BY JAMES COOK
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — In an instant, the Traverse City Beach Bums are without a manager.
Gregg Langbehn, who has guided the Beach Bums for the last five seasons, was offered and accepted a position this morning with the Cleveland Indians at the Major League level.
Langbehn will serve in a new role for the Indians as the entire league embraces expanded usage of instant replay. He'll be the franchise's Major League Replay Coordinator.
"It's a new experience with Major League Baseball with the replay system that is going to be in place for this season," Langbehn said.
Langbehn was the 2012 and 2013 East All-Star team manager.
Langbehn started with the Beach Bums in November 2008 after managing in the Houston Astros organization. During his five seasons as manager of the Beach Bums, he compiled a 267-212 record. He coached more games and has won more games than any other manager in Beach Bums history, while leading the team to three playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2010 championship series. In 2012, Langbehn led Traverse City to the club’s best season and the third most wins in Frontier League history with a 64-32 record. That earned him Frontier League Manager of the Year honors.
"I'm truly looking forward to the challenges of the replay system that is in place," Langbehn said. "It's going to constantly evolve and be fun and exciting for Major League Baseball."
Major League Baseball’s 30 clubs unanimously approved expanded instant replay during the Jan. 16 owners meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
Managers will have at least one challenge to use. If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, the manager will retain the ability to challenge one more play in that game. Once the manager has exhausted his challenges during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the crew chief may choose to use instant replay on any reviewable call. Home run and other boundary calls will remain reviewable under the procedures in place last season.
"My job is to make sure that I give the information to Brad Mills, the bench coach, and Terry Francona, the manager, that a play may or may not have been missed and let them know if it's a challengable situation and whether to go ahead and issue the challenge," Langbehn said. "In the NFL, they have the little red flags. I don't think MLB has quite come up with what they're going to do for a challenge situation; that will be addressed during spring training."
"It's a new system and nobody really knows how to do it yet. That's going to be part of the instructional learning process during the course of spring training, to figure out what to do. From everything I've been told, it sounds like the system itself is user-friendly. There's going to be a number of monitors and cameras and speeds you can look at the play and make your decision."
Langbehn said he was approached about the job by Indiana advance coach Alex Eckelman, who was a hitting coach under Langbehn in 2007 for the Houston Astros' Class A Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League.
He'll be with the team at home and on the road, and said the position could eventually involve other responsibilities as well.
“I'm excited," President and CEO of the Traverse City Beach Bums John Wuerfel said in a press release. "Anytime a player or one of our coaches’ moves on it’s a real compliment to both our organization and the area. We sincerely thank Gregg for the job he’s done over the last five years and we part ways as friends."
Bench coach Dan Rohn, infield/hitting coach Matt Pulley and bench coach/general manager Jason Wuerfel remain on the staff.
"They're in good hands," Langbehn said of the Beach Bums. "You've got Dan Rohn and Matt Pulley and John, Leslye (Wuerfel) and Jason. I spoke with all of them individually today. I let Jason know how much I enjoyed and appreciated working with him. For five years, he's done a fantastic job of finding players. And it's up to the staff every year to whittle it down to 24 every spring. I can't thank him enough. It was a really fun experience for five years. From what I've seen, the roster coming into spring training is as good as any roster we've had. There's still a number of spots to be filled, but I was excited and looking forward to the season. There's some good pieces in place, despite the number of players we lost. That's a credit to Jason. He's diligent in what he does and he's aggressive."