Oct 31, 2022 - Sports

3 wins away from title, Phillies manager not in Kansas anymore

Phillies manager Rob Thomson holds up a bottle of champagne in the locker room after his team clinched a playoff berth.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson is the toast of Philly and his alma mater, University of Kansas. Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images

From the Liberty Bell all the way to Lawrence, Kansas, a large contingent of people are rooting for Phillies manager Rob Thomson to bring a slice of history to Philadelphia.

Why it matters: After spending most of his baseball career in relative obscurity, the former University of Kansas baseball standout shot to fame this season at the helm of the Phillies, who look to win their first World Series title in more than a decade.

Axios spoke to Thomson's former coach and one of his teammates at the University of Kansas about what led to this big moment.

Flashback: Thomson toiled for nearly three decades as a coach with the New York Yankees, but was passed over in favor of Aaron Boone when their manager role opened up five years ago.

  • "He wasn't a name. Sometimes they're looking for that splash," Lee Ice, who coached Thomson at KU in the 1980s, told Axios.

Yes, but: Thomson isn't bitter about how things turned out.

  • He claimed during a recent podcast appearance that the Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman made "the right decision" in picking Boone.

Of note: Thomson still holds Kansas' record for best single-season batting average of .443, set in 1984.

  • Ice recalled the normally reserved Thomson as being a little more vocal in his college days, especially whenever KU played rival Missouri.
  • "They knew your girlfriends' names. They were pretty abusive," Ice said of the student superfans at Missouri who did their smack talk homework. "Rob took it to them pretty good."

Both Lee and former KU teammate Joe Heeney, who remains close friends with Thomson to this day, told Axios Thomson isn't fazed going up against baseball legend Dusty Baker. They said he'll do everything in his power to put his team in the best position to win the series.

Yes, and: They're proud to see him enjoying the fruits of his labor.

  • "I couldn't be happier for Rob. It just couldn't happen to a better baseball guy," Heeney said.
  • Added Ice: "I get chills right now when they show a glimpse of Rob in the dugout. He's always an inning ahead, two hitters ahead."

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