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Hulett up for challenge of managing Philippines

Rangers Minor League manager off to Australia for competition
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- Tim Hulett, with his unique employment arrangement, has an impressive record as a coach and manager.

As head coach of Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, La., Hulett has won five state high school championships in 11 seasons. When the Eagles' season is over, Hulett heads to Spokane, Wash., and manages the Rangers' Class A Short-Season team in the Northwest League. The Indians have won one league championship with two other postseason appearances in Hulett's nine seasons there.

ARLINGTON -- Tim Hulett, with his unique employment arrangement, has an impressive record as a coach and manager.

As head coach of Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, La., Hulett has won five state high school championships in 11 seasons. When the Eagles' season is over, Hulett heads to Spokane, Wash., and manages the Rangers' Class A Short-Season team in the Northwest League. The Indians have won one league championship with two other postseason appearances in Hulett's nine seasons there.

The former Major League infielder with the White Sox, Orioles and Cardinals does not like to lose.

"That's a pretty good assessment," Hulett said.

Now, Hulett faces an interesting challenge: He has been asked to manage the Philippines national team in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round next week in Sydney. Hulett flew to Australia on Thursday to see his ballclub for the first time.

Their first game of the four-team round-robin tournament is on Feb. 11 against host Australia. The other two teams are New Zealand and South Africa.

"We're supposed to be the second-rated team," Hulett said by phone from Shreveport on Wednesday. "Australia is the No.1-rated team, but I'm not sure what that means. It should be very interesting. We have four days to evaluate players, put our thumbprint on how we want the game to be played and go from there."

World Baseball Classic

This is not something Hulett planned to do. He was hired just three weeks ago on a recommendation from a former player in Spokane. Except Will Ireton didn't actually play for Spokane. He hung around on the inactive list, did video work and developed a close relationship with Hulett.

Ireton, who was born in Japan, played baseball at Menlo (Calif.) College. His mother is Filipino. Ireton also played for the Philippines in the 2012 qualifying round and received an invitation to attend the Rangers' Minor League camp the following spring. Ireton is still working with the Philippines national team, so when it needed a manager, Ireton recommended Hulett, who got the call on Jan. 10.

"They had some others drop out," Hulett said. "I wasn't at the top of their list, but they asked if I could do it. They called one day, I thought it over, the next day I called them and told them I would do it. It was a pretty quick turnaround."

Hulett is used to quick turnarounds. That's the nature of the job managing a Class A Short-Season team stocked with players taken from the recent MLB Draft. Last summer, it was held June 8-10. Spokane's first game was June 18.

"Usually, I see those players for three or four days before we play our first game," Hulett said. "So we have a little minicamp to show the players how the Texas Rangers want the game played, go over a few fundamentals like cutoffs and bunt defense, and then we get after it."

Team Philippines

Hulett has done homework on his team, but he won't meet the players face-to-face until he gets to Sydney.

"It's a unique situation to bring players together so quickly to compete in an event as big as the WBC Qualifier," Rangers farm director Mike Daly said. "But Tim has a wealth of experience as a manager, and undoubtedly the Philippines team will be ready for Sydney."

The Philippines has a long baseball history dating back to the sport's introduction to the islands during the Spanish-American War. The Philippines won the first Asian Baseball Championship in 1954, and the sport flourished for about 17 years. It slowly faded in popularity as the Philippines went 24 years without competing in international competition.

The sport has since made a comeback in the past 12 years as the Philippines won the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in 2005 and 2011. The team went 1-2 in the 2012 Classic qualifying round, finishing third in its pool.

Video: Manager Ramos and catcher Nacapoy on Philippines' win

It would be huge for the country to get past Australia and qualify for the 2017 Classic.

"I think it's a real serious deal," Hulett said. "They are trying to make it to the next round ... so it is a big deal. I haven't really heard a lot about what has happened in the past. All I can control is what happens next."

His roster is a mix of Filipino players and Americans with some connection to the country. The only current Major League player is Clay Rapada, a side-armed left-handed reliever who has been with six teams in a seven-year career, including the Rangers in 2010.

Outfielder Chris Aguila played for the Marlins (2004-06) and the Mets (2008), but he has spent the past three years in the Italian Baseball League. Outfielder Eric Farris appeared in 14 games for the Brewers from 2011-12, and there are others who have played in the Minor Leagues. Pitcher Vladimir Eguia and outfielder Jonash Ponce are stars in the Philippines, while 5-foot-6 Jon-Jon Robles is a legitimate two-way player as both a pitcher and hitter.

Hulett has less than a week to get them ready for Australia, but he is eager for the challenge.

"People play sports because they like to compete," Hulett said. "I love to compete and I love the challenge. You don't always have to have the best talent to win. You just put your team out there with the best opportunity to win and see what happens."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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