Throughout the history of Major League Baseball (MLB) there have been countless iconic international players. Ichiro Suzuki from Japan, Roberto Clemente from Puerto Rico, and Miguel Cabrera from Venezuela, just to name a few. Featuring players from across the globe, MLB teams are a plethora of cultures, skillsets, and approaches to the game.
MLB is a truly global league, but no foreign country seems to play a bigger role than the Dominican Republic. In 2020 alone, there were 110 Dominican MLB players. Some, like Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis, Jr., and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., have solidified themselves as the game’s brightest young stars, garnering attention for their fantastic play and passion for the game.
In brainstorming how to feature the greatest Dominican ballplayers, we first tried to come up with the all-time starting nine, but that was far too difficult to narrow down. Instead, we tried to come up with a 25-man roster, but even that couldn’t do the topic justice. As a result, we created a 40-man roster, complete with a coaching staff and front office, and “Tomorrow’s Team,” featuring the players, coaches, and front office members whose stories are not yet completely told. In this five-part series, we’ll cover the best Dominican players to ever put on the uniform, divided into five categories: infielders and catchers, outfielders, pitchers, coaching staff and front office, and “Tomorrow’s Team.”
(For this list, we decided to limit our selection to the players who spent a majority of their formative years in the D.R. As a result, players of Dominican heritage that were raised in the U.S., like Alex Rodriguez and Manny Machado, will be left off this list.)
Still have you hooked, don’t we? Well, why don’t we look at this coaching staff and front office full of baseball wizards?
Manager: Felipe Alou
Who better than the first Dominican manager to manage our all-time team? Historical achievement aside, Alou was a fantastic skipper who oversaw some fantastic Montreal and San Francisco teams.
After retiring in 1976 from an excellent playing career in which he appeared in over 2,000 games in 17 seasons and earned All-Star honors and MVP votes in three seasons, Alou joined the Montreal Expos as a bench coach and hitting coach, beginning a long career with the Canadian franchise. Throughout the years, he was a steady presence in the dugout, even turning down the chance to manage San Francisco in 1985 out of loyalty to Montreal. It would pay off for Alou, as he was promoted to skipper in 1992 to become the first Dominican-born manager in MLB history.
Managing a young core, including his own son (and fellow all-time Dominican team member) Moises, Alou became the most successful manager in Montreal history, leading the Expos to the best record in MLB in 1994… although a players’ strike would eventually eliminate any chance for the Expos’ first World Series. Despite this, Alou would be named National League Manager of the Year, and stay with the Expos for seven more seasons, posting a .491 winning percentage. Alou would later coach the San Francisco Giants, leading the crew to 100 wins in 2003.
A skilled manager with an intense loyalty to his crew, Alou is absolutely the right choice for this group.
Bench Coach: Tony Peña
A staple of the New York Yankees for twelve seasons, Pena was a fantastic manager and coach, serving multiple positions and helping several young stars.
After retiring from his standout career as a catcher (five All-Star games, four Gold Gloves over 18 seasons), Pena began his coaching career in the Pacific Coast League before landing his first MLB gig: managing the long-suffering Kansas City Royals. In 2003, he led the club to their first winning season in nine years, winning American League Manager of the Year in the process. After a few lackluster seasons, however, he would join the New York Yankees as their first-base coach.
Between the 2006 and 2017 seasons, Pena was a critical member of the Yankees’ coaching staff, helping New York win their 27th World Series in 2009 and helping coach the likes of Jorge Posada and Gary Sánchez behind the plate. While coaching the Yankees, he would return to the DR in 2013 to manage the national team in the World Baseball Classic, featuring many members of this list. Under his guidance, the team went undefeated, winning eight games to capture the title.
An important mentor with a deep knowledge of the game from years behind the plate who is a staple of several organizations – including the Dominican National Team – Pena is an asset on any bench.
Hitting Coach: Manny Mota
A coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers for 33 years, Mota was one of the most beloved members of the organization, helping the club win two titles in the 1980s and working with several storied Hollywood hitters.
