PHOENIX – It seemed surreal even to Torey Lovullo.
“Never did I ever think that I was going to be good enough, or I’d be a manager or be sitting in this seat and have this opportunity to say that I’m the National League Manager of the Year,” Lovullo said.
But it happened this week, capping an impressive rookie campaign with the Diamondbacks. He placed first on 18 ballots, second on five and third on six, a ballot that included the Colorado Rockies’ Bud Black and reigning N.L. Manager of the Year Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lovullo is the seventh manager to receive the honor in his first season and the third Diamondbacks manager to win it, joining Bob Melvin (2007) and Kirk Gibson (2011).
After becoming the team’s eighth manager on Nov. 4, 2016, Lovullo flipped the script from a 2016 Diamondbacks season that ended with a 69-93 record to a 93-69 one in 2017.
It marked the second-largest win difference in Major League Baseball behind only the Minnesota Twins with 26.
His 93 wins were the most by a Diamondbacks manager in his first 162 games, which is one more than Bob Brenly’s 92 in 2001.
The Diamondbacks finished in second place in the N.L. West and ended a five-year playoff drought.
“This is an organiztional thing is how I’m viewing it because without ownership, as strong as it is, without the front office and the relationship I have with them and without the coaches and players, I’m not sitting here,” Lovullo said.
When asked if any of his players had congratulated him, Lovullo said, “Paul Goldschmidt. I told him that I’m getting tired of congratulating him with texts because he’s won a couple of awards.
“He said to me, ‘Congrats, skipper. Well deserved. Please do not text me back.’”
Lovullo credited his wife, Kristen, and said, “There a lot of things that go on during the baseball season that nobody knows about. She’s the glue that keeps everyone together, whether it’s tickets, situations at school, paying the bills, things that I don’t have to worry about. … I just want to say thank you to her and having her be there to celebrate right as I got word was a very special moment I’ll never forget.”
Lovullo began his coaching career in 2001 as a minor-league infield coach in the Cleveland Indians organization before being promoted to manager of the Class A Columbus RedStixx in 2002.
He spent nine years in the minors before being named the first base coach of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010. Lovullo was brought in by John Farrell, with whom he had worked in Cleveland and Boston.
Farrell completed two seasons as manager of the Blue Jays, but after the 2012 season he was traded to the Red Sox. Lovullo followed Farrell and was named the bench coach of the Red Sox shortly after Farrell landed the job.
In 2015, Lovullo stepped in as interim manager after Farrell was diagnosed with lymphoma and need to complete chemotherapy. As interim manager, Lovullo lead the Red Sox for the final seven weeks of the season and went 28-20.
When Farrell returned as manager in 2016, Lovullo resumed his role as bench coach for two more years before his departure from Boston, when Mike Hazen was hired as the executive vice president and general manager of the Diamondbacks.
It didn’t take long for Hazen to bring in Lovullo, a familiar face he had spent time with in Cleveland and Boston.
The award, Lovullo said, “happens for some very special people that do special things. I guess with me being here right now and me in front of you guys as the award winner means that we had a good year.
“I’m very proud of that.”