Schatzley's Standard Shines With Manager of the Year Award
Following a dominant regular season that culminated in the first playoff appearance in Rocket City Trash Pandas history, their on-field leader has been awarded with one of the Southern League’s highest honors. Major League Baseball announced in November that Trash Pandas Manager Andy Schatzley was named Southern League Manager of
Following a dominant regular season that culminated in the first playoff appearance in Rocket City Trash Pandas history, their on-field leader has been awarded with one of the Southern League’s highest honors.
Major League Baseball announced in November that Trash Pandas Manager Andy Schatzley was named Southern League Manager of the Year.
It was a humbling moment for the 38-year-old skipper, who earned the award in just his second professional season after over a decade in the college baseball ranks. Before he could take any credit for the award, Schatzley was quick to praise everyone around him for the accolade.
“I wish it was a Staff of the Year award. I’ll throw that out to Rob Manfred now. It should be a Staff of the Year acknowledgement. That’s much more indicative of what goes into this,” he said. “We’re talking about a staff of nine or ten. It’s a large operation with the staff and the affiliate there. It’s an indication of what everyone was able to accomplish. I am grateful for it, but I wish they would change the description of it.”
“That’s quite an accomplishment. I think he’s a great guy and a great manager,” said 2022 Trash Pandas pitcher Kolton Ingram. “What I like about Andy is that he demands respect in a very subtle way. He doesn’t micromanage, but he still keeps the group together and makes sure we’re going about our business the right way.”
“Andy being our manager and being so on top of his game with us and being open with us, that’s what led to our success,” first baseman Sonny DiChiara said. “It’s going to be hard for somebody to top the impact Andy had on me. He’s a different breed. He really cares for us.”
What the Trash Pandas accomplished in 2022 was remarkable. The team finished with the best record in the Southern League at 81-57, winning both the first and second half North Division titles. At home, the Trash Pandas were even better, finishing with 49 wins in 69 regular season games at Toyota Field for the most home victories in all of Minor League Baseball. According to manager, Trash Panda Nation was at the heart of the team’s success.
“What facilitates the most emotional attachment for me are the repeat faces, the people you see every night,” Schatzley recalled. “People with voices we hear every night. That’s what sticks with me and that’s a part of why our home record was what it was.”
You can't win postseason awards without the help of incredible people around you. 🤝— Rocket City Trash Pandas (@trashpandas) November 8, 2022
2022 Manager of the Year @Andy_Schatzley reflects on his memorable first season in Rocket City. 📽️ pic.twitter.com/GzaJTT3jKk
Born and raised in Arkansas, Schatzley spent eight seasons as an Associate Head Coach at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas before joining the professional baseball ranks in 2020. In his role at Harding, his duties included recruiting coordinator, hitting coach, infield instructor, and third base coach.
In 2020, he was set to manage Rookie-Level Orem before the pandemic cancelled the season. He finally debuted with High-A Tri-City in 2021 and posted a 43-68 record, with the pandemic and constant player movement proving tough obstacles for the Dust Devils. But in 2022, everything clicked for Schatzley and the Trash Pandas. The achievements of the team echo the sentiment from his former coworkers at Harding.
“During the eight and a half years Andy was a part of our staff, he set a standard for work ethic and preparedness that taught our players that those traits bring you success, not just in baseball but in life,” said Harding baseball coach Patrick McGaha. “His care and concern for our guys as people, not just players, was obvious and genuine. He’s an outstanding baseball coach but an even better person and we know he will continue to do great things in professional baseball.”
For Schatzley, the best part of the job isn’t wins and losses, it’s the pride in seeing the fruits of his team’s labor.
“Seeing people be rewarded for their work is the most satisfying. To see players rewarded and to be able to see guys accomplish things that they didn’t’ think they were capable of, that’s really special,” he said. “Also to be able to see staff members be rewarded for their work is equally as rewarding.”
Ultimately, the Manager of the Year award and the success of the Trash Pandas in 2022 was the culmination of an incredible amount of work from so many people. The final message from Schatzley is simply gratitude.
“I feel really grateful, more than anything else. I feel grateful to Michael (Wuertz), I feel grateful for Dann (Bilardello), I feel grateful and indebted to the players and indebted to our staff. Having the opportunity to be the one on the inside and be one that is benefitting, I really feel in their debt,” he said. “I feel grateful have had a chance to work in this industry at all, and to have a chance to manage is even better. To have a chance to manage in the Southern League is even better than that. And for us to have the year we’ve had and for them to put me in the same breath with others that have won this award, it’s undeserving.”
The Trash Pandas return for the third season in franchise history in 2023, with Opening Night set for Thursday, April 6 against the Chattanooga Lookouts.