Fireflies 2022 Coaching Staff Announced
COLUMBIA, SC - Today, the Columbia Fireflies, in conjunction with the Kansas City Royals, announced their 2022 coaching staff. This season will bring new faces to the Fireflies dugout as the 2022 Fireflies will be managed by former Major League coach, Tony Peña Jr. He was a member of the Royals' coaching staff for the 2021 season.
Peña Jr. will be joined by pitching coach John Habyan, hitting coach Jesus Azauje, assistant hitting coach Chris Nelson, bench coach Glenn Hubbard, athletic trainer Nevan Dominguez and coordinator of clubhouse operations Christian Andreas. Azauje, Hubbard and Andreas are all returning for a second season with the Fireflies.
"The Kansas City Royals are sending a world class staff to Columbia for the 2022 campaign," said Fireflies Team President, Brad Shank. "We are really looking forward to seeing what Tony and the rest of the staff can do with the exciting young players in the Royals' system."
The Fireflies new manager hails from Santiago, Dominican Republic and had a four-year major league career, including three seasons with the Kansas City Royals. Peña Jr. retired from playing internationally in 2017 after signing with both the Kansas City Royals and Olmecas de Tabasco of the Mexican League during that season.
It didn't take long for the former player to follow in his father's footsteps and start managing games. In 2019, Peña Jr. was named the manager of the Arizona League Royals. Prior to the pandemic-lost season, he was named the bench coach of the Omaha Storm Chasers and in 2021 he joined the big-league Royals' staff as a coach. His father, Tony Peña Sr., had an 18-year Major League career with the Pirates, Cardinals, Red Sox, Indians, White Sox and Astros from 1980-1997 before managing the Royals from 2002-05.
Returning hitting coach, Azuaje, has been a hitting coach for the Royals since 2015, working the last five years at the Class A level. Prior to that, he worked as a Latin American Field Coordinator for Seattle in 2012 and Los Angeles (Dodgers) in 2014. Azuaje spent six years with the Mariners. He managed the Arizona Mariners in 2010 and 2011, and served as the hitting coach for the Clinton LumberKings. Azuaje enjoyed a thirteen-year playing career that was highlighted by an Appalachian League All-Star season in 1993 and a Southern League All-Star season in 1999.
The veteran of the group is Hubbard, who has been in organized baseball since 1975 when he was drafted in the 20th round by the Atlanta Braves. Born on Hahn Air Force Base in Germany, Hubbard moved to California and then Utah as a high schooler before spending 12 years in the big leagues with Atlanta and Oakland. Some of his career highlights include winning a World Series in 1989, becoming a 1983 NL All-Star and tying a Major League record with 12 assists in a single game at second base April 14, 1985. After his playing career, the Georgia-resident spent 21-years coaching with the Atlanta Braves, including 12 seasons as Bobby Cox's first base coach from 1999-2010. In 2011, he joined the Kansas City Royals as an Infield Coordinator before a seven-year stint as the bench coach of the Lexington Legends. Hubbard moved with the Royals to Columbia as the bench coach for the Fireflies in 2021.
Habyan joins the team after an 11-year career in the Majors that began in 1985 with the Baltimore Orioles. Following his 348 Major League appearances, he began a 17-year career as a coach at St. John the Baptist High School in 1998. The Long Island native led the Cougars to five league titles and was named Nassau Suffolk Catholic High School Athletic Association Coach of the Year five times. Then, in 2015, he joined Hofstra as the pitching coach. During his tenure with the Pride, they set school records in team ERA in 2018 (3.59) and strikeouts in a season in 2017 (412).
The Fireflies are adding an assistant hitting coach for the first time in team history. Nelson was selected ninth overall by the Rockies in 2004 and was handed the third largest signing bonus in Rockies history at the time. He spent parts of five years in Major League baseball after breaking through in 2010 to replace Troy Tulowitzki, who had injured his wrist. Fans will remember him best for when he stole home to score the game-winning run against the Reds, capping off the Rockies' longest winning streak of the season.
Rodriguez is joining the Fireflies as the Athletic trainer, a role he worked in for the Surprise Royals in 2020-21 and at the Royals Dominican Academy in 2018-19.
Opening Night for the Fireflies 2022 campaign is slated for Friday, April 8 at 7:05 pm vs the Augusta GreenJackets. For more information on the Fireflies upcoming 2022 season or events happening at Segra Park, visit ColumbiaFireflies.com.
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