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Rob Thomson is kind of a big deal back home, as the first Canadian-born manager to take a team to the World Series.
Family and friends north of the border tell him “everybody’s behind us, it’s a big story, and that’s great.”
Still, Thomson’s focus is deep in the heart of Texas, where his Philadelphia Phillies — the team he took over as manager in early June — play the Houston Astros in Game 1 on Friday night.
“I mean, it’s great. I’m a proud Canadian and I love my country. I love what we stand for,” he said Thursday, after the team’s workout in Houston. “But to tell you the truth I’m just happy to be managing a team in the World Series.”
A crew that was 22-29 when Joe Girardi was fired and replaced by Thomson, the bench coach with a even-keel demeanor who would rather be talking about baseball than himself, though the game and the 59-year-old baseball lifer are pretty much intertwined.
“He’s been fantastic. He’s more than you could even ask for. What he’s accomplished, he’s just brought us together. He’s provided a steady hand,” Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said. “He’s very knowledgeable, he’s low key. But he also, if you don’t do something well, he’ll let you know about it in his own fashion. He communicates so well, and he leads so well.”
Thomson, a native of Sarnia, Ont., was still the interim manager when the regular season ended, but that tag was removed and he got a two-year contract through 2024 after their first playoff series triumph since 2010.
While Thomson is a first-time World Series manager, this is the fourth different team Dombrowski has been with at the World Series.
Dombrowski was the youngest general manager in baseball history at the time when he took over the Montreal Expos in 1988 at 31 years old. He joined the expansion Florida Marlins in 1991, two years before their first game, and was the chief architect of their 1997 World Series championship. He was GM in Detroit when the Tigers went to the 2012 World Series, and part of Boston’s last title in 2018.
This isn’t the first World Series for Thomson, who spent 28 seasons in the Yankees organization. Ten of those seasons were on the big league staff with Girardi and included New York’s last World Series and title in 2009.
The Phillies are back in Houston, where they clinched their wild-card spot with a 3-0 victory over the Astros on Oct. 3 in Game 160. They went 65-46 after Thomson took over.
“If anybody knows Rob, he’s the most even-keeled guy out there. He never gets too up. He never gets too down. I feel like that’s our team,” Phillies Game 1 starter Aaron Nola said.
Thomson could become only the third big league manager to win a World Series after being a midseason replacement. The others were Bob Lemon with the 1978 Yankees after replacing Billy Martin, and Jack McKeon taking over for Jeff Torborg during the Marlins’ 2003 title run.
Dusty Baker, the 73-year-old manager in his second consecutive World Series with Houston, doesn’t really know Thomson. But the veteran manager looking for his first championship got a congratulatory call from him after Houston clinched the AL title, only hours after Philadelphia had wrapped up the NL crown.