Last week, we introduced you to Josh Liebenow, who’s in his first season as clubhouse manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
In part two of a two-part series, we were able to pry Liebenow away from his primary mission of cleaning uniforms and scrubbing the dirt off cleats just long enough for him to talk about the memories he’s accrued from a decade-plus in his current line of work. Before coming to Pawtucket, Liebenow spent from 2006-18 as the visiting clubhouse assistant for the San Diego Padres.
When you’ve spent the bulk of your adult life involved in baseball, you’re bound to have a story or two. Let’s get to know Liebenow on a more personal level before the latest load of laundry is finished.
Brendan McGair: You grew up in a small town in South Dakota and moved to San Diego when you were 21 so you could attend San Diego State. How did you become involved with the Padres?
Josh Liebenow: Usually when you get into baseball, you have some sort of connection. I didn’t have one. The Padres had a job fair. They had a list of jobs you could apply for. When I started with the Padres in 2005, I worked in event operations … pregame ceremonies and setting up [Petco Park] for special events. The next year, there was an opening in the visiting clubhouse. The bosses in my department recommended me to the clubhouse manager. Next thing I knew, I got the job.
BM: Was working in a baseball clubhouse the line of work you envisioned for yourself and making a career out of it?
JL: Growing up a baseball fan, everyone has those aspirations to someday work in baseball. I never actually thought I would break in, but it happened. After the first few years in San Diego, it just kind of carried on. The rest is history.
BM: You saw a lot of good players come through the visiting clubhouse at Petco Park.
JL: Barry Bonds was there the first two years I started. I saw Dave Roberts when he was a player with the Giants; now he’s the manager of the Dodgers. Pretty much every major face in baseball has been though that visiting clubhouse. I saw Hank Aaron and Willie Mays prior to heading out for a pregame ceremony. I saw Trevor Hoffman when he was with the Padres before he came through with the Brewers.
BM: Speaking of great players, Petco Park played host to the 2016 MLB All-Star Game.
JL: The way it worked, San Diego got the game even though it was supposed to be in an American League city. The National League was the visiting team that year, hence I had all the guys that I pretty much knew already.
BM: Giancarlo Stanton won the 2016 Home Run Derby at Petco Park. The next day at the All-Star Game, you received an unusual request.
JL: He won the derby and got the big trophy. He wasn’t in the All-Star Game, but he had a suite at Petco. I was asked to hand deliver the trophy to Stanton; he had yet to receive it. I walked it up through the corridor. You can imagine walking past the fans with the Home Run Derby trophy. It was a surreal experience. People were side-eyeing me and asking, “Is this the real home run trophy?” I didn’t want to draw too much attention, but I got to the suite just in time for the F-15 flyover that took place after the national anthem.
BM: One of the Red Sox players who appeared in the 2016 All-Star Game in San Diego was shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who you got to know when you handled all the clubhouse duties for the Netherlands team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
JL: We started in Seoul, Korea and ended up making it to the semifinals, which were in Los Angeles. I got to know Xander pretty well. [Yankees shortstop] Didi Gregorius was also on that team. Hensley Meulens [bench coach with the Giants] was the manager of the [Netherlands] team. [Hall of Famer] Bert Blyleven was the pitching coach. [Former Atlanta Braves Gold Glove-winning outfielder] Andrew Jones was the bench coach.
BM: What were some of the factors that led to you becoming the PawSox clubhouse manager?
JL: It was strange how things worked out. My girlfriend (Jennifer) moved to Boston a few months out prior to me getting hired. She was starting an MBA program at Boston College. At the same, I was trying to figure out a way to move up in baseball. I didn’t want to be an assistant the rest of my life and options were limited with the Padres.
BM: Before becoming principal owner and chairman of the PawSox, Larry Lucchino was president/CEO of the Padres. Lucchino is good friends with David Bacharach, the Padres’ visiting clubhouse manager.
JL: David told Larry that if your clubhouse job is open, my guy Josh could probably slide in there and do pretty well. I had a few conversations with Larry and by mid-January, I was here. Everything fell into place. I got to be closer to my girlfriend and run my own clubhouse.
BM: From a player standpoint, what has been the most noticeable difference going from the majors to Triple-A?
JL: On the visiting side in the big leagues, you really don’t get to build that much camaraderie with the guys. Usually, they’re in and out after three days. [In Pawtucket], you get to know them on a personal level, especially the guys who are here every day. It’s unique but it’s definitely nice.