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Saunders takes job in Rays' front office

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- When his dream ended, his life began. The minute he broke the humerus bone in his left arm for the second time, Tony Saunders knew his days as a baseball player were done. All that remained was figuring out what to do for the next 40 years or so.

"In the very beginning, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I didn't know what direction I should go," Saunders said. "Personally, I wasn't planning on having to make a decision like this at age 26."

Tuesday, Saunders revealed his decision. The Devil Rays had assured Saunders he would have a place in the organization after his injury, and he accepted the offer when he was named an assistant to scouting and player development.

"There was no question in Tony's mind he wanted to be involved in baseball operations," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "This job will give him an outstanding opportunity to learn at the ground level in both departments under some tremendous people. This is going to help Tony decide very quickly what his career path will be."

Saunders, displaying the same cocksure sensibilities he brought to the mound with the Rays and Marlins, says he already knows his next career path. In 10 years, he wants to be a general manager.

He talked to the Rays about a coaching position. But he does not have the experience to work on the major-league level, and he did not have the heart to return to the minors and work his way up again.

Instead, Saunders will spend part of his time in the scouting department, evaluating amateur players before the June draft, then switch to personnel and work with minor-leaguers in development.

Saunders, 13-24 in parts of three major-league seasons, spent 15 months rehabilitating after breaking the arm while throwing a pitch against Texas in 1999. The comeback ended when the arm broke again in a Class A start a little more than two months ago.

Although his career fell far short of expectations, Saunders said he has been able to put it behind him. "The one thing that makes it easier for me is knowing there is nothing left out there," Saunders said. "I did everything I possibly could to come back. I laid every piece of meat out there, and I have no regrets. Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish I could still pitch. But I know I'll be able to go home and sleep every night.

"I can't think negatively. I've got a family I have to produce for. Nothing good is going to happen for me if I sit around feeling sorry for myself."

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