After 13 seasons as the Gateway Grizzlies’ manager, Phil Warren is stepping away from the dugout for a promotion to Grizzlies vice president of baseball operations.
Warren won more than 600 games as the Grizzlies’ skipper. Only Fran Riordan, a Frontier League Hall of Fame manager who led four different clubs over 13 seasons on the circuit and now manages the Las Vegas Aviators (Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s), and Southern Illinois Miners boss Mike Pinto have won more games in the Frontier League. Warren also helped slug the Grizzlies to the 2003 Frontier League championship in the first of his three seasons as Gateway’s first baseman.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years as a manager — life kind of told me that it was time,” Warren said. “As I move into the second half of my life, I realized it was time for me to give more of my attention and energy to my family and other areas of my life at home, which the travel and demands of professional baseball make difficult. There are not many things other than baseball that I love, but they deserve to be prioritized too. Baseball will always have a place in my life and I’m excited to maintain a role with the Grizzlies and have more time to devote to running the Grizzlies Baseball Academy with Darin Kinsolving.”
All three of Gateway’s division titles have come with Warren on the roster as either a player or manager, including the Grizzlies’ West Division championship in 2007, Warren’s first season at the helm, when they won a franchise-record 64 games for a staggering .688 winning percentage.
“Phil Warren is interwoven throughout the history of the Gateway Grizzlies,” Grizzlies managing partner Rich Sauget Sr. said. “The level of stability, continuity, and professionalism that Phil brought to the playing field is rare at any level of professional baseball and we are thankful for his service as both a player and manager. Phil has dedicated himself to helping our club reach its full potential since he first became a Grizzlie in 2003. We are proud and excited to retain his expertise as vice president of baseball operations and look forward to watching the talent he will help put on the field at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in 2021 and beyond.”
Warren’s managerial tenure also included signing and developing right-handed pitcher Trevor Richards, one of only two players in Grizzlies history to go on to Major League Baseball. Richards, an Aviston, Ill., native who did not have a single NCAA Div. I offer out of high school and starred instead at Div. II Drury University in Springfield, Mo., pitched for Gateway in 2015 and 2016 before he was signed by the Miami Marlins. Richards climbed the rungs of the Marlins’ minor-league system in only a season and a half en route to starting 25 games on the mound for Miami in 2018. Richards has appeared in 64 career big-league games (52 starts) over the last three years, the second half of that stretch with the Tampa Bay Rays after they acquired him in a trade midway through the 2019 season. In total, 28 Grizzlies have signed with MLB organizations since Warren became manager in 2007.
“Phil has devoted his life to baseball,” Grizzlies general manager Steve Gomric said. “He was a leader in the clubhouse long before he was our manager. In 2003 I remember Phil coming in at noon to work on his swing. He spent an hour hitting off of a tee on the hottest and most humid day of the summer. That is the work ethic and attention to detail that he brought to the Grizzlies clubhouse as a player and as a manager. I am excited for Phil to bring that same tenacity to his role as vice president of baseball operations.”
As a player, Warren spent six seasons in the Frontier League — the first three with Chillicothe and the latter three with Gateway. He clubbed 45 home runs as a Grizzlie, including 23 big flies in 2004, when he hit .314 with a .957 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Prior to his professional career, Warren starred at Southeast Missouri State, where he helped lead the RedHawks to their first-ever Ohio Valley Conference title and NCAA regional in 1998. Warren and his 1998 teammates were inducted into the SEMO Athletics Hall of Fame.
There have been 19 seasons of Grizzlies baseball and Phil Warren has spent 16 of them in Sauget. No one has worn a Grizzlies uniform for more games than No. 17.
“I was an undrafted free agent when I signed in the Frontier League in 2000 and came to Gateway three years later,” Warren said. “Much of my maturation, not only as a player and manager but as a person, happened in a Grizzlies uniform. There are so many hats you wear as a Frontier League manager — mentor, ambassador, baseball and life coach, role model, almost family member. I want to thank every player who suited up for me the last 13 seasons; without them, none of this would be possible. The professionalism of the Grizzlies’ organization has been top-notch from the first day I arrived, even if the team offices were in a double-wide trailer! I became a man here — learning from the Saugets, [Frontier League commissioner] Bill Lee, Steve Gomric, [former Grizzlies general manager] Tony Funderburg, and [former Grizzlies manager] Danny Cox — and the organization has developed alongside me into something truly special.”
“As your career goes on as a player, and certainly then as a manager, you come to understand the importance of the fans and that we’re ultimately in the entertainment business. We have passionate baseball fans in the St. Louis area — a place where I grew up and where my family and friends have gotten to watch me play and manage — and they’ll stick with you through thick and thin. All I wanted to do was get them up on their feet. I’m deeply grateful to those many people — both inside and outside of the organization, especially my parents Phil Sr. and Sandy, my wife Sarah, [former Grizzlies pitching coach] Randy Martz, and [Grizzlies hitting coach] Darin Kinsolving — who have supported me throughout my Grizzlies tenure and to the Sauget family for the impenetrable loyalty they have shown me for so many years in giving me the opportunity to play and manage this game I love. I walk away from the dugout with no regrets.”
Gateway’s next manager will be announced next week.
The Grizzlies’ 96-game Frontier League schedule will begin May 27 at GCS Credit Union Ballpark against the Florence Y’alls and run until Sept. 12, including a home game on the 4th of July to conclude a seven-game homestand and the Greatest Night in Baseball on Sept. 5. Gateway’s promotional schedule will be published soon.
Frontier League debuted in 1993 and is the largest of the Major League Baseball Partner Leagues, featuring teams stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River to the St. Lawrence Seaway. More information and the complete 2021 schedule can be found at frontierleague.com.