By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Dave Roberts and A.J. Hinch are one win away from the biggest prize of their managerial careers but whoever prevails in the World Series decider on Wednesday, the pair are determined their friendship will not be tested.
Roberts’s Los Angeles Dodgers host Hinch’s Houston Astros on Wednesday in the final game of what has been a wild World Series, filled with everything from crazy rallies, close games and marathon battles.
“Obviously at the end of the night tonight, one of us is going to celebrate and one of us is going to be pretty upset,” Hinch said in a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s Game Seven.
“But I think the respect that we have for one another, the relationship and the bond that grows being first-time managers in the World Series will never go away.”
The duo played against one another in college, went on to major-league careers and then spent four years together working with the San Diego Padres, Roberts as a coach and Hinch as the team’s general manager.
It was in San Diego in 2011 that their friendship began as they hit it off immediately.
Roberts and Hinch shared a brief embrace last week before the best-of-seven World Series began but have not spoken since as they work toward taking care of business.
Even though each is focused on beating the other in the biggest game of the season, they say that the result of the best-of-seven series has not hurt their relationship.
“If anything, as close as we are, I think it’s probably brought us closer together,” said Roberts, whose Dodgers are seeking their first World Series crown since 1988.
“It’s not like we’ve talked throughout the series, but just for us to go through this together, obviously on opposite sides, I think that it’s something that will tie us together for a long time.”
Roberts’s Dodgers were favored entering the World Series after having posted Major League Baseball’s best record and then cruising by their first two postseason opponents en route to the championship round.
Houston, only four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, had just three fewer losses than LA and wield a powerful lineup chasing their first World Series title since the inception of the franchise 55 years ago.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for A.J. and his staff and the way that those guys play,” said Roberts. “Again, two best teams going at it, Game Seven, but we’ve got a great relationship.”
Hinch shares that mutual respect and knows an embrace awaits later on Wednesday after one skipper emerges from a champagne-soaked clubhouse and the other from a more somber room.
“We won’t leave the building without seeing one another,” said Hinch. “That’s what friends do.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Nick Mulvenney)