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New Manager Billy McMillon Ready To “Push the Envelope” with the PawSox

PawSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg, Billy McMillon & Red Sox VP of Player Development Ben Crockett (left to right) Photo Credit: Louriann Mardo-Zayat

The PawSox take on Syracuse Friday, April 12 at 6pm on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

There is so much turnover in a Triple-A clubhouse that often the team’s personality and public persona follows the lead of the manager.

Enter Billy McMillon, the new keeper of the managerial flame for the Pawtucket Red Sox. McMillon replaces Kevin Boles, who is now managing in Double-A Binghamton after guiding the PawSox for five seasons (2014-18).

“Going to Triple-A, he’ll get a chance to round out his experiences and make an impact at that level,” said Ben Crockett, Red Sox vice president of player development.

PawSox principal owner & chairman Larry Lucchino added “I think he’s just what the doctor ordered. The Red Sox are very high on him. He’s going to be terrific.”

The 47-year-old McMillon now gets his shot in Triple-A after spending the previous three seasons as Boston’s minor-league outfield & baserunning coordinator. His journey through the Red Sox farm system started in 2008 as the hitting coach of Low-A Greenville. He made his managerial debut in 2010 with the same Greenville team before moving to High-A Salem in 2012 and Double-A Portland in 2014.

“He’s been in a bunch of different roles and had different experiences. He’s been a really successful manager from a win-loss standpoint but more importantly from a player development standpoint,” said Crockett. “He impacted a lot of the major-league players who were prospects under him and who helped us in last year’s World Series.”

Billy McMillon, Photo Credit: Louriann Mardo-Zayat

Along those lines, McMillon’s previous managerial stints in the minors saw him guide and mentor a good number of contributors to the 2018 MLB champs. The list includes Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Christian Vazquez, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Robby Scott. McMillon also managed former International League home run champion Bryce Brentz, who rejoined the Red Sox organization this past offseason after spending last year with Triple-A Las Vegas.

“I can’t say enough good things about Billy,” said Brentz. “We had a great relationship and I’m looking forward to picking up where we left off.”

Even though he’s coached at other levels in the minors, McMillon at last week’s PawSox media day, said he understands why Triple-A baseball is held in such unique regard.

“For some guys, this might be it. For others, they may go on to enjoy long and luxurious careers in the big leagues. We’re going to try to do everything we can to help each and every one of them reach their individual potential. All of these guys are one phone call away from the big leagues,” McMillon said. “In a best-case scenario, the guys will play well, everyone will mesh, and the product will be one that fans are excited to see.

“If they do their part, they’re going to create major-league value,” said McMillon about the primary creed of his new position, which is to enhance the profile of the PawSox ballplayers. “Hopefully I can develop players who are mentally and physically able to contribute to a team that’s playing in October.”

In compliance with moving to the front lines of the Red Sox minor-league system, McMillon will be tasked to foster an upbeat clubhouse culture in the face of frequent player movement and keep the major-league staff abreast of the inventory pool that will be dipped into whenever the need arises.

Billy McMillon, Photo Credit: Louriann Mardo-Zayat

“The Triple-A staff has a strong voice regarding potential call-ups and major-league readiness,” said Crockett. “It’s definitely a different role, but I know he’s excited to get back into the dugout. He’ll have the chance to impact guys at the Triple-A level and help to mentor guys who will undoubtedly be helping us to try to repeat at the big-league level.”

A 2019 inductee into the International League Hall of Fame, McMillon was playing in Triple-A Charlotte in 1996 when he found out he had been called up by the Florida Marlins to make his big-league debut. A fan actually told him between games of a doubleheader, but McMillon waited for official confirmation from Charlotte manager Sal Rende.

“At that point, it was the best feeling that I ever had in my life,” said McMillon, who spent parts of six seasons in the majors. “To know all the hard work and sweat you put into this … it’s beyond words. You can’t really describe it.”

Now, McMillon finds himself in a similar position as Rende. As manager of a Triple-A outfit, he could be telling Red Sox prospects like infielder Michael Chavis or relief pitcher Travis Lakins that for the first time in their respective careers, they are bound for the big leagues.

“That first time … I want to make it all about them,” said McMillon. “You want to tell them to continue to do the same stuff that got them up there and hopefully that allows them to have a long career as a result.”

Asked to sum up his managerial style, McMillon offered “Generally, I’m aggressive and like to push the envelope. Hopefully I won’t get too many guys thrown out at the plate, but it’s about mimicking what they do at the big-league level. Hopefully there’s a lot of excitement created where guys are running around and reaching their potential, which I can’t stress enough.”

As an up-and-comer, McMillon played at McCoy Stadium. He always enjoyed the local custom of fans seeking autographs by dangling soda bottles in front of the dugouts.

“Now I have to work on my autograph a little bit,” said McMillon with a slight laugh, a sign that he’s ready to embrace his new reality as Pawtucket’s skipper.

The PawSox take on Syracuse Friday, April 12 at 6pm on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.