Returning as the Dayton Dragons manager was a given for Luis Bolivar, although it wasn’t official until the parent-club Cincinnati Reds made that announcement on Tuesday.
His Dragons roots run deep, first as a player, then hitting coach and finally as manager. This will be his second season as the Dragons’ main man and there are many reasons the Reds have entrusted him with developing their low Class A prospects.
The team took on Bolivar’s fiery on-field personality last season and rode that competitiveness into the Midwest League East Division championship series. That was the deepest the Dragons have ventured into the postseason and that success didn’t go unnoticed by Reds’ brass.
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“It was a huge experience for me last year,” Bolivar said. “You’ve got their back. You’ve got to get their respect. The bottom line is we’re there to help them out and guide them to reach their goal, which is to get to the big leagues.”
All of last season’s coaching staff returns to the low Class A minor-league Reds affiliate with the exception of pitching coach Derrin Ebert. He’ll stay in extended spring training at Goodyear, Arizona, and swap places with former Billings Mustangs rookie-ball pitching coach Seth Etherton, who played with the Reds in 2003.
Returning as Dragons assistants are bench coach Kevin Mahar and hitting coach Daryle Ward.
Bolivar is among the minor-league managers and coaches who will join the Reds’ 40-player spring training session at Goodyear that begins on Feb. 17. All other minor league players and coaches will report to Goodyear in early March. Opening-day rosters at all levels of the Reds organization will be announced a few days before the seasons begin.
The Dragons season starts on Saturday, April 7, against the visiting Bowling Green Hot Rods at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field. This will be the 17th season of Dragons baseball at Dayton.
A core group of 12-15 players has returned to the Dragons each of the last two seasons. That likely will happen again, although one player is certain to have earned a promotion: outfielder Jose Siri. He led the Dragons in most offensive categories last season, hitting .293 with 24 home runs and 46 stolen bases. He also rocketed to national attention with a Midwest League record 39-game hitting streak.
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A player who likely is headed to Dayton – at least for the start of the season – is the Reds’ top draft pick from 2017, Hunter Greene. The 6-foot-4 Los Angeles native already has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated for his dual effectiveness as a hard-throwing pitcher and power-hitting shortstop. He was the No. 2 overall pick last June and was outstanding with Billings in the Pioneer League and the instructional league as a pitcher.
Etherton was Greene’s pitching coach at Billings.
“We’re pretty excited,” Bolivar said. “We can’t wait for the season to start and pick back up where we left it.”
• Returning as the voice of the Dragons is Tom Nichols for his 11th season as director of media relations and broadcasting. He’ll be joined by newcomer Josh Hess, who announced Batavia Muckdogs (Marlins) New York/Penn League games last season. Hess succeeds Jason Kempf, now the lead broadcaster for the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League.
Like last season, all Dragons games will be broadcast live on WONE-AM (980).