Acta enjoying first GM job at Caribbean Series
Former Nationals, Indians skipper guides Dominican's Licey from front office
ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- Don't feel bad for Manny Acta.
The former Nationals and Indians manager has a job -- two jobs, actually, and that does not include his duties as a husband and father -- so he doesn't exactly have time to sit around and wonder about his time in Washington and Cleveland.
Besides, the first-year general manager of the Dominican Republic's Tigres del Licey says he has a Caribbean Series tournament to win. His team is off to a slow start, losing to Puerto Rico's Indios de Mayaguez, 7-6, in 10 innings on Saturday afternoon in the tournament's opening game at Nueva Esparta Stadium.
Mexico's Naranjeros de Hermosillo and Cuba's Naranjas de Villa Clara were scheduled to take the field in Saturday's nightcap.
"I'm doing fantastic," said Acta, who also is part of ESPN's Major League Baseball television coverage. "I took this [GM] job as a challenge, something new for me, and it was a great challenge. Since I've always managed, I was in the stands watching and wanting to be able to do something different on the field, but it's impossible to do in street clothes. Instead, I was able to deal with players, agents, budgets; but my passion is managing."
Despite the defeat, Acta and his Tigres appear to have history on their side this week.
Licey has won 10 Caribbean Series titles, the most in the history of the tournament, and a team from the Dominican Republic has won the Caribbean Series title 19 times. What's more, Acta managed Licey to the Dominican Winter League title and Caribbean Series championship in 2004. Former big leaguer Jose Offerman is Licey's current manager.
"Manny is one of the most respected men in baseball," Puerto Rico manager Carlos Baerga said. "We were together for a little bit while he was with Cleveland. He's showed confidence in [Licey] from the front office, and the team responded. He coached with the Montreal Expos, so he knows all about challenges and various situations."
Baerga has a point. Acta was signed as a free-agent infielder by the Astros in 1986 and spent six seasons as a fringe prospect in the club's Minor League system. He attended scouting school in 1991 and later coached and managed in the Minors for the Astros from 1992-96. He joined the Expos organization in 1997.
Acta was named the third-base coach for Montreal's big league club in 2002 and three years later joined the Mets in the same capacity for two seasons.
In 2007, the native of San Pedro de Macoris was named the manager of the Nationals, who would go 158-252 in three seasons before Acta was relieved of his duties. The Indians hired him as their skipper prior to the 2010 season and went 214-266 in nearly three full seasons under Acta, who was dismissed in September 2012.
"My passion is being on the field," Acta said. "I did this job as a challenge to myself, and I was answering the call from the Licey board of directors and fans that had a dry spell of five years without winning. They showed some desperation and were acting like they had not won in 20 or 30 years. I don't know how long I will do it because it depends on my workload at ESPN, but I'm glad baseball is around the corner to be able to work again and wait to for the next opportunity to manage a baseball team."
In the meantime, Acta will watch the Caribbean Series from the stands with other members of the Licey front office. The Dominican Republic team will take on the Cuban entry on Monday.
Acta managed against Cuba's national team during the 2006 World Baseball Classic with the Dominican Republic.
"We know what kind of baseball they can play because Cuban players are spread all over the Winter Leagues, and we see how good they are," Acta said. "What makes it so tough, besides their talent, is we don't know much about them, and they also work so much as a team. We were scrambling to put together our team, and it's not even the team you wanted to have because it's so close to Spring Training, and the Cubans have been playing together all year."
Speaking of Spring Training, Acta says he'll be fine when all of his baseball friends and colleagues report to their camps. Don't feel sorry for him.
"Now working on TV, I'll also be part of Spring Training," he said. "I love baseball, whether I'm in a uniform or in street clothes, and I'm not going to be crying because I'm not throwing batting practice or hitting a fungo. I'm doing what I love, and as long as I do that, I'll be happy."