November 25, 2009 - South Atlantic League (SAL) - Lexington Legends
Rodney Linares grew up in a city renowned for its love of baseball, so Lexington Legends fans can take pride in his excitement about being appointed manager of the Legends for 2010.
Linares, who spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Legends as their hitting coach, was named manager November 16 when the Legends' parent club, the Houston Astros, announced the 2010 field staffs for their minor league affiliates. Linares managed the Astros' rookie Appalachian League team in Greeneville, Tennessee for the past three seasons. He will be joined in Lexington by hitting coach Stubby Clapp and pitching coach Travis Driskill.
"Rodney has gained an enormous amount of experience over the last several years as manager in Greeneville," said Ricky Bennett, the Astros' assistant general manager for player development. "His ability to lead and communicate will accelerate the development of our players as they come through Lexington."
Linares' appointment as Legends' manager came during a very busy period for him. He had just begun a new season as a coach for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League when the team fired its manager. Linares served as interim manager for three games just a few days before the Astros announced that he would manage the Legends in 2010.
The Estrellas club is based in San Pedro de Macoris, the city where Linares grew up and the hometown of more than 70 current or former major league players. He was born in New York, but Linares, whose father Julio has been a coach, scout and administrator in the Astros' organization since 1973, has lived in San Pedro, where his parents are from, almost all his life.
"I love it," he said of his Dominican home. "Baseball weather every day."
Current major leaguers join young up-and-comers on Dominican League rosters. Veteran Fernando Tatis of the New York Mets is playing for Estrellas, and Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs is on the roster, though he hasn't been able to play due to injury. Both are San Pedro natives. The managerial change early in the season is an indicator of the passion felt by Dominican fans for their teams. Linares describes the atmosphere for Dominican League games in terms every baseball fan will understand: "It's like the seventh game of the World Series."
Many players on the Legends' 2008 and 2009 rosters played for Linares in Greeneville, and though player assignments are not made until just before the regular season opens in April, the 2010 Legends will no doubt include several players from his 2009 Greeneville club.
"You're going to have a good group of kids," Linares said. "I think you'll have a pretty competitive team this year."
The Astros' top draft choice in 2009, shortstop Jiovanni Mier, is expected to be with the Legends in 2010. Count Linares among those who were impressed with Mier during his debut season with Greeneville.
"People like Jiovanni Mier don't come around that often - a kid at his age (Mier turned 19 in August) who can be a leader on and off the field," Linares said. "His maturity level is so 'up there' that I wouldn't be surprised if it takes him in the next two or three years to being a starting shortstop in the big leagues."
Lexington can't quite match the Dominican weather, but a new managing opportunity, a good experience as a Legends' coach and a strong fan base have Linares excited about returning to the Bluegrass as the Legends celebrate their 10th season.
"I love Lexington, love Kentucky, love the fans," he said. "It's a great town. I still talk with many of the people I met there."