Rockies coach thriving as winter ball skipper

January 3rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Late in a 14-season playing career -- which included 91 Major League games over three seasons -- Rockies assistant hitting coach Andy González realized that he would like to manage.

He had a taste of it in 2016 with the Rockies’ Short-Season Boise affiliate, and he’s getting a second bite this winter with the Leones de Ponce of the Puerto Rican Winter League.

“I love it more than I thought I would,” González said on Wednesday morning, as he prepared for Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against the Gigantes de Carolina. The Leones are down, 1-0.

The 42-year-old González, who was a utility player in the Majors with the White Sox, Cleveland and the Marlins, began the winter season as the Ponce hitting coach. Skipper Edwin Rodriguez decided last month to concentrate on his duties as general manager and handed over the team to González. The team was 10-12 at the time. Under González, it rose to a 21-19 regular-season record and a tie for third place.

“It’s a big opportunity for me, something I’ve always wanted to do,” González said. “Edwin has talked to me over the past year and said this might happen. I’m enjoying it, and the staff has been helping me a lot. It’s been a great ride so far.

“Even when I was a player, it was something I wanted to do. I told myself I was going to play in the league, then become a coach, and work hard to one day get a chance to manage in the big leagues.”

Here is González's interview with former MLB star infielder Carlos Baerga, discussing the Ponce team making the playoffs:

González is heading into his third season as Colorado’s assistant hitting coach, under hitting coach Hensley Meulens -- also considered a Major League managerial candidate -- on manager Bud Black’s staff. González, who last played in 2013 with the Phillies’ organization, has worked in the Rockies’ system since 2019 in various roles. A key for him is meeting players on their level.

“The way they learn is I’m gaining their trust and they’re gaining my trust,” González said. “I learned that when I started coaching in the Minor Leagues and the players are the same way in the big leagues. You can’t fight it. The players want to have fun and want to be able to talk to you as a friend and not just as the guy in charge. But you keep that line, that you are the manager, and they understand.”

The long-range dream is managing in the Majors, but the intense atmosphere of winter ball has González dreaming of leading Ponce -- a team featuring three players with Major League experience, but otherwise comprised of young Minor Leaguers and Mexican League players -- to the Caribbean World Series in Miami from Feb. 1-9.

“It’s Latino culture,” said González, a native of Rio Piedra, Puerto Rico. “It’s screaming, dancing, yelling. On the field, it’s a game of instincts -- taking advantage of the fans making opposing players feel the pressure. It’s big. It’s noisy. You have to be special to focus on the game and produce. That’s what’s special about winter ball.”