Diamondbacks Original: Junior Noboa an Integral Part of Club’s Latino Presence

By Jose M. Romero

Three months removed from retiring from playing professional baseball, Junior Noboa got an office job. Or so it started out, when the native of the Dominican Republic arrived to find only three other co-workers on the floor of a downtown Phoenix building leased by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It was Noboa — the new MLB franchise’s first international hire as special assistant to the general manager — and two of his bosses, Diamondbacks original general manager Joe Garagiola, Jr., and former scouting director Don Mitchell. Plus, the assistant for Garagiola and Mitchell.

“That was the beginning of the Diamondbacks organization,” Noboa, reached at home in Santo Domingo recently, recalled.

Noboa was just 31 years old at the time, September of 1995. Once a Cleveland Indians top infielder prospect, he played parts of eight seasons with six different organizations. Because of all of the places he’d played and connections he’d built, there were many job offers when he retired.

A friend of Mitchell’s recommended him to Arizona. Noboa turned down offers to be a minor league manager, coach or scout with other teams to work for the Diamondbacks.

“I really had lots of friends with the different clubs,” he said. “So those teams offered me jobs.”

Now the Vice President of Latin Operations, he completed his 25th season with the Diamondbacks. His is a year-round job.

“Signing with the Diamondbacks was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” Noboa said. “I have had the opportunity to go from zero. We had the opportunity to sign a (Latino) player to his first professional contract with the Diamondbacks. I had the pleasure to have signed that player and those players.”

As Director of Latin American Operations, Noboa helped the team sign well-known players such as Vladimir Nuñez (Cuba), Jose Valverde (Dominican Republic), Vicente Padilla (Nicaragua), Erubiel Durazo, Oscar Villarreal and Jorge De La Rosa (Mexico), Carlos Gonzalez — the one many have come to know as ‘CarGo’ — Gerardo Parra, Miguel Montero and Ender Inciarte (Venezuela) to Diamondbacks contracts.

In that capacity, Noboa was in charge of scouting and player development for the Diamondbacks in Latin America. He has built lasting relationships with so many players.

“On Father’s Day, Miguel Montero, Valverde, Padilla, Parra, they give me a call. That’s a blessing,” Noboa said.

If a player with major upside was on the D-backs’ radar, Noboa prepared a tryout and briefed personnel from the club’s front office who came down to see the player.

More recently, Noboa has taken on a more supervisory role. He oversees Arizona’s Dominican academy, which this year had enough players for two full teams.


Noboa doesn’t have as many duties nowadays, but he’s still busy. When a new year begins, he’s serving as general manager of Tigres de Licey of the Dominican Winter League. Then it’s off to the Diamondbacks’ minor league facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., for minor league spring training, and a chance to reconnect with players he has watched move on from the Dominican academy.

If it’s a World Baseball Classic year, Noboa helps put the Dominican team together and has been a hitting coach and first base coach in the WBC.

From there it’s back to the D.R. to oversee the academy and guide the organization’s Latin American prospects. The club is building a new facility, scheduled to be completed in 2020 or early 2021 in Boca Chica. The U.S. minor league season starts in April, and Noboa, by season’s end, will have traveled to visit Latino players and coaches in such places as Rookie League Missoula, Mont., and short-season Class A Hillsboro, Ore., to see how his former academy players are doing in the U.S.

“We now make it more easy for those kids, because those coaches and managers that are going to be assigned to Montana, they come to the D.R. and they spend some time here at the academy with our young players,” Noboa said. “Future players that might go and play in Montana, Arizona, Indiana, so that way the player feels more like part of a family.”


Much like a college football recruiter, Noboa was once the guy who had to go to a player’s home and sell the idea of playing in the D-backs’ organization to his family. It wasn’t easy in the early years, with the Diamondbacks just starting out in business.

The team started its original Dominican academy at a college field in Santo Domingo in 1996. It built its minor league system up before the major league team debuted in 1998.

“What I used to tell the family was this is a brand new organization, so it’s going to be better for your son if he signs with the Diamondbacks, because it’s a new team and you’re going to have a chance to probably play in the big leagues quicker than any organization that already has 120-200 players,” Noboa said. “I used that as a way to see if I can sign the player easily.”

The minor league system is stockpiled with players Noboa has shepherded in the Dominican, the hub where virtually all Latin American youngsters the team signs begin their baseball lives before some make it off the island. Those players have helped D-backs minor league teams win championships in recent years.


There’s more to the academy. With the support of managing general ownership partner Ken Kendrick and president and CEO Derrick Hall, a strong educational component is a staple of the Dominican facility.

After an evaluation determines how much education a player has, players are given laptops to use for studies. The laptops go where the player goes so he can stay connected with teachers at the academy.

“There’s no excuse for any of them not to finish high school,” Noboa said. “If one of those kids gets released and he needs a few more years of classes, we pay for it. If that kid wants to continue their education, we pay for it.”

Noboa believes the Diamondbacks are the only MLB organization to offer further education to undrafted Latin American players signed and released. College scholarships are also available.

Offers have come to work elsewhere, but Noboa says he’ll remain a Diamondbacks employee.

“After D-backs, no mas.” he said. “I really feel like that’s my family.”

Featured Image: Chase Field (Twitter)