June 3, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The Philadelphia Phillies have fired manager Joe Girardi and have named Canadian Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) as their interim dugout boss for the remainder of the 2022 season.
The underperforming Phillies, who are currently seven games below .500, made the announcement on Friday morning.
Thomson, who’s in his fifth season as Phils’ bench coach, has stood in as manager for Girardi on several occasions during their tenures together with the Phillies and New York Yankees, but this will be Thomson’s first extended run as a big league skipper.
“I am extremely excited for this opportunity and I appreciate the confidence Dave [Dombrowski] has shown in me,” said Thomson in a statement released by Phillies. “Having said that, this is an emotional day for me, having worked so closely with Joe for so many years. This has been my home now for the last five years and I care deeply about this franchise, this city, our players, our coaches, our staff and our fans. I am ready to lead this team and look forward to getting to work and turning this around.”
Now in his 38th season in professional baseball, Thomson will become the 56th manager in Phillies’ history. He will also become the first Canadian to serve as a full-time big league manager since George Gibson (London, Ont.) did so with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934.
Born in 1963 in Sarnia, Ont., Thomson grew up in nearby Corunna. A standout player for the Intercounty League’s Stratford Hillers in the early ’80s, Thomson was recruited by Dick Groch, later a famous New York Yankees scout, to play for St. Clair Community College. The young Canadian suited up there for one year before transferring to the University of Kansas.
In 1984, Thomson was part of the Canadian squad that competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when baseball was a demonstration sport. The following year, he was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 32nd round of MLB draft.
The Canuck catcher/third baseman would advance as high as the class-A level before shifting his focus to coaching in 1988. He served as a minor league coach in the Tigers’ system for two seasons before joining the Yankees in 1990.
Over the next three decades, the hard-working Canadian evolved into one of the most respected coaches in the professional ranks. After serving in several capacities in the Bombers’ organization, including minor league coach, manager, field coordinator and director of player development, he joined the Yankees’ big league staff as a special assignment instructor in 2004.
Four years later, he was hired as Yankees bench coach and that season, he managed three games in Girardi’s absence. From 2009 to 2014, Thomson was the Yankees’ third base coach, and he played an important role on the Bombers’ 2009 World Series-winning club. He returned to the bench coach role in 2015 and worked in that capacity through 2017. Thomson had also organized spring training for the Yankees since 1998 and secured five World Series rings during his lengthy tenure with the franchise.
In December 2017, Thomson was hired by the Phillies to be their bench coach and he had served in that capacity ever since.
“It has been a frustrating season for us up until this point, as we feel that our club has not played up to its capabilities,” said Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in a statement. “While all of us share the responsibility for the shortcomings, I felt that a change was needed and that a new voice in the clubhouse would give us the best chance to turn things around. I believe we have a talented group that can get back on track, and I am confident that Rob, with his experience and familiarity with our club, is the right man to lead us going forward.”
Thomson was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in 2019.