Las Vegas – The Latino quartet strolled through the Mandalay Bay from all directions, taking circuitous routes Wednesday to the annual managers’ luncheon at the Baseball Winter Meetings. There’s a new resurgence with Álex Cora, Rick Renteria, Dave Martínez and Charlie Montoyo serving as skippers.
Cora, Montoyo and Martínez, a native of Brooklyn, have Puerto Rican roots. Renteria is a Mexican American from a suburb of Los Angeles. They stood out as the 29 current managers posed for pictures with their respective league’s managers Wednesday.
“For me, in this game there’s a lot of Latinos, former players that understand the game and get the game,” said Martínez, the only Latino manager in the National League.
“It’s good to see that we’re getting an opportunity now to be able to manage in the big league level.”
Latinos comprise nearly a third of the players in Major League Baseball, which has cultivated talent from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama and Mexico for decades. Organizations haven’t been quite as quick to duplicate that diversity when hiring Latino managers.
MLB actually was left without a single Latino manager when Fredi González was fired by the Atlanta Braves in late May 2016. That void wasn’t filled until the White Sox promoted Renteria from bench coach to manager after the 2016 season.
Renteria was the only Latino manager in the majors during the 2017 season. He welcomed Cora and Martínez into the fraternity last offseason.
Montoyo joined the group in late October when he was hired by the Blue Jays.
“I’m glad we’re getting an opportunity to manage in the big leagues,” Martínez said. “And it’s good for guys that want to manage that are Latins and have inspiration to manage.”
Much like González before he was fired by the Braves, Montoyo, 53, and Renteria, 56, inherited rebuilding projects. This is actually Renteria’s second rebuild.
He also managed the Cubs during the 2014 season before he was fired and replaced by Joe Maddon just as the youngsters were set to blossom enough for the organization to make a sustained playoff run.
Unlike his previous stint across town, though, Renteria has received more time to see the youngsters mature. He was given an extension after this season.
“You’re going to have a particular time in which you’re developing players and getting them to become those players that can win,” Renteria said. “And at the end hopefully I can get to that point and have success with these guys, do some winning and I can continue my career in a different capacity, as opposed to just bringing a lot of young men to fruition in terms of what they’re going to be capable of doing as a club.”
Conversely, Martínez and Cora inherited star-studded rosters when they were hired by the Nationals and Red Sox, respectively.
Cora, who at 43 is the youngest of the quartet, is on top of the industry as the reigning World Series champion. He didn’t just inspire the citizens of Puerto Rico this year.
He also gave hope to other Latinos in the industry who aspire to manage.
“It was awesome last year when it happened,” Montoyo said of Cora’s World Series run. “What happened in Puerto Rico with the storm and stuff, and then that Sunday that Álex Cora wins the World Series, that was an awesome time for the Puerto Rico people. So, yeah, it’s a great time for that.”
Cora has embraced his role as a trailblazer. He shared his World Series title with his beloved island and his hometown of Caguas in specific 13 years after Venezuelan Ozzie Guillén of the White Sox became the first Latino manager to win a title.
Cora is now focused on preparing for next season. He’s hungry for another World Series title. If he accomplishes that feat, he’ll be the first Latino manager to win multiple titles.
“I know repeating is tough,” he said. “But, like I said, it starts with the players. People are going to talk about hangovers and all that and the banquet circuit. It’s part of it. But they’ve been disciplined enough.”
It’s impossible to quantify how much Cora’s success will help open doors for future Latino managers, if at all. His success certainly cannot hurt, though.
If nothing else, Cora’s brilliant rookie managerial season reminds us how inequitable it would be to not have Latino managers in baseball.
“I don’t know how that happens,” Montoyo said of the lack of Latino managers during the 2016 season after González was fired. “Because Álex won, maybe I’ve got a chance. I don’t know why that happened.
“But I’m glad he did. So I’m going to try to do my best, because I’ll be thinking of all the people while I’m doing this job. I don’t know why it happens, but I’m glad it did.”
Featured Image: La Vida Baseball
Inset Image (Martínez): Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images Sport
Inset Image (Renteria): Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport
Inset Image (Cora): Jean Fruth / La Vida Baseball