The Washington Nationals formally introduced — make that re-introduced — Jim Riggleman as the team’s manager on Wednesday afternoon, removing the interim status he held since July.
The 57-year-old Rockville native, who grew up a Senators fan, called this his “dream” job.
“This has been a dream of mine, to land right here,” he said. “This is the team that I grew up watching, the Washington Senators. To me, it’s still the Nationals/Senators, it’s all the same. It’s Washington baseball. It’s the dream of a lifetime to grow up watching a ballclub and then to end up playing or managing for that ballclub. It just couldn’t end up better for me.”
Selected out of an initial pool of 18 candidates that was whittled down to several finalists — including former big league manager Bobby Valentine — Riggleman was selected despite never formally interviewing for the position. General manager Mike Rizzo saw all he needed during Riggleman’s three months running the club, during which time the Nationals posted a 33-42 record.
“He did what I thought was a masterful job in very trying circumstances,” Rizzo said. “He gave us a sense of balance, not only in the dugout but also in the clubhouse. We went back to the roots of the game, the fundamentals of efficient play with a big focus on pitching and defense and playing the game the right way. I thought that we had a very efficient, talented manager in-house.”
Terms of Riggleman’s deal were not disclosed — all parties were asked to sign confidentiality agreements — but the manager did receive a multi-year contract. He must now finalize a coaching staff — several members of this year’s staff are expected to be retained, but there will be at least a couple of changes — and then prepare to open his first spring training at the helm of the organization.
Those who played for Riggleman during the second half of the season were elated to see him get the job on a permanent basis.
“I think he did a great job,” said left-hander John Lannan, who attended the press conference Wednesday at Nationals Park. “I know personally I had a great relationship with him. And I’m looking forward to building on that. I’m just glad he has an opportunity to start pretty much from scratch.”