GENEVA – New Kane County Cougars manager Butch Hobson navigated the club’s Jan. 27 Meet the Diamondbacks Party with the same colloquialism that’s defined his extensive baseball past.
Acquaintances of Hobson assure fans they’ll embrace the approachability of the 18th manager in Cougars history when the Midwest League season opens at Northwestern Medicine Field on April 6.
Still, umpires may experience another side of the man born Clell Lavern Hobson Jr. from time to time.
“He’ll put a show on about five times a year for you,” said Joe Klein, executive director of the independent Atlantic League team and a former major league general manager. “‘Now, Butch. Calm down.’ He’s very animated.”
Hobson, 65, forever will hold his hand up there, having known no other speed throughout a nomadic career. From 1992 to 1994, he held one of the most grueling jobs in baseball – manager of the Boston Red Sox – and was Boston’s third baseman for parts of six seasons in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
After a 16-season sojourn as an independent league manager, Hobson is back in affiliated baseball for the first time in more than two decades, primed to capitalize on another opportunity.
“I’ve still got a lot left in my tank, and I’m looking forward to taking some of this young talent and helping them develop their talent and preaching a winning attitude and everything else,” Hobson said. “I’ve been doing it a long time and I love it, and I don’t want to do anything else.”
When the Atlantic League’s Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers announced they were not retaining him for a seventh season in 2017, Hobson quickly turned to a vast network of contacts. He relied on the same support system to get a job in independent ball in 2000, four years removed from an arrest for felony cocaine possession while managing in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Hobson never was convicted of a crime in a case with several obscure elements, and completed community service.
Aware of the Diamondbacks’ frequent scouting of independent baseball, Hobson contacted Chris Carminucci, the organization’s independent league coordinator, this winter.
Carminucci consulted Diamondbacks farm director Mike Bell, and when Hobson heard that, he had a good feeling things might align with Arizona, the Cougars’ parent organization since 2015.
Bell’s father, Buddy, is a longtime friend and former playing contemporary of Hobson who now works in the White Sox front office.
“We’ve been internally talking about Butch for several years just because we have so many connections,” Mike Bell said. “He’s a guy you kind of gravitate toward, and on top of that, hearing my dad talk about him, he says that Butch is the toughest person he’s ever been on the field with.”
A backup quarterback under legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant during the early 1970s, Hobson incorporates the icon into his clubhouse approach without donning a replica of Bryant’s famed houndstooth cap.
Most Midwest Leaguers are embarking upon their first full seasons of professional baseball, and Hobson believes his players can only benefit from the kind of outside-the-lines tutelage Bryant happily dispensed to him.
“I mean, he knew only one percent of us were going to go to the NFL, and I definitely was not in that one percent,” Hobson said. “I think me being able to share life experiences, good or bad, with the young players, I would hope that’s a big part of what the Diamondbacks see in me because it’s a big part of the game.”