Skip to content
Omar Lopez

Omar Lopez thrilled to manage in Puerto Rico

Astros bench coach will guide Cangrejeros

HOUSTON – Last Thanksgiving, Astros bench coach Omar Lopez traveled to Puerto Rico to watch his daughter, Emily, play in a volleyball tournament.

Lopez’s good friend, Wilfredo Romero, was managing the Cangrejeros de Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Lopez decided to stop by the field and watch the Cangrejeros play. He was impressed with the fans’ enthusiasm as he watched them cheer and show their passion during the game.

Lopez returned back to his hotel, sat down and told his wife “One day, I would like to see if I have a chance to come back to winter ball.”

The opportunity arose this past week. Lopez received a phone call from the Cangrejeros asking if he’d like to manage their team this winter.

“In my entire life, in my baseball career path, when any opportunity comes up I go with a God feeling,” Lopez said. “Whatever God is telling me right there. I never expect that it’s gonna be right away. For some reason, God put me in that opportunity that I wasn’t expecting. It was fun and it was a great conversation.”

Family decision

Omar Lopez couldn’t do it without his wife, Helen, being right there by his side. Once again, Omar discussed the opportunity to manage in the winter league with Helen, as she had the final say.

“How do you feel?” Helen asked. 

“I feel good,” he told her.

“Ok, let’s do it,” Helen answered. “Let’s try to see if we can work it out.” 

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League was a perfect fit for Lopez.

More from Our Esquina

Astros coach Omar Lopez fulfills World Series promise

Top 10 Latino managerial prospects in MLB

El Capitán Groomed Rodney Linares for Managerial Future

Winter ball starts in early November, and the last regular season game ends in the beginning of December. In addition, there are semifinal games. The top two winning clubs square off to see who will represent Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series at Mexicali, Mexico.

Puerto Rico’s Criollos de Caguas played in this year’s Caribbean Series. Future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina managed the team. The Criollos finished with a 3-3 record and placed fifth in the tournament.

The Cangrejeros haven’t won the Caribbean Series since 2000. Their third championship in 1955 came with two notable Hall of Famers, Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays, in the lineup.

Major and minor league players play in different winter leagues during the offseason. The players continue to train, develop their skills, and prepare themselves before they enter spring training. But what about the managers?

Omar Lopez returns to winter ball

Managers like Ozzie Guillen, David Bell, and Rodney Linares have managed in a winter league. Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols will make his managerial debut this winter with the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.

The winter league is a great opportunity for a big league coach to manage. It helps them build relationships, expand their horizons, and spread their knowledge of the game to the players.

Omar Lopez has already managed in his native Venezuela’s winter league. Now he’ll manage in Puerto Rico.

“I think it’s the key,” Lopez replied if coaches should manage in different countries. “When you manage in the winter, it’s different. Baseball’s the same game, but a different environment, different passion, philosophy, and mindset.

“I think the best experience that any coach can have, to be able to coach at any other level, is to go to winter ball and continue to develop your skills. Just to see how you can continue to develop yourself and move on in your career.”

Omar Lopez has had a busy offseason in the last two years. The Astros played in the 2022 Fall Classic and were crowned World Series champions.

Lopez then managed Team Venezuela in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Venezuela fell short to the United States, 9-7, in the quarterfinals, but made a phenomenal run.

“I’m very excited for him,” Astros manager Joe Espada said of Lopez. “It’s a fun and competitive league. Omar is a heck of a coach. I thought he wasn’t going to work this offseason, but I guess someone changed his mind.”

Friendly rivalry

Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron is the general manager for the San Juan Senadores. According to Espada, Lopez and Cintron have already started some fun banter, and a little bit of trash talk with one another about this coming winter.

“I think it’s good for our league,” Cintron said of Lopez managing in the Puerto Rican Winter League. “Omar has a lot of experience and he’s a winner. I think it’s great for our fans and for our league, so I’m excited. I’m gonna be against him in some capacity, and I think we’re ready to beat him.”

The Puerto Rican Winter League puts Lopez in a great position to show his managerial skills. He’s coached at first and third base in a World Series. Lopez managed Team Venezuela to an undefeated pool play, defeating powerhouse clubs like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Omar Lopez, who has managed or coached through the Astros’ organization for 26 years, never takes coaching for granted. Lopez will coach wherever life takes him because he has a love for the game.

“This is my passion,” Lopez said of coaching. “I spent time off last year with the family. My wife, the first thing she said was ‘Go do it because I know you love this. You love to be on the field. You love to work, manage, and wear a uni.’

“I’m still young, you know. I’m gonna have my time off when I retire. And if I still feel capable of doing it then why not?”

Stay in the Loop

Get the Our Esquina Email Newsletter

By submitting your email, you are agreeing to receive additional communications and exclusive content from Our Esquina. You can unsubscribe at any time.