In charge of everything
Former Dragon Luis Bolivar slides into a management position with the team
By Marc Katz
We are approaching 1,000 players who have appeared in Class A Midwest League games for the Dayton Dragons over the past 17 years, almost all of them thinking their careers would wind up in the major leagues.
So far, only about 80 of them have made it, a goodly number from a low Class A affiliation. There are plenty more to come.
The rest have gone on to do other things like you and me. A few of them have gone into coaching baseball.
One of them, former infielder Luis Bolivar, was named to manage the Dragons. He is the first former Dragons player to coach and the first to manage the team.
He will be joined by holdover pitching coach Derrin Ebert, plus Daryle Ward and Kevin Mahar as hitting and bench coaches.
You never know what you’re going to get from a manager or coach, just that they’re easier to get rid of than the players. And in the minor leagues, the coaching staff takes its orders from the director of development, or, as we in the media biz like to say, the farm director.
But a manager can set an attitude. In three seasons as hitting coach, Bolivar worked with teams that did not make the playoffs. Last year’s team posted a worst ever 47-93 mark.
The Reds justify those numbers by pointing to players that have made the big time from the area, and there have been some good ones.
Bolivar wants more.
“I hate to lose,” Bolivar says. “I like to win. We just need to play the game to win. That’s the mentality we should have.”
Bolivar is soft-spoken and tenacious. He signed with the Padres as a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop and played two years of rookie ball in the Dominican Republic, after which he was released.
A year later, he signed with the Reds as a player who could also play second and third.
At first, the Reds saw him as a utility player, and he didn’t play regularly with the Dragons. His batting average was mired in the .230s, but one year he did knock in 52 runs and steal 31 bases.
As he moved up, his hitting improved. Eventually, he made it to Class AAA, a step from the majors.
He never considered coaching.
“When I was playing, it never crossed my mind [to coach],” Bolivar says. He heads to spring training within the week, initially to help the organization as a whole before concentrating on his team. “All that was on my mind was to be a player.”
He had played parts of four straight seasons in Class AAA for the Reds and Braves, and was 29-years-old when he and wife Kelly–from Vandalia–had their third child.
Bolivar could have played independent league baseball, instead opting for more steady work as an electrician.
Then he asked the Reds if there was an opening.
Baseball franchises love to hire former players such as Bolivar, skilled at several positions, able to talk about hitting and fielding and other aspects of the game and be a good influence.
His first assignment was in rookie ball. His last three seasons were spent as hitting coach of the Dragons. He also managed some in last fall’s Instructional League.
His low-key approach comes with a hard-edged message: “I always try to encourage the guys. Keep working hard. Be ready. You never know. You can’t say, ‘I won’t make it because I have Joey Votto in front of me.’ Yes you can. You have to try.”
Bolivar thought of himself as a player, if not an every day major league player. He was successful at every level, but the ultimate call never came.
“My mind was, ‘I can still make it, I can make it,’” Bolivar says, recalling his 2010 season. He was 29 and in his last year as a player.
“I was healthy and I was playing well. Then I thought maybe it wasn’t for me to be a major league player. That’s when I started thinking about being a coach.”
As a coach, he began to be heard. Former Dragons Manager Jose Nieves put him in charge of infielders along with hitting duties. The Reds let him manage in the Instructional League. Last summer, Manager Dick Schofield let him coach third base the last month of the season.
“I like to communicate with the guys,” Bolivar says. “I want them to give me everything they have on the field.
“I can be a manager. I have to get my feet wet, work hard, and prove to them I deserve the opportunity to be manager.”
There is a difference being a manager and a coach, even at the Class A level. A coach is in charge of his area. A manager “is in charge of everything,” Bolivar says.
The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.