Everybody had known about it all week, but that didn’t seem to damped the excitement surrounding the official announcement of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ manager.
“Alright, ready, time to play ball, let’s go,” team owner Quint Studer kicked off Friday’s presser.
Studer joined heavies from the Cincinnati Reds and Mayor Ashton Hayward at a long table at the front of the room. Seated at the end of the table was a man Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty would later call “a great teacher” and “a player’s manager.”
Jim Riggleman—fresh off a managing stretch with the Washington Nationals and scouting stint with the San Francisco Giants—seemed happy enough to be in town and came out swinging with Yogi Berra-esque zen-bombs like: “Home runs are just kind of a by-product of good swings.”
When Pensacola’s new Double AA baseball team—an affiliate of the Reds—takes the field at the still-being-constructed Maritime Park in April, Riggleman will be at the helm as manager.
“Double AA baseball is a tremendous level of baseball,” Riggleman said. “It just has to do with the enthusiasm the players have, the energy they play with.”
The Wahoos new manager said he looked forward to spring training. He plans on drilling the fundamentals.
“We’ve gotta have’em playing like ballplayers, not playing-like-Mike,” Riggleman said, nodding to the razzle and dazzle of former basketball great Michael Jordan. “We can’t all be in the NBA.”
Jocketty said he’s looking forward to the Wahoos’ opening season next year, and thought the team would become “one of the crown jewels” in the Reds minor league system. Studer slapped a newly-branded Wahoos hat on Riggleman and welcomed his new captain to town.
Earlier, the team owner had reflected on how the origins of the Blue Wahoos—and Pensacola Pelicans before them—were grounded in a desire to make a positive contribution to the local community. Mayor Hayward agreed, calling the team a “catalyst” and “game changer.”
“Our best days are ahead of us and this is just one more step,” Studer said, spinning his closing remarks into a broader up-with-community pitch.