In many ways, David Newhan has been working his way toward Burlington for most of his life.
The first-year manager of the 2014 Vermont Lake Monsters, brings a unique baseball resume to the dugout. Newhan, 40, spent parts of eight seasons in the major leagues among five teams and put in even more time bouncing back and forth in the minors. He served as a minor league batting coach in the San Diego Padre organization the last three seasons before joining the Athletics, the parent team of the Lake Monsters, the short-season Single A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
All of this followed a childhood spent immersed in the professional game because of his father, Ross, one of newspapers’ giants who was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Now Newhan has come full circle, returning to the team that first drafted him in 1995.
“I think I’ve seen myself in this role for a long time,” Newhan said after arriving in Burlington in early June. “I think I’ve experienced everything and I think I have a lot to offer.”
Ross Newhan covered the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers for the Long Beach Telegram and LA Times in a career that spanned four decades. David was a constant presence at the Angels’ spring training facility in Palm Springs, serving as a batboy, shagging fly balls and working in the clubhouse.
“I’ve been around the game my entire life, not necessarily as a player’s son but the kind of the next deal with my Dad as a national sportswriter,” Newhan said. “I’ve seen the game for a long time from the professional standpoint.”
Newhan was a standout infielder for his nationally ranked high school team in Anaheim, Calif., but didn’t draw a single scholarship from a Division I college program. He went to junior college in 1992, moved on to a Georgia Tech team that included future major leaguers Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Jay Payton, then transferred to Pepperdine.
In two seasons with the Waves, Newhan batted .313 with 15 home runs and 71 runs batted in. Oakland selected him as an outfielder in the 1995 amateur draft.
Newhan never rose higher than the Single-A level with the A’s and wound up with the Padres, where he made his major league debut in 1999. What followed was a career marked by some memorable highlights overshadowed by injuries and the inability to find the right team at the right time.
The 2004 season with Baltimore was the apex of Newhan’s career. He hit .311 with seven triples, eight home runs, 54 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts. That came after he spent two years recovering from a torn labrum suffered in 2001.
Newhan’s first at-bat after coming off the injured list was a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning at Coors Field in Denver, a blast that traveled more than 435 feet.
New Vermont Lake Monster manager Dave Newhan played eight seasons in the major leagues and will always have a place in Boston Red Sox history because of one July night at Fenway Park in 2004.
Playing for Baltimore and with Pedro Martinez on the mound, Newhan clubbed a drive over Johnny Damon’s head that caromed off the center field wall. Damon ran it down and fired a relay toward shortstop but the throw made an intermediate stop.
Left fielder Manny Ramirez inexplicably intercepted Damon’s throw before tossing to the primary cutoff man. By the time that relay reached home, Newhan had an inside the park home run.
“First of all, I was just thinking, thank you that I was able to barrel something up and get a hit off Pedro,” Newhan said. “As it hit off the wall and ricocheted, I thought okay, this is going to be an easy triple.
“Then it turned into, ‘Oh my God, why is (the third base coach) waving me (home).’ The amusement and the amazement in the dugout was something that I’ll always remember.
“I didn’t really even see the play until I returned home that evening. I’ll always be in Red Sox lore and baseball lore. Maybe I can progress in my managerial career and be remembered for a lot more.”
But 2005 was a bust for Newhan and in 2006 he broke his ankle on an attempted steal. He spent brief stints with the New York Mets and Houston Astros before ending his playing career as a minor league player coach for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. His major league career numbers were a .253 batting average with 23 homers and 120 RBI.
“I hit .300 in the big leagues and I’ve also been sent (to the minors),” Newhan said. “I never experienced the opportunities of a first round (draft pick), but I have played just about every position, so I think I have a taste of a lot of different experiences.
Hopefully, I can do a great job of relaying that information (to his players).”
The Lake Monsters are transitioning from three years under a career minor league manager in Rick Magnante, who was promoted to Oakland’s Single-A team in the Midwest League after three summers in Burlington.
“Every manager you have is going to have a little different style and bring a little something different to the table,” said pitcher Jerad Grundy, one of six returning players from last year’s opening-day roster. “His style really works well with the guys we’ve got.”
Newhan worked with many of the Lake Monsters in extended spring training in Arizona the last two months. Now he sees his main responsibility as a muse and mentor.
“My job is to teach them the game from a professional standpoint and let them know what the Athletics want, what the Oakland organization expects,” Newhan said. “I think I have the ability to connect with the clubhouse as a player and create an atmosphere for everyone to thrive in. If you can do those things, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”