Espada introduced as Astros manager: 'This is a very special place'

November 13th, 2023

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Dana Brown assisted new manager Joe Espada to symbolically put on his No. 19 jersey at the start of a Monday morning press conference at Minute Maid Park and immediately took notice of Espada’s 2022 World Series ring as he fastened the buttons.

“I like that ring,” Brown said.

“Let’s get another one,” Espada said.

Espada, who spent the past six years as a bench coach and has interviewed for several managerial jobs along the way, saw his patience rewarded when the Astros introduced him as the 20th full-time manager in club history. Espada replaces Dusty Baker, who retired last month after Houston was eliminated in seven games by the Rangers in the American League Championship Series.

“This is a very exciting day for me and my family,” said Espada, who repeatedly thanked his loved ones for supporting him. “I want to thank [owner] Jim Crane and the Crane family for this incredible opportunity. I'm humbled by this. This is a dream come true. I just can't express my feelings about how happy I am to stay home and get to manage this team.”

Crane made it clear he wanted his first-year GM to pick a manager he would be comfortable with. He didn’t have to look too far.

“This is probably one of my biggest hires of my career and it brings a lot of excitement to me,” Brown said. “I appreciate Jim Crane allowing me to lead the charge and I continued to keep him updated on what my thought process was and where we were going in this direction.”

Espada, who found out Sunday he had the job, appears to have been the Astros’ top candidate all along, considering his popularity among the players and his reputation as an excellent communicator. And with the Astros returning most of their key players from last season’s team that reached the ALCS for the seventh year in a row, Espada’s promotion ensures a seamless transition.

Espada, 48, was hired by A.J. Hinch to take over as bench coach prior to the 2018 season and has big shoes to fill. The Astros have played in seven consecutive ALCS and the previous two managers -- Hinch and Baker -- won World Series titles in Houston.

“I’ve had a front-row seat to two incredible managers,” Espada said. “The last four years working for Dusty and watching him connect and work, and to say I was the bench coach of a future Hall of Fame manager, it’s incredible. It’s an honor. And just watching him and how he prepares, how he communicated, how much he cared about winning and how hard he pushed players in a good way -- he really cared about the importance of communication and collaboration, and he allowed us coaches to do our job to get the guys ready to play. I really appreciated that, and I think that's really going to help me for my next step.”

Espada wasn’t ready to say who will replace him as bench coach, though first-base coach Omar Lopez is a strong candidate to step into that role. Most of the coaches on the staff are under contract for next season, so there shouldn’t be much turnover on the staff with Espada at the helm. For Espada, it’s a turn-key job.

“I've seen this team win a lot of games, and I know what it takes to win,” Espada said. “I know how to push these players, when to push them. It matters. The players trust me, but trust is earned and it's a two-way street, and I think I've done a good job making sure these players know what it takes, and I think that helped me to be a good fit for this job.”

Espada, a native of Puerto Rico, played for 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues (1996-2005) after being selected in the second round of the MLB Draft in 1996 by the A’s out of the University of Mobile. He spent time in the Oakland, Florida, Colorado, Kansas City, St. Louis, Texas and Tampa Bay organizations as a player, reaching Triple-A.

After retiring as a player, he coached in the Marlins system from 2006-13, joining the Major League club as third-base coach in 2010. He spent four seasons (2014-17) with the Yankees as a scout and third-base coach (2015-17), then the Astros hired him days after they won the 2017 World Series to replace bench coach Alex Cora, who took the Boston managerial job.

“This is a very special place. It’s unique,” Espada said. “There’s no place like this anywhere in professional sports, and I’m just happy that I’m home.”