Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Giants' GM, scouting exec forged partnership in Concord
HIRED AS general manager of the Giants in 1996, Concord native Brian Sabean navigated through the Barry Bonds years and has now won two World Series titles, making San Francisco a model for success in Major League Baseball.
Right-hand man Joe Lefebvre, another Capital City product, serves as San Francisco’s senior advisor of scouting — and has been with Sabean in San Francisco nearly every step of the way.
Sabean, the longest-serving GM in the majors, began his organized baseball career at Rollins Park in Concord, in the 1960s, playing for Concord National in the city’s Little League circuit. Lefebvre played for Concord American and usually teamed up with Sabean on all-star teams and various summer clubs through their teenage years.
In the spring of 1974, when they led Concord High to an NHIAA title — a 6-1 triumph over Manchester Memorial clinched it — it was merely an early chapter in an epic work of baseball non-fiction.
Lefebvre became a 1977 draft pick of the Yankees and played more than six seasons in the majors.
The Sabean-led Giants have made six postseason appearances and three trips to the World Series, their most recent trip culminating Sunday night in Detroit, when their 4-3 victory gave them a sweep of the Tigers.
Nobody in the old Concord crew is a bit surprised at their success.
“We all knew Brian was a heady player. You could see it back then,” Mike Mounsey of Concord, a catcher on the 1973 squad, said. “He was an excellent team player and always got along great with people.”
Despite his stature in pro baseball, the 56-year-old Sabean manages to keep a low profile, rarely appearing in postgame interviews — unless he’s accepting a piece of postseason hardware or crediting his staff after another huge win. Only now is he finally receiving the national recognition he deserves.
“We keep a low profile as an organization,” Sabean, who broke into pro baseball as a scout with the Yankees, told MLB.com. “We know what we’ve done with our continuity. We’ve got a lot of people who have been in this organization for a long time, who have worked behind the scenes to put us in this position. We’re just thankful for this window of opportunity and just trying to take advantage of it.”
Behind the scenes, Sabean can be one of the funniest guys around. Old friends Mounsey and Tommy Flanders, another Concord guy, can vouch for that little-known quality.
“That’s Brian,” said Mounsey, whose daughter Tara won an Olympic ice hockey gold medal and son Mick played hockey for the University of New Hampshire. “Brian doesn’t say a whole lot, but when he does, it’s funny. Back when we were playing high school and (American) Legion ball, he made a quite a few friends in Manchester. He’s always been really good when dealing with people.”
In high school, Sabean played second base for up-and-coming coach Warren Doane. Lefebvre was a star pitcher and outfielder for the Crimson Tide.
“You can always tell the great ones right away. Joey was unbelievable at hitting and throwing a baseball,” Mounsey said. “Back in those days, we were always playing baseball. Joey always had the most talent. We knew he had the ability to play at the next level.”
After his playing career, Lefebvre began working his way to a front-office position by serving as a minor-league instructor for the Yankees and Phillies. He joined the Giants shortly after Sabean was hired in 1996, taking on roles as minor-league coordinator and hitting coach.
“Let me tell you, Joey wasn’t hired because he was good friends with Brian. He has a lot to offer,” said Mounsey. “Joey has done nothing but make Brian look good. Brian did a pretty smart thing by hiring him.”
Staff reporter Kevin Gray covers baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.