Yadi pursues another championship ... this time as manager

February 2nd, 2024

MIAMI -- There's no slowing down for .

After a 19-year Major League career with 10 All-Star selections, nine Gold Gloves and two World Series rings, Molina would be well within his rights to take a break and calmly wait in all likelihood for a call from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, for the former Cardinals catcher, his retirement after the 2022 campaign marked the beginning of a new stage in his baseball career -- as a manager.

Even before hanging up his spikes, the native of Bayamón, Puerto Rico, took his first steps in managing with the island's Under-23 team in 2017. And when he made his retirement as a player official, he immediately started his new chapter on the diamond in the Venezuelan Winter League, followed by managing Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and then the Criollos de Caguas in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League on the island.

"Every day, I am learning a little more,” Molina said on Thursday after his Criollos debuted with a 5-2 victory over Nicaragua representative Gigantes de Rivas in the 2024 Caribbean Series. “Obviously with baseball, it’s like that. Every day, you continue to learn new things. I love being in this position, and I am very happy with everything that is happening with my life."

In a country where baseball is pure passion and high pressure from fans and management alike, Molina led the Navegantes to the round-robin phase with a 29-27 record, although he was unable to advance to the league final.

"Caribbean baseball is very different from organized baseball and there are many things to learn," said Molina, who also has been hired in the Cardinals' front office as a special assistant. "Other things are going to come that we have to pay attention to. I think that in Venezuela, I learned a lot about that."

After his experience in Venezuela, Molina did not have much time to reflect and rest. He was named manager of Puerto Rico for the 2023 World Baseball Classic and guided "Team Rubio" to the second round before it was eliminated by Mexico in Miami to close with a 3-2 record.

Shortly after the World Baseball Classic, Molina was given the opportunity to manage the Criollos de Caguas -- the winningest team in Puerto Rico -- and the task winning the club’s 21st title.

The former catcher responded when his Criollos defeated the Gigantes de Carolina in eight games to win their third championship in the past four seasons.

Now "Yadi" has his sights set on crowning his season with the Criollos' sixth title in the so-called "Little World Series of Latin America," and the first since they won back-to-back titles in 2017 and '18.

The Puerto Rican team has already started its mission in Miami on the right foot in the event that features the champions of Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, in addition to Nicaragua, Curaçao and Panama.

There is still a long way to go, but Molina's message was clear during the practices before arriving in Miami. In an interview with the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día, the former Cardinal stated that "we are not going there to have a good time."

That's the Yadi way.