Nationals name ‘Baby Shark’ as first base coach


WASHINGTON – Gerardo Parra – known as “Baby Shark” – will be the new first base coach for the Washington Nationals as part of a series of changes to manager Dave Martinez’s staff announced by the club on Friday after the fourth consecutive last place finish in the NL East.

Miguel Cairo will be Martinez’ bench coach and Ricky Gutierrez is moving to third base coach after holding the title of run prevention coordinator in 2023. Chris Johnson has been hired as assistant hitting coach.

Among the departures are hitting coach Darnell Coles, pitching coach Jim Hickey, catching and strategy coach Henry Blanco and bullpen coach Ricky Bones.

This is Parra’s first job on a major league coaching staff. After retiring in 2021, he began working in the Nationals’ front office in 2022. Parra played in the majors for 12 years and signed with Washington in 2019 as a backup outfielder. His choice of “Baby Sharks” as his walk-up music – a nod to his 2-year-old daughter – became a rallying cry for fans and players and the club won its first championship that season.

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Cairo, also a former player, was the minor league infield coordinator for the New York Mets last season. Before that, he was the bench coach for the Chicago White Sox for two seasons.

Coles, Hickey, Blanco and Bones enter their third seasons in these roles with Washington.

The Nationals did not renew the contracts of bench coach Tim Bogar, third base coach Gary DiSarcina, first base coach Eric Young Jr. and assistant coach Pat Roessler.

The Nationals went 71-91 in 2023 as general manager Mike Rizzo tried to rebuild their roster. In the National League, only the Colorado Rockies finished with a worse record this year.

​​​​​​Rizzo and Martinez received new contracts during the season.

Rizzo has been the team’s GM since 2007. He hired Martinez for his first managerial job before the 2018 season.

Vogt grateful for ‘dream job’ with the Guardians

CLEVELAND – Through the ups and downs of Stephen Vogt’s playing career – the minor leagues, two All-Star selections, injuries and too many moves to remember – he never lost sight of his goal of one day becoming a manager.

For the kid who had a bat in his baby basket and quickly fell for the game, the journey is over.

“I’ve always had the dream,” he said, “So today was a pretty fun day.”

A baseball player with a gift of gab, an engaging personality and an uncanny ability to connect with people, the Cleveland Guardians brought in Vogt on Friday, and soon zeroed in on him as their choice in the search to find a successor. Terry Francona, the winningest manager in club history.

And the same was true for Vogt, who after his initial meeting on Zoom calls with the team’s front office, felt that Cleveland was destined for him.

“I really felt a connection to the Guardians,” he said. “I thought, I want to be there.”

Dominican Winter Series gets a warm reception in NY

NEW YORK – Fans were in for a treat when a pair of Dominican Winter League teams met to start a three-game series at Citi Field. The weather was anything but.

More than 1,500 miles from their ballparks in the Caribbean, players from Águilas Cibaeñas and Tigres del Licey took batting practice before Friday night’s opener at the home of the New York Mets wearing hoodies and ski caps.

“I’ve been waiting for this day. It’s very special for me to return to this stadium,” said Águilas center fielder Juan Lagares, who played for the Mets from 2013-20 and won a Gold Glove in 2014.

A crowd of less than 10,000 was on hand for the first pitch at the 44,000 capacity ballpark. Tickets ranged in price from $47-$207 for the games, which are also scheduled for Saturday and Sunday afternoons, all exhibitions not included in the winter league standings. Saturday’s pre-sale was 31,000.

At a time of year when the ballpark is usually empty – the World Series finale was nine days earlier and the Mets last played on October 1 – it was 52 degrees (11 Celsius) at game time, 23 degrees below the bottom of the temperature in Santo Domingo.

“The weather is the biggest thing,” said José Offerman, a two-time All-Star who manages Tigres. “That’s going to be the hard part.”

“El Africano” Wilfrido Vargas was blamed during batting practice and DJ spun records between innings. Tony Peña, the five-time All-Star who took over as Tigres manager in the past week, removed his warm-up jacket to the neck.

About 50 people from each team came out of the heated dugouts to reach the false lines for an introduction, as if for the opening of the season, Águilas Cibaeñas in yellow and black and Tigres in blue and gray. The scoreboard marked the games as “Titanes del Caribe,” or “Titans of the Caribbean.” The Dominican national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed as a small Dominican flag was unfurled in the center of the field, and fireworks were set off. David Ortiz caught the ceremonial first pitch.

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