Casey Candaele began this season in his second year managing the Bisons and is ending it as interim bench coach of the Blue Jays, as they embark on what they hope will be a long playoff run.
I caught up with Candaele just hours before the Blue Jays took the field against the Seattle Mariners in Game One of their best-of-three Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
“I was walking around Des Moines, Iowa,” he said with a chuckle recalling how he was offered the big-league gig when the Bisons were on the road playing the Iowa Cubs. “It was about 11:30 I think. I was getting ready to go to the field and I just got a call from Schneids (Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider). He said ‘Hey, some stuff went down, do you want to come up and be the interim bench coach?’ I was like ‘Okay. Yeah! I’ll do it!’”
Candaele in the Rogers Centre outfield before the Blue Jays Wild Card Series. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Candaele has known Schneider since Candaele began working in the Blue Jays system in 2018.
“He had gotten the big league job (as bench coach) – I think I’d been here for one year,” he said. “But he had managed Vladdy and Bo and Bigg and a bunch of other players over here and known them all since they’d been in the system. I knew him from working with him in spring training and being at spring training on the big league side. I always respected him as a baseball guy and he’s been great to work with.”
He explained how he views the game through the same lens as a bench coach as he did when he was a manager.
“I mean you’re basically managing the game in your mind still,” he said. “But really just kind of trying to make sure you’re staying ahead of everything. The manager has to think ahead but also stay in the moment because of what’s happening. (As a bench coach,) I can get a little further ahead and kind of think of things that may take place. So you don’t have to be as much involved in the now. It’s just kind of trying to think along the same lines as what he might want to do later and give him those options and give him some reminders.”
He’s still the Blue Jays minor-league field coordinator and has stayed in touch with interim Bisons manager Jeff Ware and his staff.
“I try to stay in touch and talk to them as much as possible,” he said. “I’ve talked with Jeff and all the guys there. They handled the transition really well. They did a great job finishing out the season.”
Candaele was a coach for the Mariners before coming to the Blue Jays organization. As the Blue Jays prepared to take on Seattle in the Wild Card Series, Candaele said he still has many connections in the Seattle dugout.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys who I’ve worked with over there,” he said. “It was really good to see them. They did a good job this year.”
Candaele has been to the post season in the big leagues before, but doesn’t think he’s ever experienced anything like a playoff game at the Rogers Centre in front of a full house.
“I mean, I’ve been to the playoffs before with Cleveland when I was playing and I went to the World Series to watch when I was with Texas,” he remembered. “But not in an environment with 50,000 fans that are going to be going crazy. It’s really exciting to think about and I’m really fired up for it.”
He expressed how happy he is to be in the position he’s in right now – a bench coach on a playoff-bound major-league team, but also noted that he still looks back fondly on his time managing in the Queen City.
“It’s been great,” he said of his time in Toronto so far. “They’ve welcomed me in. I feel comfortable here. It’s a good group. I’ve known most of the guys – a lot of the players – and have gotten to know all of them now. So, it’s been a great experience. I couldn’t be happier. It’s been awesome.”
“I’m really happy to be here where I am, but I do miss being in Buffalo,” he said. “That experience was definitely great for my career. I had tremendous support from the Bisons staff, the fans, and everybody there. It was just a tremendous experience. I loved it there.”