Morgan Ensberg adds Español to managerial tool box
Former All-Star works on his Spanish to become a better manager
Every morning, Morgan Ensberg drinks his coffee and then hops into a vehicle to either run errands or head to the ballpark. When the Hermosa Beach, Calif., native finds himself alone in his vehicle he turns up the volume to his favorite Youtube show, Spanish with Paul.
If you are stopped at a red light alongside Ensberg, you might see him practicing his Spanish. He spends about 30 minutes a day learning Spanish to communicate better with his Spanish-speaking players.
Ensberg has been surrounded by Mexican culture his entire life. He grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, so he is well versed in Mexican tradition, food and even music.
After a stellar career at USC, he also spent time in Latin America while climbing up the Astros’ farm system. During his playing career the former All-Star third baseman lived in Venezuela for three months for winter ball.
Morgan Ensberg uses Spanish skills to connect
In another offseason, he lived in the Dominican Republic for another three months. Having learned Spanish from three different dialects, Ensberg raves about the importance of being a bilingual manager. He was recently promoted by the Tampa Bay Rays organization to manage the Class AAA Durham Bulls.
Ensberg has played and lived where many Latino players have grown up. He has seen the hardship many Latino players face in their childhood and then even adjusting to the United States when they finally sign a contract.
By sharing a common language, Ensberg has the ability to build strong relationships with all his players.
“What is most important is to make the connection with players,” Ensberg said. “I played in the Dominican Republic. I’ve played in Venezuela. I’ve seen the culture, food, and laughter. And I understand where they are from.
“I want to make the connection with the player because I have seen where they lived. And I have experienced that. I want to make a deeper connection with the player to show them how important they are to me.”
Building a winning culture
Ensberg builds a culture in his clubhouse where players are allowed to make mistakes and be themselves. He values hard work. He notices how a player runs to first base on a routine grounder, and he takes exception when the game isn’t played the right way.
Morgan Ensberg learned the power of a growth mindset and positive reinforcement from his mother Laura Ensberg, who is a retired school teacher. He also credits the managers he played for during his playing career.
Throughout his time in college and MLB he’s known one thing – winning. He has conveyed that message to his teams ever since he became a minor league manager for the Tri-City ValleyCats in 2017.
The 6-foot-2 slugger won the 1998 College World Series with the USC Trojans. Ensberg has never been part of a losing team at any level as a pro. The eight-year big league veteran was crucial in the Astros’ run to the 2005 World Series.
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Ensberg’s won a Silver Slugger and was an All-Star in 2005. He was an anchor in the middle of the National League champions’ lineup on the Astros’ first team to reach the World Series.
Ensberg is adamant that his knowledge of winning and playing baseball with honor is rooted back from his Redondo Union High School manager Tim Ammentorp. Those wise lessons were later enhanced under legendary USC coach Mike Gillespie, who was fundamental in teaching Ensberg the data and advantage aspect of baseball.
Pro foundation set in Astros’ farm system
He was drafted by the Astros in 1998. Then he studied under Manny Acta, Julio Linares, former A’s manager Jackie Moore and Tony Peña in the Astros’ farm system. He blossomed into an All-Star under Phil Garner.
Morgan Ensberg dissected the wisdom he received. He has implemented that knowledge with his own teams.
“I had an incredible bunch of teachers to teach me how they saw the game,” Ensberg said. “I’ve been able to learn from those guys and my own experience on how I would like to teach the game.”
Fostering a positive environment has been a resounding message that has been key in his coaching career.
“It’s really about providing an environment where a player is encouraged and not afraid to fail,” Ensberg said. “And that you constantly catch them doing something good. When you see them do something good, you are relentless in saying ‘excellent’ or a pat on the shoulder or ‘good job right there.’”
This positive reinforcement has been pivotal to developing players and having success as a manager. Just like his playing career, Ensberg has skyrocketed through the farm system as a coach and manager.
He first managed with the Tri-City ValleyCats in 2017, which were the Class-A affiliate for the Houston Astros. A year later he was promoted to manage the High-A Buies Creek Astros. He was rated the Best managerial prospect from Baseball America in that league in 2018.
In 2019, Ensberg was hired by the Tampa Bay Rays to manage their Double-A affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits. He was named the 2019 Southern League Manager of the Year after leading the Biscuits to their first 88-win season.
Connection with Julio and Rodney Linares
When baseball was shut down during the pandemic, he stayed in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Rays coach Rodney Linares. The two have developed a strong relationship over two decades. Linares’ dad Julio managed in the Astros’ farm system when Ensberg was drafted.
Julio Linares and Acta taught Ensberg how to take ground balls early in his minor-league career. Then Ensberg worked with Rodney Linares when Rodney managed Class A Lancaster in the Astros’ system.
Rodney Linares, one of the top Latino managerial prospects in baseball, knows Morgan Ensberg well.
“He connects well because he played winter ball and has strong connection with the Latino players and community having seen what we go through to make it,” Linares, who is now the Rays’ bench coach, said of Ensberg. “I have a lot of respect for Mo and the way he understands what a player goes through to become successful in MLB.”
After receiving overtures from other organizations, Ensberg recently accepted a promotion to manage the Class AAA Durham Bulls in 2024.
Ensberg has had success everywhere he’s gone since high school. He has never stopped learning. Learning Spanish and transcending the advice from former major league players has put him one step closer to potentially being a major league manager.
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