It was a rough season. Salina, a so-called travel team, plays only a handful of home games. Undermanned and underfinanced, the Stockade were 10-58 when Droddy stepped down as planned. In the visiting manager’s office at CHS Field before a recent game with the Saints, Droddy remained upbeat.
“Some people show their grandchildren; I’ve got to show you Milly,” said Droddy, pulling out his smartphone to flip through photos of his cheerful 8-year-old mixed-breed hound. “She’s a daddy’s girl. When I come, she jumps on me. I have to let her do it for a few minutes because I can’t get her off me. She loves kisses.”
Though Droddy took a nontraditional path to baseball, his law background is not unusual. A handful of major league managers have held law degrees, among them Tony La Russa, who has a degree from Florida State. But few actually practiced as lawyers, as Droddy did, or gave up lengthy military careers to do it.
Jesse Daryl Droddy (he pronounces the middle name as one syllable, like Carl) grew up in a small town in East Texas and joined the Air Force out of college. After leaving the service, he went to law school intending to be a small-town prosecutor, graduating cum laude from Harvard Law in 1989, in the same class as the former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
He changed course, however, when his Harvard credentials opened doors at large firms. One well-paying job in Portland, Ore., led to another in Louisville, Ky. Those, he said, were mistakes.
“I hated every minute of it,” he said. “I just didn’t enjoy the practice of law. I couldn’t figure out in some cases who disgusted me more: the other attorneys or my clients.”
He added: “Two or three times in my life I’ve accepted a job because of the money. All three times, I regretted it. I will never take another job because of what it pays.”
A one-year sabbatical appointment to a law school faculty in Oregon attracted Droddy to teaching. He earned a master’s and a doctorate in political science at the University of Kentucky, then taught undergraduate law classes at Western Kentucky University.
His career in administration — as the provost at Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minn. — lasted only two years. “That’s another one I took for money and regretted it,” he said.
With J. D. unhappy and with Judy urging him to retire, the Droddys moved to Alamogordo, N.M., an Air Force town. Amateur musical theater piqued J. D.’s interest, so he tried that. He also wrote a ballet.
“Once he gets an idea, he goes,” said Lynette Wedig, a frequent collaborator with Droddy on Alamogordo Music Theater productions.
Then baseball found him.
In 2011, when the Pecos League started in New Mexico, the Droddys served as a host family for three players from the White Sands Pupfish. The Pupfish’s coach, Justin Lowery, liked Droddy, and when Lowery was hired to manage the league’s team in Trinidad the next season, he brought Droddy along as his assistant.