Tomorrow, Joey Cora debuts as the ninth manager in franchise history as the Altoona Curve begin their 18th season.
In keeping with the traditions preached in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, Cora has emphasized that he is here to mold not only future Major League players, but upstanding young men on and off the field.
“At this level, all you want to do is not only develop the player, but you want to develop the person,” Cora said while addressing the media at PNG Field on Tuesday. “That’s what I’m shooting for.
“All of the things that the Pirates do, one of the creeds they have is ‘changing the world through baseball.’ The only way you’re going to do that is developing major league people.”
This year will mark the fourth of Cora’s minor league managing career after spending the 2001 and 2002 seasons with the Kingsport Mets (Rookie – New York Mets) and the 2003 campaign with the Savannah Sand Gnats (Single-A – Montreal Expos). 2016 marks his first season with the Pirates organization.
After his three-year minor league managerial stint, Cora joined the big league coaching ranks in 2004 to join manager Ozzie Guillen with the Chicago White Sox for eight seasons, including a World Series championship in 2005, and moved with Guillen to Miami to serve as a bench coach with the Marlins in 2012.
From his time as a player and a coach, Cora brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the dugout for the Curve this season.
“I’ve been around a little bit,” Cora said. “I’ve gone through everything. Hopefully (the players) can learn from my experience and I can teach them how to work through everything so they can become better people, hopefully better than me. That’s what we’re striving for.”
Before his managerial and coaching career, Cora was a first-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1985 after his All-American career at Vanderbilt. He played with four teams over his 11 years as a player, including the Padres, White Sox, Mariners and Indians, and was named an American League All-Star in 1997 as a member of the Mariners, hitting .300 for the season with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs.
A native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, Cora made his major league debut as a member of the Padres in 1987 at the age of 21. He spent parts of three seasons in San Diego prior to being traded to the White Sox in 1991.
After four seasons with Chicago, Cora joined the Mariners in 1995, playing a key role in one of the team’s most memorable years. After hitting only three homers in the regular season, Cora clubbed a solo home run against Yankees pitcher David Cone early in the decisive Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS.
Later in the game with the Yankees leading 5-4, he led off the bottom of the eleventh with a drag-bunt single and later came in to score along with Ken Griffey Jr. on a walk-off double by Edgar Martinez that sent the Mariners to the ALCS.
Cora was a fan favorite during his time with Seattle. His name is even dropped in Macklemore’s tribute to the late Mariners’ broadcaster Dave Niehaus.
The Mariners traded him near the end of the 1998 season, and he finished the final year of his playing career with the Indians.
Since Cora was last in a dugout, he has spent time with MLB Network as a color analyst during the 2013 World Baseball Classic and was named as a rotating guest analyst on MLB Tonight throughout the 2013 season.
Cora makes his debut to Curve, Pa. on Thursday at 6 p.m. as the 2016 season opens with a four-game set against the Harrisburg Senators at PNG Field. For tickets, visit AltoonaCurve.com, call us at 877.99.CURVE or stop by the PNG Field offices.