VIDEO: Columbia Fireflies unveil uniforms
When the Columbia Fireflies take the field for the first time in the spring, they'll have a familiar face at the helm.
The team announced Wednesday Jose Leger will reprise his role as the team's field manager. Leger led the squad's last incarnation in Savannah, Ga., a season ago.
“Leger is a fantastic manager,” team president John Katz said. “He gets more out of guys than most managers can. Even at a young age, he commands the respect of the players and they play hard for him every day.”
Team owner Jason Freier added, "He was the South Atlantic League manager of the year, so hard to do better than that.”
The coaching staffs are assigned by the Mets organization, and Leger is entering his seventh season with the team.
Leger led Savannah to first-place finishes in both halves of last season, which included a 19-game winning streak. The team finished 83-54.
He also has managed the Kingsport Mets in the Appalachian League and a summer league team in the Dominican Republic. A former player in the Minnesota Twins organization, the 33-year-old Leger was called up to help coach the major league squad at the end of last season.
He was not at the event at the South Carolina State Museum because he was with a Dominican League team.
His staff is rounded out with Jonathan Hurst as pitching coach, Joel Fuentes as hitting coach, Kiyoshi Tada as trainer and Alex Tavarez as strength coach.
Fuentes had coached in Savannah, holding both bench and hitting roles before spending a few years at a higher level. He also coached the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State league.
Hurst has been with the Mets for 11 seasons and lives in Spartanburg. He pitched in the majors for the Mets and Montreal.
Four of the five coaches are heading into at least their sixth season with the organization. The coaches will report to Columbia well before the players do.
On the ballpark front, Freier said the seats are currently being installed.
Things come together in only a few months, and while all the coaches have been with the Mets for a while, they’re always shifting and reassembling as a staff, much like the team they’ll eventually lead.
“There were guys that needed to be promoted after last season,” Katz said. “So we don’t have the same staff we had last year, but ... there are so many good coaches in the Mets minor league system.”
The team also debuted its four jerseys, using area high school baseball stars to model them at the press conference. The set included a midnight blue batting practice jersey and a bright green alternate.
Present at the press conference were five of the six winners of the “Name the team contest.” All had suggested "Fireflies," which won out among a crowded field. The group included John Baker, Will Bryan, Ernest Dowdy, Jeremy Gilbert, Rob Grookett and Lisa Wilcox, though Dowdy was unable to attend.
All received a 12-game ticket package, jersey, hat and a framed certificate from Mayor Steve Benjamin.