Former Chattanooga Lookouts manager Phillip Wellman was driving around Red Bank on Thursday afternoon, gazing out at the snow in every direction.
The start of baseball season seemed a long way away.
"Two to four inches?" Wellman said. "Yeah, right."
Baseball actually begins today for Wellman and his wife, Montee, as they experience the climate jolt of flying to Tempe, Ariz., the spring-training site of the Los Angeles Angels. Wellman will spend the upcoming months managing the Class AA Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League.
This will be the third Double-A managerial job for Wellman, who guided the Lookouts for four seasons and the Mississippi Braves for four as well. Wellman led Mississippi to the 2008 Southern League championship, which was a year after his memorable ejection tirade at AT&T Field.
Wellman spent the past three seasons as hitting coach of the Springfield (Mo.) Cardinals, the Double-A affiliates of the St. Louis Cardinals who won the Texas League title in 2012.
"I'm extremely excited, and I feel like managing is where I belong," Wellman said. "The Angels called and asked the Cardinals for permission to talk to me, so it's always nice to be wanted."
The only drawback to Wellman's new role is that he has to leave his Red Bank residence after four months. The Wellmans had just started developing relationships after joining Stuart Heights Baptist Church, and they were even getting used to snow, something he witnessed just twice in the 25 years he spent growing up outside San Antonio.
Wellman managed the Lookouts during their final season at Engel Stadium in 1999 and again from 2001 to '03. He often told people that he wouldn't mind moving here some day.
"I know he's always loved it here," Lookouts owner Frank Burke said, "and I would like to think that the way people treated him here during his managing career is why. It's a nice reflection on the fans of Chattanooga that somebody like Phillip felt so comfortable that he wanted to move."
The change in location has the Wellmans closer to their children. Daughter Britnee is a teacher at Paul Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., while son Brett is a senior at Auburn-Montgomery.
Mississippi's '08 championship is one of Wellman's career highlights, though it pales to his enjoyment of developing players. As Mississippi's manager, he helped advance first baseman Freddie Freeman, right fielder Jason Heyward, starting pitcher Kris Medlen and closer Craig Kimbrel.
"When they sent Kimbrel to me, I was told that he was either going to save the game or he was going to lose it but not to take him out of the game," Wellman said. "He didn't know that's what I was told to do, and when he got his first save, he struck the first guy out, walked the next two, struck the next one out and walked the next one. He had the bases loaded with two outs and went full count on the last guy before blowing him up with about 99 [miles per hour] for strike three.
"He was just so thankful for me sticking with him, but he didn't know that I didn't have the option."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.