After joining the Dodgers in 1969 as a versatile veteran outfielder, Mota appeared increasingly less for the Dodgers as the years passed, often entering games as a clutch pinch-hitter and getting on base with his patented chop swing that frustrated opposing pitchers and defenses. Despite his declining skills, the Dodgers kept Mota’s bat available off the bench for 13 seasons, last appearing as a hitter in 1982 at age 44, when he had already transitioned directly from player to the team’s hitting coach. Despite one All-Star appearance in 1973, Mota was most valuable to the organization as their hitting coach, helping the club win the World Series in 1981 and 1988.
In 33 years as the hitting coach, Mota oversaw the critical hitting development of sluggers like Mike Piazza, Kirk Gibson, and his eccentric Dominican protégé, Pedro Guerrero. For his efforts, Mota was elected to the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2003 – 10 years before his retirement. Beyond his work with current players, Mota also founded the Manny Mota International Foundation, getting disadvantaged youth in the Dominican Republic resources and assistance.
For his hitting help and even more off the field, Mota is a Dominican figure that this team could not do without.
Pitching Coach: Bill Castro
Santiago de los Caballeros
A longtime stalwart of the Milwaukee Brewers’ coaching staff, Castro holds one of the more important legacies among Dominican coaches – as a result, he gets a promotion for this list from Bullpen Coach to head Pitching Coach.
After playing ten seasons for the Brewers, New York Yankees, and Kansas City Royals from 1974-1983, Castro would rejoin the Brewers in 1992 as the team’s bullpen coach. He would serve in that role for an impressive 17 seasons, working under seven different managers. In 2009, he was finally promoted to pitching coach, becoming the first Dominican to hold that title. Castro oversaw a steady ‘pen for Milwaukee, with All-Stars like Dan Kolb, Bob Wickman, and fellow Dominican Francisco Cordero under his watch. While the Brewers were largely a non-contender for most of Castro’s career, they did make a splash in 2008, clinching their first postseason appearance in 26 years.
Castro, however, deserves more recognition than just his MLB career, serving as the pitching coach for the Dominican team in the 2006 and 2013 editions of the World Baseball Classic. In the latter, the pitching for the squad was dominant, winning nine straight games and allowing just 16 runs. Being the most accomplished Dominican pitching coach at the Major League level, there is nobody more qualified than Castro to be the man to guide the talented all-time Dominican pitching staff.
Third Base Coach: Manny Acta
San Pedro de Macorís
A manager for the Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians and third-base coach for the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, and currently with the Seattle Mariners, Acta is a seasoned professional who has coached at almost every level and has earned praise for his positive influence on young talent, including players like Ryan Zimmerman, Shin Soo Choo, and fellow Dominican Carlos Santana.
First coaching in Single-A in the Houston Astros organization in 1993, Acta quickly gained attention for his dedication, skill with developing talent, and ability to create a winning culture, including managing the Kissimmee Cobras to a Florida State League Championship in 1999. After earning his keep for ten seasons in the minors, Acta was hired as third-base coach for the Expos, coaching for the team for three seasons, before leaving to join Mets, helping the team reach the NLCS in 2006.
Following his time as a third-base coach, Acta garnered attention for his ability to hone young talent, a large reason behind his hiring as manager for the Nationals. During his first season in 2007, Acta received NL Manager of the Year votes for his efforts with an injury-plagued core and young team, winning 73 games. In addition to success at the MLB level, Acta is a prominent figure in the Dominican Winter Leagues, coaching the potent Tigres del Licey to the title and Caribbean Series in 2004; today, he serves as the general manager of the Estrellas Orientales, who won the league championship in 2019.
Acta currently serves as the bench coach for the Seattle Mariners, where his positive impact is seen on all levels.
For his dedication to the game at all levels, as well as his ability to encourage players to new heights, Acta has earned his spot in the third base coach’s box.
First Base Coach: Juan Samuel
San Pedro de Macorís
A three-time All-Star, as well as a Silver Slugger winner in 1987, Samuel was known well for his speed and power during his playing career; however, he makes our list for his work as first-base coach for the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, and Philadelphia Phillies, coaching for 18 seasons.
