HOUSTON (AP) — Joe Espada took a leave of absence as bench coach of the Houston Astros last year to spend time with his father when he fell ill with heart complications.
“I almost lost him while I was there,” Espada said. “And I asked God that day just to let him stay with me for a while longer because I wanted to share some good news in the future.”
On Sunday, he finally gave his father, Doloers, the long-awaited news of his promotion to manager of the Astros.
“I Facetimed and he started clapping,” Espada said. “His reaction was priceless.”
Espada was introduced as manager of the Astros on Monday, replacing Dusty Baker, who retired last month.
“I’m humbled by this,” Espada said. “This is a dream come true. I just can’t express my feelings about how happy I am to get to stay here and manage this team.”
It’s the first managerial position for the 48-year-old Espada, who has been Houston’s bench coach since 2018. Espada, who was born in Puerto Rico, is the second Latino manager in franchise history, joining Cuban-born Preston Gomez, Houston’s manager from 1974-75.
Espada had interviewed for multiple managerial positions in recent years without success. When Baker retired, he was optimistic he’d finally get his shot.
“I really hoped that I was going to get a chance to stay home and manage this team,” Espada said. “I love this city. I love this team. I love this community and I know I can protect and continue success and continue winning in this city.”
The Astros have advanced to the AL Championship Series in seven straight seasons and reached the World Series in 2021 and 2022, winning their second title in 2022.
“We wanted to continue the success here in Houston. … We came up with the right man for the job. Our fans deserve it,” general manager Dana Brown said.
Espada says he’ll immediately start setting up his coaching staff. In the year since Brown became the team’s general manager, he’s been impressed by Espada’s work ethic and demeanor.
“I was looking for someone with leadership skills, someone who could communicate, someone who would collaborate and ultimately someone who was humble,” Brown said. “I’ve had a chance to talk to Joe Espada almost the whole year and we’ve had great conversations, we hit it off early and I think, without a question, Joe is a good fit for this job.”
Espada began his coaching career in the Marlins organization, working in the minors until moving to the big-league club as the third base coach in 2010.
He remained with the Marlins through the 2013 season before taking a job as a special assistant to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. He joined the Yankees coaching staff in 2015 and worked as their infield and third base coach through the 2017 season.
Espada is a favorite among players and has strong relationships with everyone on the roster.
“Communication with these players is very important, empower them to have a say in the process,” he said. “I’ve seen this team win a lot of games and I know what it takes to win. I know how to push these players and when to push them and I think it matters.”
Espada was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 1996 amateur draft and spent nine seasons in the minors. He advanced to Triple-A as a player but retired at age 29 after failing to reach the majors before starting his coaching career.