By Alan Eskew
May 15, 2002
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The Kansas City Royals, who have eight Latin American players on their 25-man roster, named Tony Pena their manager Wednesday.
Pena, who is from the Dominican Republic, becomes the Royals' 13th fulltime manager, but the first from Latin America. He replaces Tony Muser, who was fired April 29 after the Royals started 8-15. Bullpen coach John Mizerock served as the interim manager and had a 5-8 record, winning five of his last seven games.
The Royals interviewed Mizerock, Omaha manager Bucky Dent, ESPN baseball analyst Buck Showalter and Pena, who managed the past three years managed Triple-A New Orleans and was the Houston Astros bench coach this season, for the vacancy.
Pena, who caught 18 years in the majors with Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago White Sox and Houston, said his background would “definitely” help in communicating with Latin players.
“Some people don't know the background of Latin American players,” Pena said. “You have to find out the past of each person. We need to find out where they come from. How are we going to find out background of these kids? (Through) communication.”
Pena said being named the Royals manager is “like a dream come true.”
“This is an opportunity, like a dream,” Pena said. “If you don't have a dream, you can't have a great dream come true. It's a challenge, but I've been challenged all my life. I've been a warrior every single day of my life.”
After being introduced as the new Royals manager, Pena shook hands with general manager Allard Baird and club president Dan Glass.
“I will not let you down,” Pena said.
Pena said his initial message to the players would be succinct.
“I'm the new deejay. I play the music. You are to dance. If you don't know how to dance, get off of the dance floor.”
Pena said he would not make any drastic changes initially.
“I need to see what I've got first before I do anything,” Pena said. “I think anytime you walk into a house; you don't try to put that house in order right away. You need to find out what is wrong and then you go from there.”
Baird was impressed by two questions Pena asked him in the interview.
“I (also) asked them (managerial candidates) to interview me,” Baird said. “I asked them to leave the room for five minutes and write down any questions you may have and hit me right between the eyes.
“He came back and said I have two questions for you. ‘One, during the off-days, will you and I be able to go to the minor leagues? Two, if we're one player away, will ownership allow us to get that one player?’ Those are pretty good questions.”
Several players, including two-time all-star Mike Sweeney, had been vocal in support of Mizerock.
“I don't think that will be a problem,” Pena said. ” Mizerock did a great job those two weeks and I respect him a lot. I managed against him in New Orleans (when Mizerock managed Omaha). Sometimes they change directions and players have to follow. Maybe there will be some disappointed people, but it is my job to make those guys around come my way.”
The 44-year-old Pena was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975 and made his major league debut on Sept. 1, 1980. He hit .260-107-708 in 1,988 big league games before retiring in 1997.