After the way the second half of the season went, it was a no-brainer for the St. Cloud Rox.
The team announced Thursday afternoon that it’s bringing Augie Rodriguez back as its manager for the 2013 Northwoods League season.
Rodriguez helped resurrect the Rox in the second half of the season after it put up a 9-25 record in the first half. The team went 20-16 in the second half and made a run at the second-half title by winning eight straight games late in the season.
The Rox were eliminated from the playoffs last Saturday and finished two games behind first-place Willmar.
“I have the biggest smile on my face right now,” said Rodriguez, not long after emerging from a meeting with owners Gary Posch, Joe Sexton and Scott Schreiner. “This is what I want to do for a living. This was my first year managing and it was a learning experience.
“I want to win a title for the city of St. Cloud. Next year is the year to do that. I can guarantee we’ll have a shot at it.”
Schreiner, who is the team’s vice president, credited Rodriguez for St. Cloud’s second-half resurgence.
“I think Augie did a heck of a job,” Schreiner said. “From where we started to where we finished, every single guy improved. He’s a players’ coach. They love playing for him. I can’t tell you the amount of emails and phone calls I’ve gotten from parents of the players and coaches from across the country praising the job he did this summer.
“He’s our guy. He’s going to do a great job again next summer.”
Anthony Espitia will return as Rodriguez’s assistant coach. Espitia, like Rodriguez, were both assistant coaches for the St. Cloud River Bats in 2011. Rodriguez is the pitching coach at Division II Augusta State (Ga.) and Espitia is an assistant coach at Cal State Monterey Bay. Espitia was the hitting coach and third-base coach for the Rox this summer.
“He’s like my left-hand man and my brother,” Rodriguez said of Espitia. “He knows what I want now as a manager. The first half we were just trying to learn. You saw how things changed. He knows how to make things click. He’s so good with the kids.”
Rodriguez, 33, said he hopes to have at least eight players from this year’s team back for next year. Conversations to bring those players back will begin as soon as possible.
“I’ll tell you that we’ll have the top hitters back who are eligible to return, along with the pitchers,” Rodriguez said. “I might end up with as many as 11 guys back. I know two guys I’m really going to work on are Lucas Long and Adam Maxon. Those are two guys I really want back.”
Added Schreiner: “Continuity was really important to us. We’ll start extending contracts for the guys who are eligible to return shortly. It’s just good for those guys to know who their field manager will be. And it’s great for us from the standpoint of building next year’s club and knowing what we have.”