PHILADELPHIA — It didn't hit Bo Porter entirely until he could hear the emotion in his wife Stacie's voice over the phone. A major league managerial job, one of only 30, belonged to him.
Then his 4-year-old son, Bryce, piped up. "Daddy," Bryce said from the family's home outside of Houston. "We have a new team. And the hat has a star on it."
Porter, the Washington Nationals' third-base coach, was named manager of the Houston Astros on Thursday, accomplishing a career goal and, making it that much sweeter, getting to move home to do it.
"He's a good man," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, whom Porter called "a godsend." "I'm happy for him. I hate to lose him. He's a big part of our success here, and he's a really good baseball man, but it's a great opportunity for him. It's going to be a good challenge, and I think he's the right man for the job."
Porter will not take over the worst team in baseball until the playoff-bound Nationals' season has run its course.
He was understandably elated Thursday. The cameras swirled around him in the visitors dugout at Citizens Bank Park in a manager's session before the manager's session. But that is the last time he said he will address the topic, and his mind is squarely on the task at hand.
"My focus is on the Washington Nationals and our quest to win the World Series title," Porter said. "I don't want this to be anything that distracts from what we're doing here. We have a chance to really do something special.
"I will miss [everyone in Washington] tremendously. Right now, all I really want for Christmas is one thing: a World Series ring."
Porter's selection not only means the Nationals will have to fill their third-base coaching job, a spot that could be filled from within with Triple-A manager Tony Beasley one of the main candidates, but that one of the prime candidates to succeed Johnson is now unavailable.
Along with bench coach Randy Knorr, Porter had been seen as a front-runner take over as manager when the day comes that Johnson steps aside. All signs point to that day not coming anytime soon.
"We brought him in here and he was a manager prospect," said general manager Mike Rizzo, who took the somewhat unconventional step to grant Porter permission to interview for and accept the position despite being under contract with the Nationals for the rest of the year.
"We tried to surround Davey with as many manager prospects as possible so he could mentor them and hopefully we have good internal candidates if and when we need to make a decision on that. [But] I'm not disappointed. I'm really happy for Bo. We lost a good team member, a good family member and a guy that we'll miss."
Porter had interviewed for several managerial jobs before this one, including twice for the Marlins and once for the Pirates. But the Astros targeted him after Brad Mills was fired Aug. 18, and they were aggressive in their pursuit. After his initial interview Sept. 13, Astros scouting director Mike Elias flew to Washington last week to follow up with Porter. The entire front office and ownership came to Philadelphia on Wednesday morning to finalize what sources said was at least a three-year deal. The Nationals absorbed the news Thursday, most of them happy for the opportunity afforded Porter.
"I think he's perfect for the job," said outfielder Bryce Harper.
But they acknowledged the void his departure would leave.
"[I told him] 'In a very short time you'll be making progress, and everybody will be happy,'" Johnson said. "When you take a last-place club, your expectations aren't very great, but when you show improvement year to year, which I'm sure he will, it's a great challenge. It's an ideal situation. He's lucky. He can sleep in his own bed. That's a wonderful opportunity for him."
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Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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