Known for his power and aggressive style at the plate, Samuel had gone on record of saying “You don’t walk off the island. You hit.” Samuel’s playing style was intense and aggressive; in 1983, he set a record for steals in a rookie season with a staggering 72 and led the NL in triples with 19. With his playing experience, Samuel was a perfect candidate to coach first base, helping runners execute proper steals and when to go for extra bases.
With the Tigers, Orioles, and Phillies, Samuel helped coach All-Star speed demons and aggressive baserunners like Odúbel Herrera, Chase Utley, Adam Jones, and Brian Roberts – who also led the AL in stolen bases in 2007.
A member of the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame and a Phillies legend, Samuel deserves recognition for both his play and fantastic work with different organizations.
Bullpen coach: José Lima
Santiago de los Caballeros
Okay, okay. Lima technically was not actually a coach, but his impact on several different organizations and his love for the game make it impossible for us to leave him off this list. We just had to have “Lima Time” in our clubhouse!
Known for his singing and dancing on the mound, Lima was also a formidable foe to face down when at his peak. Going 16-8 in 1998 and winning 21 games in 1999, Lima was a pitcher with dominant control over the strike zone, walking just 32 batters in 1998. While he struggled with consistency year to year, Lima became a fan-favorite for several organizations, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, helping them win their first playoff game in 16 years in 2004 after posting a 13-5 record for the club.
Lima, however, was more known for his passion for the game and life. His starts – and his persona in general – were called “Lima Time,” as they were such a spectacle to see. The exuberant performer who intended to have a second career as a musician would dance on the mound between batters, hold lengthy celebrations post-game with hugs and fist pumps galore, and often flamboyantly celebrate strikeouts. On days he wouldn’t start, he would patrol the crowds with a t-shirt gun and sing along with fans. He was truly an uplifting clubhouse presence, and brought the love of baseball everywhere he went.
Unfortunately, Lima passed on May 23, 2010 due to cardiac arrhythmia at the age of just 37. One can only imagine what he had left to give to the game and his community…which is why he makes this list.
Bullpen catcher: Ozzie Virgil Jr.
Dominican American on his father’s side
A two-time All-Star and son of the first Dominican MLB player, Virgil is a veteran presence that could definitely bolster any roster.
First drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976, Virgil made his MLB debut in 1980 and quickly became a regular catcher for the Phillies, and was named an All-Star in 1985 and 1987. Following an eleven-year career, he retired in 1990, and would return to baseball with the Golden Baseball League in California, coaching the Surprise Fightin’ Falcons of Arizona.
Virgil makes our list for his steady presence behind the plate and for his family’s contributions to the game- his father, Ozzie Virgil Sr, was the first Dominican MLB player, and coached his son to become a great ballplayer just like himself. With his experience and leadership, any bullpen would consider him an asset.
Scout: Pablo Cruz
San Francisco de Macorís
A legendary Latin America scout, Cruz was a pioneer of finding and developing young talent… even forcing his employer to invent a new title for his unique skillset.
After playing for 14 years in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system – he was a decent player, but his infield position was locked up at that time – the team gave him a choice to manage in the minors or scout in Latin America. Cruz chose the latter in order to be with his family, and headed the department of “sports psychology,” a title for scouting and developing talent and a nod to his ability to find what makes players “tick.”
Psychology was a perfect term for Cruz’s scouting methods, as he believed that “99 percent” of the game was mental, and wanted to help his players “get the fire inside.” In 22 years as the head Latin American scout for the pirates, he signed 50+ big leaguers, including Tony Peña, Moises Alou, Rafael Belliard, Aramis Ramírez, Pascual Pérez, Jose Guillen, and José De León. He worked as a scout and father figure for the Padres, Expos, Nationals, and Mets before becoming an official father figure and workin for his son Ismael with the Blue Jays.
Cruz’s fingerprints are all over the current MLB landscape, with his family and other protogees serving in international roles at teams like the Dodgers, Red Sox and more. Ismael Cruz – who serves currently as international scouting director with the Dodgers – helped bring in Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. to Toronto.
