Fans got their first chance to meet and hear from new Rome manager Matt Tuiasosopo and first-year coach Wigberto Nevarez on Monday at the team’s 17th annual Hot Stove Gathering at the Forum River Center. They will join new pitching coach Kanakoa Texeira and longtime hitting coach Bobby Moore for the 2019 season.
Tuiasosopo played professional baseball for 14 years, closing out his major league career as a player with the Atlanta Braves in 2016. The new manager, who grew up in Washington state, said he was excited to be back with the organization, although in a different role.
“It’s awesome,” Tuiasosopo said during a press conference on Monday. “It’s like a family — the whole organization — that’s what I experienced.
“Being able to come back — my wife’s from Atlanta. She grew up here, and I’ve been in Atlanta for the past nine years. It’s honestly nice to be close to home. It’s a first-class organization from top to bottom, and we’ve got talent all over the place.”
Tuiasosopo will get a chance to mold some of that talent when he steps onto the field as manager this season. The first-time manager said he’s looking to be a consistent voice amid the ever-changing lineup of players that will be coming in and out of Rome.
“I just got done playing so I’m obviously still learning a lot about the other side,” Tuiasosopo said. “My focus is going to be different in coming to the field and learning how to lead the men and be a good communicator. You might have a roster at the beginning and by the All-Star break be totally different. But I think the focus stays the same — being consistent with what you’re trying to teach the kids.”
Braves director of player development Dom Chiti praised the new coaching staff in Rome while discussing some of the organization’s new way of thinking about coaching in the farm system.
“We made a decision over the winter that we were looking for quality people, but also people with curious minds,” Chiti said. “We were also looking for people that we wanted to grow the way we wanted them to be instead of trying to remake somebody. Not only here in Rome but the other people we hired — they’re high-quality people. They have a baseball mind, but they’re also very curious to learn.”
Nevarez returns to Rome as coach this season after being in the Braves’ organization since being drafted by the team in 2014. The former catcher was on Rome’s 2016 SAL championship team and played for the Advanced Class A Florida Fire Frogs in 2017. Nevarez said he’s embraced his role as coach.
Moore, who is entering his 15th season as Rome’s hitting coach, has seen a lot of players come and go with the Braves’ organization, but is glad to see former players come back on a different path.
“We’ve got a great group of guys that haven’t changed,” Moore said. “They’ve been that way since they were younger. They’re upright citizens, and they’re good on and off the field. At times I’m going to pick their brains as well. You’re never too old to learn, so I’m going to learn from them as well.”
The Braves open the season on the road at Kannapolis on April 4 before returning home to begin a seven-game homestand on April 11 beginning with Greenville.