06/03/2002 10:30 pm ET
Tosca welcomes new opportunity
Long-time minor league manager reaches highest level
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Carlos Tosca is a soft-spoken man, content to shun the spotlight. On Monday, that low profile was irrevocably shattered by a sudden change of events. In a matter of hours, Tosca went from serving as Toronto's third-base coach to a new designation. Effective immediately, he became the Blue Jays' full-time manager.
As such, he had to deal with an avalanche of interview requests. Needless to say, he was excited at the new opportunity, which he's been striving for most of his adult life. At the same time, he seemed a little overwhelmed by all the attention.
"It's been very wild," Tosca said in a subdued moment, sitting in the dugout before his team's 6-1 win. "It's like a little hamster caught in one of those spinning things. Hopefully things will settle down once the game starts."
That's all Tosca was asking for -- the chance to call the shots on the Major League level. He didn't seek out the microphones, the cameras or the relentless barrage of repetitive questions. Prior to Monday, Tosca was seen but rarely heard. It was obvious that he exerted a considerable amount of influence on his players but you had to search far and wide to see his name in a press clipping.
On this night, he got to write out his first lineup card, a souvenir that he said he'd keep. What were his initial reactions? Was the media crush and the managerial stress too much, too soon?
"Pressure is something we all have to deal with," Tosca said. "It's what motivates us, or what should motivate us."
So who is this mystery man, this throwback to another age? He's a Cuban-born father of three, a career baseball man who has worked his way through the ranks for more than two decades. Tosca, who never played professionally, graduated from the University of South Florida and started his coaching career at King High School (Tampa, Fla.) in 1976.
Two years later, he moved into the professional ranks, coaching with Oneonta of the New York-Penn League. After that, he began his managing career, spending 12 years at the lower levels of the minors, concentrating on instruction for the younger players. He earned a reputation as an effective teacher down there, finishing first in his division four times during that span.
With the positive results, Tosca earned a promotion. He managed for three seasons at Portland, Florida's Double-A affiliate. In two of those three seasons, he managed to win his division. Add in two more seasons at Triple-A, and it's obvious that he paid his dues. And then some.
In 1998, Tosca was rewarded with his first Major League assignment. He became Buck Showalter's bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks and made a distinct impression once he got there. On Monday, when the D-Backs heard about Tosca's new assignment, several of them had positive things to say.
"It couldn't happen to a better guy," said Glenn Sherlock, Arizona's bullpen coach. "He's a hard worker and is always well-prepared. He has a good feel for the game and a good feel for handling players."
"I'm happy for him. It's a great opportunity and he deserves it," said Luis Gonzalez, who hit 57 homers last season. "He's put in a lot of time and effort and it's nice to see he's getting an opportunity."
Tosca capitalized on that chance, leading his team to a much-needed victory. Did he feel any different as the man in charge? Did he get nervous before his first game as a Major League manager?
"I was nervous. I'd be lying if i said I wasn't," he said. "I was nervous from the standpoint that you try to put your best foot forward, right off the bat. It's a players game, and you don't know how they're going to react."
To a man, most of the players were surprised by the decision. They knew that a managerial switch was a consistent rumor, but the reality shocked most of them.
They didn't have time to sit and brood on the subject, though. The Blue Jays had just a few brief moments to mull over the move before they had to go out on the field and take care of business.
"It was a tough day for everybody. You could see it on some of the guys' faces," said Pete Walker, Toronto's starting pitcher. "I knew I had a job to do. Regardless of who's managing, I had to go out and get people out."
Spoken like a true professional -- much like his manager. Tosca had several positive things to say about his predecessor, praising Martinez for his loyalty and dedication. He didn't get a chance to speak to him yet, but he said he hoped to in the near future.
Time and time again, Tosca said that it was unfortunate, the way he got his position. But that can't dampen his enthusiasm and sheer joy to be in the spot he is in now.
"An opportunity for someone like me is probably going to come along in a situation like this," he said. "There's been a lot of managerial changes made in the last year or so, and I wasn't considered for any of those jobs. This is a good situation for me."
Spencer Fordin, who covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com, can be reached at
email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.