Galesburg native Jim Sundberg talks baseball and his new book

Matthew Wheaton

Jim Sundberg served multiple roles with Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers from 2004 to his retirement in 2014. The Galesburg native was the team’s executive vice president, communications and public relations, executive director to the president, and director of business development.

A graduate of the University of Iowa where he was an All-American, Sundberg retired as a player at the end of the 1989 season after a 16-year career with the Rangers, Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Chicago Cubs. He is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and won six Gold Glove awards in his playing career.

Sundberg is also a member of the Galesburg High School Athletic Hall of Fame and the field on which the Silver Streaks play carries his name. Matthew Wheaton conducted a question-and-answer session with Sundberg ahead of the release of the former MLBer’s latest book “50 Day Legacy Playbook,” which should be released at the end of next week.

What have you been doing to stay busy since retiring?

“Writing and being a grandparent.”

How often to you get back to Galesburg?

“Usually at least once a year, sometimes two.”

You’ve been retired from your role as the Rangers’ senior executive vice president since the 2014 season ended. Are you still involved with the team?

“I do very little for the organization other than a few appearances.”

How many games have you seen on average per year since retiring?

“I see 5-6 games a year with grandkids.”

Are any of your grandchildren playing baseball?

“I had one grandson who was playing up until last summer, but he decided to let baseball go and not play. I’ve got four grandsons and none of them will be playing college ball. I’m OK with that, because I’ve watched a lot of baseball. About five years ago, my daughters had me figure out how many games I played in or watched and it’s probably just short of 6,000. It counts amateur in uniform, amateur watching, the pros and watching grandkids. I’ve seen enough games.

“I also broadcasted for six years.”

How do you think MLB should return from the coronavirus pandemic? What would your plan be?

“I think there is so much misinformation about the pandemic. Of course, I’m also in Texas, and we’ve had a little different perspective than a lot of places. You can go into Walmart and all these other places, but you can’t wear a mask and go to a game, and I think you should give people the option.

“For me, I’m one for let’s start in July and have people come. If they want to wear a mask then let them wear a mask. Whatever they have to do to feel comfortable.

“I heard from a pretty reliable source that it’s going to be the end of July, if they actually get it worked out. They may need all of June to get it discussed, signed and delivered.

“There will be about 50 games, and I guess they’ll be in select sites.”

What’s your biggest concern about a shortened season being played?

“I think there are going to be more injuries than normal due to lack of full spring training. Performance will be off for both pitchers and hitters.

“There are going to be players that just don’t do well. There are some players that rely on a full season in order to get started and going. With a 50 game schedule, there could be a lot of players that just don’t do well.”

Should MLB rosters be expanded for this season?

“I’m sure they are thinking of a lot of different things and having a larger roster could maybe help, as far as injuries, but they are fighting financial. If they expand the Major League roster then it’s going to be considerably more money at the Major League level. I think they’re already struggling financially.”

What do you think about players balking about prorated salaries?

“Part of the game, everyone has had to adjust.”

Do you think robot umpires are part of the future of pro baseball?

“I hope not, it’s entertaining to see arguments.”

Looks like there will be no minor league baseball in 2020. How much did you learn while playing in the minors?

“I learned a lot about catching, hitting, travel, etc.”

How much will it hurt minor league players not having a season?

“I believe it will have a profound impact on baseball.”

There has been talk of eliminating some minor league teams, as well. Any thought on that?

“Does surprise me, but probably wouldn’t hurt to have fewer teams.”

What is the future of minor league ball? Are independent leagues going to have a bigger role and be the new avenue for players?

“There will still be minor league baseball and independent baseball will play little as it does now.”

Your first book, “How to Win at Sports Parenting,” was co-written with your wife, but your new book, “50 Day Legacy Playbook,” you wrote on your own. How different was that for you taking upon the task alone?

“I wrote this one on my own with a person who edited my work. I did create and sale nationwide at one time a product called Practice Planner. I really enjoyed the writing — discovered it’s a good avenue for me to communicate thought.”

What is “Legacy” about?

“Legacy is something that has always been important to me. It’s a 50-day devotional. It’s got 50 stories both personal and MLB stories. I did it in a devotional format, because my faith is important to me and I wanted to do something different from other books that are out there.

“I think the book will be really good for people that need encouragement. I’ve written it from a standpoint of expressing some of my mistakes and just trying to encourage people to keep going. If something happens then pick yourself up and keep going.”

What are two MLB stories in “Legacy”?

“One story is, I was sitting on the bench in Chicago — we were playing the Padres —and I was called into the game to pinch hit, and I really didn’t know the score, the number of outs, who was on base or what inning it was. They called me into pinch hit and I didn’t really put everything together until I got in the on-deck circle, and I realized we were behind 6-1. The bases were loaded. It was in the fifth inning and I had a miraculous at-bat and I ended up hitting a grand slam.

“The other story, I was in LA and people kept calling me Sandberg, and I just kept saying it’s Sundberg. Ryno was on the club. I just took it as getting us confused, and about the third inning I realized something was up, and I went into the bathroom and looked at the back of my jersey and it had Sandberg on it. (Rick) Sutcliffe had put Sandberg’s jersey in my locker.

“The way I communicate all the stories, I think is pretty funny.”

Any other books in the works?

“Yes, ’Land of Legacy.’ It’s an allegory, and I was actually writing the two books at the same time. I have basically written it, but I haven’t completed editing it yet. It should be out by Christmas.”

The Jim Sundberg file

Age: 69

Education: 1969 Galesburg High School grad; University of Iowa grad.

Parents: Howard (92, resides in Knoxville) and Shirley (deceased)

Siblings: Linda Beal (sister), Chuck (brother)

Wife: Janet

Children: Aaron (son), Audra and Briana (daughters); nine grandchildren

Resides: Arlington, Texas

Occupation: Author and motivational speaker


Background: Spent more than 30 years with Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers as a player, executive, broadcaster and minor league instructor. A catcher, Sundberg still holds the AL record for games caught in one season (155 in 1975). The three-time All-Star won a World Series with the Kansas City Royals in 1985.