Get ready Sugar Land for some good old-fashioned, hard-driving baseball next spring as the Skeeters enter the Pete Incaviglia era.
Incaviglia, 53, was introduced last Wednesday as the second manager in Skeeters history and he promised to put together a team the city and the fans can be proud of and enjoy watching.
“I am going to put together a team that you and the community and the organization will be proud of and we will play the game the right way. I’m a little bit old school,” he said.
Incaviglia was a leftfielder who played 12 years in the major leagues with six different teams – including two stints with the Houston Astros – without playing in the minors. He was an Oklahoma State University standout who was the eighth overall pick in the 1985 amateur draft by the Montreal Expos. Incaviglia refused to play in the Expos minor league system, so he was traded to the Rangers.
As a result of the trade, Major League Baseball made a rule prohibiting a team from trading a drafted player until he has been under contract to the club for at one year. In 2015 the rule was changed to allow teams to trade drafted players after the World Series concluded.
“Pete and I first met back in 1985 when he was a first-round pick out of Oklahoma State for the Rangers and he went straight out of the Oklahoma State campus to the big leagues,” Skeeters president Jay Miller said.
Ironically, Incaviglia has spent all of his time in the minors since retiring as a player.
“His background includes being one of the best players in college baseball history,” said Ira Liebman, “The Voice of the Skeeters.” “In the minors, he’s an accomplished minor league coach and manager.”
While introducing Incaviglia, team co-owner Kevin Zlotnik also introduced former major leaguer Jackie Moore, whom the Skeeters are wooing to be a part-time bench coach. The 78-year-old Moore graduated from Bellaire High School in Houston and played for the Detroit Tigers for one season in 1965. He was a coach for the Texas Rangers during five stints totaling 12 years. He spent 32 years as a coach for eight different major league teams and managed the Oakland Athletics from 1984-86.
He was the inaugural skipper for the Round Rock Express in 2000, which is where he became friends with Miller.
Zlotnik said when former manager Gary Gaetti stepped down after six years, that opened a floodgate of interest in the position.
“The interest in the position cemented our belief that we’re the gold standard for the Atlantic League and all of independent baseball. We had dozens of candidates reach out from affiliated minor league baseball, international baseball, other independent teams and other retired major leaguers. We narrowed down the candidates and interviewed even fewer, but it’s clear from the first few minutes of our interview with Pete that he was the ideal person for the position,” he said. “It’s his attention to detail, his desire to help his players get back to the big leagues and his commitment to enhancing our relationship to the community that sets him apart. We’re thrilled to have Pete leading our team on the field and in the community.”
Miller expressed his thanks to his former manager.
“I want to thank Gary Gaetti. Gary Gaetti is a great guy, great man, great baseball man, great friend, he gave this franchise six great years, brought us the championship and in 2018, there’s no pressure, that’s what Pete Incaviglia’s going to do,” he said.
“It seem very surreal for me because this is considered probably, if not the best, one of the best independent baseball organizations and it’s very well respected,” Incaviglia said. “I started out as a coach in the Tiger organization for three years, shortly after that I ended up getting my first managerial job with the Grand Prairie AirHogs in 2007. I spent three or four years there and moved on to Laredo for five or six years.
“’I’ve always heard about Sugar Land and what a great place it is and what great fan base and the backing they have from the community, and boy, I’ll tell you what, it’s even better than what I heard. I’m very grateful for the job and very grateful to the Zlotnik family and Jay Miller for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.”
Incaviglia said he has learned from some of the greatest managers in baseball history.
“I’ve played a long time for some old school managers, Sparky Anderson comes to mind, Jim Fregosi, Joe Torre … I think a little bit of everybody I’ve played for has kind of rubbed off on me,” he said. “Art Howe is not only kind of a mentor of mine and he’s a local guy, but he’s one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met. He gave me one of the best compliments of my career. He looked at me towards the end of my career and said that you might make a pretty good coach or manager someday.”
Incaviglia said he has already started putting together a team for next year. He mentioned players the Skeeters got rights to in the dispersal draft of the Bridgeport Bluefish.
“We actually picked up two or three guys,” he said. “We actually picked up D’Arby Myers, the MVP of the league, a centerfielder, we picked him up. We picked up another pitcher (Tyler Badamo) that was picked up by the Diamondbacks and just got released yesterday, so I got his rights in the draft, … picked up Welington Dotel, who played in the American Association and led the league in hitting and over here a couple years in Bridgeport, so we got his rights.”
Incaviglia said he is making long-term plans to stay in Sugar Land.
“I’m not looking to use this as a springboard to get into affiliated ball. If I wanted into affiliated ball, I’ve had several offers. I just really enjoy being with these kids who believe they can play in the big leagues and are here for a reason and you still have to coach, you still have to instruct in this league and it’s my job to not only bring guys in here and win ball games but it’s a tradeoff, you’ve got to help these guys get moving back to affiliated ball,” he said.
He said doing this gives him a chance to do what he loves to do and also to give back to the game that has been so good to him.
“You’ve got to find the right players to buy in and play the right way and that’s my job. Win, lose or draw, it’s on me. I’m kind of that way. If we lose, it’s about me, if we win it’s about the players,” he said.