Shortly after the Quad Cities River Bandits won the High-A Central League championship in September, manager Chris Widger suggested the players he worked with this season made his job "easy."
The work that Widger did in guiding Quad Cities to a league-best 77-41 record that included finishing the season with wins or splits in all but one of the 20 six-game series the River Bandits played did not go unnoticed.
On Tuesday, Baseball America named Widger as its national minor-league manager of the year.
The publication cited Widger’s leadership from start to finish as the River Bandits built the fourth-best overall record among baseball’s 120 minor-league teams, navigating a season filled with roster moves and challenges created by COVID-19 that had canceled the entire 2020 minor-league season.
The honor is the first for a manager in the 62-year history of the Quad Cities franchise and comes after Widger was selected by his peers as the manager of the year in the High-A Central League.
The 12-year major-league catcher earned the recognition during his sixth season of working for the Kansas City Royals organization and managing a team for the second time.
Widger guided short-season Burlington (N.C.) to a spot in the Appalachian League Championship Series in 2019 before managing a QC team in 2021 which moved into first place in the High-A Central’s West Division during the first week of the season and never relinquished that spot.
Many of the players on the River Bandits roster this year played for him at Burlington two years earlier and Widger credited them for the team’s success on and off the field.
In receiving the honor from Baseball America, Widger pointed out that Quad Cities did not have one positive COVID-19 test the entire season and that his players "did things the right way" on and off the field.
"In a year where things were different because of the pandemic, they made my job easy," Widger said at the end of the season. "They were very motivated and worked well together right from the start."