AKRON For the second consecutive season, the Akron RubberDucks will take the field for their season opener with a new manager at the helm.
After Mike Budzinski was promoted to the Cleveland Indians’ major league staff for the coming season, the organization named Tony Mansolino, who was the RubberDucks hitting coach in 2015, as the team’s new field boss.
Mansolino will be joined by pitching coach Rigo Beltran and hitting coach Kevin Howard, both of whom worked in the same capacity under Mansolino in 2017 at Class A Lynchburg. Bench coach Dennis Malave, who was with the Arizona League Indians the last seven seasons, will round out the coaching staff, which will also include returning athletic trainer Jeremy Heller and strength and conditioning coach Paul Synenkyj.
Mansolino, 35, becomes the 17th manager in club history. He was named Carolina League Manager of the Year and helped lead the Hillcats to a Carolina League co-championship.
Budzinski was 69-71 in his one season at the helm after succeeding Dave Wallace, who managed the RubberDucks for three season. As he readies for his first season at the Double-A level, Mansolino is excited for the opportunity.
"I am excited to be back in Akron," Mansolino said. "Without a doubt, Akron is the best affiliate and experience in the Eastern League and one of the premier places to be in all of Minor League Baseball. I am certainly looking forward to leading the RubberDucks in 2018."
Last season, Mansolino led Lynchburg to an 87-52 record in his second season as a manager. He made his managerial debut in 2016 with the Class A Lake County Captains, where he led the team to a 72-68 record. His 2015 stint as RubberDucks hitting coach came after he worked in the same capacity for the Carolina Mudcats in 2014, Lake County in 2013, and Mahoning Valley in 2011 and 2012, where he was named to the 2012 New York-Penn League All-Star coaching staff.
This will be the sixth straight season he’s been with a new team, but the return to Akron is at least a chance to revisit one of his previous stops.
He also has something in common in Wallace, who played baseball at Vanderbilt University. Mansolino also played for the Commodores and was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round of the 2005 MLB Draft.
He played professionally for six seasons from 2005-10 after being selected by the Pirates and he was in the team's system from 2005-08, before playing briefly in the Philadelphia Phillies system in 2008 and playing independent ball in 2009-10.
He finished with a .231 career average with 19 home runs and 173 runs batted in in 457 games.
Mansolino resides in Nashville with his wife Adrianna and sons Jackson (3) and Maddox (four months). His father, Doug, is the field coordinator with the Phillies.
His staff includes Beltran, who joins the RubberDucks after spending the last two seasons with Lynchburg and also served as pitching coach for Mexico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He has worked in the Arizona League and spent seven seasons as a coach in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system.
With stops in Lynchburg, Class AA Carolina and the Gulf Coast League, he has been well-traveled as a coach, which meshes well with a 16-year playing career that saw him spend parts of five seasons with St. Louis (1991-97), New York Mets (1998-99), Colorado (1999-2000) and Montreal (2004), finishing his playing career in 2004 with a 94-74 record.
Howard is entering his fourth season in the Indians’ organization, having spent 2015 and 2016 in the same role with Mahoning Valley and Lake County before moving up to Lynchburg last season. He played professionally for 12 seasons with the Reds, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, Blue Jays and Cardinals organizations prior to retiring at the end of the 2014 season, having spent the final two seasons of his playing career in independent ball.
Malave is in his 14th season overall with the Indians and joins the RubberDucks after spending the last seven seasons with the Indians organization’s Arizona League hitting coach. He spent parts of eight seasons in the Indians’ player development system from 1997-2004, reaching as far as Double-A Akron in 2001.
The 2018 season will be the franchise’s 22nd since moving to Akron and the home opener is slated for April 13 versus Trenton, while the regular season begins April 5 with a road game at Altoona.
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