pretty good go at it, and we feel like we can duplicate that success in Detroit.”
Before moving to the big leagues in 2002, Liddle spent the previous 12 seasons in the Twins minor league system, managing six season at the Single-A level. He also served as the hitting coach for Triple-A Salt Lake in 1995-96 and was the Twins Minor League field coordinator from 1999-2001.
The Twins reached the postseason six times in Liddle’s tenure, including three consecutive seasons from 2002-04.
In college, Liddle was a two-time NAIA All-American as a junior and senior and helped the Bisons to a 1979 NAIA National Championship. The former McGavock High School standout graduated in 1981 with a degree in physical education.
He signed a free agent deal with the California Angels in 1981. He played in the minors, reaching as high as Class AAA, before accepting the role as manager of Class-A Kenosha in 1989.
Liddle is a loyal supporter of the Lipscomb Baseball program and will always find time to check in on the Bisons.
“I keep up with the Bisons every year,” said. Liddle. “I am thankful for LipscombSports.com because no matter where I am at, I am able to keep up with them. I will be pulling for them this season and I wish them nothing but the best of luck.”
He and his wife have two sons, Benjamin and Jake, and a daughter, Sarah.