Late change works in new Connecticut Tigers manager's favor

Norwich — A long career in the minor leagues has taught Gary Cathcart to be prepared for anything.

Cathcart put his experience to good use when the Detroit Tigers organization recently made a late change to his minor league managing assignment, moving him from the Gulf Coast League to the New York-Penn League.

So instead of being in Lakeland, Fla., he packed and took the marathon drive earlier this week to Norwich, home of the Connecticut Tigers, who open the season on Friday by hosting the Lowell Spinners at Dodd Stadium.

"It doesn't happen very often," Cathcart said on Wednesday. "Obviously, this is really unique where an entire staff was changed from the one that was originally supposed to be here. You never see that.

"You just never know in the minor leagues. I've never had that (happen) this late, a little over a week before the season opener. But that's minor league baseball. You've got to be ready to do whatever the organization needs."

The decision worked in his favor.

Cathcart's new job brings him close to his home and wife in Bedford, N.H.

Plus, he's in familiar territory, having previously managed the Auburn Doubledays (2011-2015), a member of the New York-Penn League and visitor to Dodd Stadium. He also coached in the Eastern League for Class AA New Hampshire in 2008-09 during the days of the Connecticut Defenders.

"It's a blessing to be sent to a place that I am so familiar with as opposed to some place that I've never been," Cathcart said. "It couldn't have worked out any better considering the circumstances.

"As far as the baseball stuff goes, it's a very comfortable situation for me. Even though it's been a last minute turnaround to come here, I don't feel like I'm all jammed up and I've got to do so much in a short amount of time."

Learning his way around Norwich should be easiest than his trip north earlier this week.

Let's just say he ran into some bad luck.

"On top of the reassignment and the scrambling down in Florida to get up here, things didn't start off so well," Cathcart said.

His older car broke down in Orangeburg, S.C., forcing him to spend the day at a car dealership. When he found out it would cost him more to fix his car than it was worth, he had to figure out a way to get rid of it.

His wife came up with a plan to sign the car over to the dealer. So that's what Cathcart did. Then he rented a car to complete the remaining 15 hours of his journey.

"Some things you just can't make up," Cathcart said.

At least Cathcart doesn't have get to know his players.

Cathcart worked with the entire roster and coaching staff, including hitting coach Bill Springman and pitching coach Carlos Bohorquez, during spring training and extended spring training in Florida.

"I know these guys very well," Cathcart said. "Being new to the organization this year, to have spent the last three or four months with these guys will be a big help in how we go forward starting Friday."

He joined the Detroit organization after spending the last two seasons as the field coordinator for the Miami Marlins. His resume also includes seven seasons as hitting coach and manager in the Toronto Blue Jays system on the Class A and Class AA levels.

Catcher Sam McMillan, considered a top 15 prospect in the Tigers minor league system, is looking forward to playing for Cathcart.

"He's always coaching and he's full of energy and passion for the game," McMillan said. "As a player, that's a good thing to have on your team."

Connecticut general manager Dave Schermerhorn expects a big crowd for Friday's season opener. About 2,200 tickets were sold as of Wednesday.

"Every season is exciting, every season brings something new," Schermerhorn said. "It's hard to believe it's been nine seasons here as the Connecticut Tigers. Time flies when you're having fun, that's for sure. It should be a really great season."

g.keefe@theday.com

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