Editor’s note: Check out this fascinating article about Cruz in Sports Illustrated!
Scout: Epifanio “Epy” Guerrero
You can’t talk about Dominican scouting without talking about Epy Guerrero. Guerrero, a lifelong scout, was also responsible for the signing of over 50 MLB players from the Dominican Republic, including several on this list.
While his brother Mario enjoyed a respectable eight-season MLB career, Epy Guerrero toiled in the minor leagues, before joining the Houston Astros as a scout, working in the Dominican Republic for the team. While there, he found the Astros some of the best untapped talent in the market, including Cesar Cedeño and Luis Sánchez, while also recommending they look into Cesar Geronimo. He quickly became a respected evaluator, and worked for the Yankees for three seasons before transitioning to his longtime team: the Toronto Blue Jays. With the Blue Jays, Guerrero uncovered and signed or advocated for some of the best talent in organizational history, including shortstop Tony Fernández, outfielder George Bell, and pitcher José Mesa of this list, and other talents such as Carlos Delgado, Dámaso García, and Alfredo Griffin. With Guerrero accumulating much of the talent, the Blue Jays won their only two World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.
Beyond the All-Stars, Guerrero was considered one of the most influential people in the game, and earned several recognitions for his efforts, including being named a lifetime consul of the Dominican Republic. The modern Dominican game certainly would not be where it is today without Guerrero, so he deserves to be here with the players he scouted and helped develop.
Scout: Ramon Peña
Santiago de los Caballeros
A third scout in our all-time front office with 50+ big leaguers to his name, Ramón Peña is responsible for stockpiling multiple MLB organizations with loads of Latin talent.
After earning his chops with the Kansas City Royals (where he signed Mélido Pérez as a young scout), the Detroit Tigers hired Peña to head up their Latin American scouting operation. Over 22 years with the Tigers, a couple with the New York Mets, and eight more with the Cleveland Indians, he created a rich pipeline of talent to the big leagues. In fact, Peña is responsible for scouting and developing a number of players in this series, including José Lima, Ramón Santiago, Fernando Rodney, Francisco Cordero, José Ramírez, and Francisco Mejía.
While some of the players he signed found more success with other teams (Rodney with the Rays, Lima with the Astros and Dodgers, Cordero with the Rangers, for example) Pena’s impact on their Major League careers is undeniable. With his scouting bonafides and extensive experience as a team executive in the Dominican Winter League, Peña certainly has earned his spot in this front office.
General Manager: Omar Minaya
Born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City
A groundbreaking general manager in the 2000s, Minaya’s fingerprints are all over the current MLB landscape, through his tenures with the Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, and New York Mets.
First joining the Texas Rangers organization in 1985 as a scout, Minaya helped the Rangers develop talents like Sammy Sosa and Pudge Rodriguez, before joining the staff of the New York Mets in the 90s, and helping them develop a new core for their 2000 National League pennant-winning team. Finally, in 2002, he became the first Hispanic general manager in MLB, becoming the new leader of the Montreal Expos. Unfortunately for Minaya, he was dealing with one of the more difficult situations in baseball, as the Expos were completely gutted from a contraction attempt by MLB, and only had six members of baseball operations upon his arrival. Nevertheless, Minaya was still able to put together two 83-79 seasons with the club, but was hampered by obstacles such as the denial of permission to allow September call ups.
Despite his rocky tenure, Minaya still made waves with the Expos, enough to induce his return to the Mets for the 2005 season as thir GM. Upon his arrival, Minaya made the Mets dangerous again with additions like closer Billy Wagner and first baseman Carlos Delgado, as well as bolstering the bullpen. The Mets finished on top of the NL East in 2006, and were one game away from the World Series. Minaya would serve in this position until 2010, when he was fired and subsequently hired by the San Diego Padres as a senior adviser to baseball operations. He returned to the Mets in 2018 as the top adviser to their new general manager, Brodie Van Wagemen.
Our list isn’t over yet! Check back tomorrow for the top Dominican players, coaches, and front office members who are still active and haven’t yet earned their way onto the all-time list!