New Orioles third base coach Tony Mansolino had zero ties to the Orioles organization. That is, until they sought to interview him. He got the gig and now he will look to add to the club and help players as he becomes the youngest member of the coaching staff.
Mansolino, 38, spent the last 10 years with the Cleveland Indians organization. The next youngest member of the O's staff is first base coach Anthony Sanders at age 46.
Mansolino served the Indians, first as a minor league batting coach from 2011-2015. He managed in their system from 2016 through 2019, winning a Single-A Carolina League championship in 2017 and a Triple-A International League title in 2019. Last season, he served on the farm for the club as an infield coordinator.
Mansolino was not on the Indians' major league staff officially in 2020, but he filled in as third base coach when manager Terry Francona was away from the team dealing with medical issues. He managed just 14 games.
"There have been a lot of good coaches that have gone through Baltimore's organization, obviously with Buck (Showalter) and his staff and now Brandon (Hyde) and his staff," said Mansolino, whose father Doug is the Atlanta Braves' field coordinator. "I don't think I'm going to bring anything new. I think I'm probably going to mesh in with what Brandon and the organization want right now. I think I bring some experience on the development side and, you know, I think I probably bring a pretty good balance of new and old to the position."
The Orioles are a young team, but Mansolino is a young coach and he hopes that works in his favor as he joins his new club.
"I think I probably ran into that managing at Triple-A," he said. "I think I was the oldest guy. Well, we had some coaches older than me, but I think the oldest player when I ran the Columbus club was probably just a few months younger than me. I think it allows me to relate to these guys in some ways. I'm at a similar spot in life as a lot of these guys are in terms of families and kids and things like that.
"And then also, I've grown up in this generation of the game. So, as people talk about this generation of the game, it's something that I played in and a part of the game I've been raised in myself. In terms of understanding these guys, and kind of where they are at personally and professionally, I feel like it does give me a little bit of an edge due to my age."
A native of Newport Beach, Calif., Mansolino played professionally for six seasons as an infielder from 2005-2010 after being selected in the 26th round of the 2005 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Vanderbilt University.
Mansolino's time in the big leagues last summer gave him a taste of what he will be a part of this coming season. A surprise apprenticeship of sorts.
"It was an honor," he said. "Especially because it was Tito (Francona) that asked me to do it. Anytime someone of that stature asks you to fill in on his staff, you have to take it as a compliment. In terms of being in the environment, it was comfortable. I say that with all due respect to what the big leagues are. But, you know, I've grown up in this my whole life. I traveled with my dad as a kid. I spent my whole life in the clubhouse growing up. A lot of it in a major league clubhouse. Being in that environment and being at that level, it was comfortable if you can actually say that for being in the big leagues for the first time."
Mansolino's 2017 Lynchburg team went 87-52 and his 2019 Columbus club went 81-59 on their way to championships. When he got a call from the Indians' assistant general manager, he found out that Baltimore sought him for a position.
"I don't necessarily have any direct relationships in the Baltimore organization, or I didn't have any prior to being interviewed," Mansolino said. "It kind of came out of the blue, to be honest with you. I got the phone call and I was home and ready to go and be the infield coordinator for the Cleveland Indians. And got the call and the opportunity to interview with Baltimore. I jumped all over it and here I am."
In addition to serving as third-base coach as he replaces Jose Flores, he will also have the important role of infield instructor. As the O's infield goes through a transition and some young players on the farm start to make their way up, Mansolino will be a key guy in terms of helping the infielders.
What will be most important for him in that role?
"It just depends on the player. I know you guys have probably heard this a lot. I think when you have a specific way to do things, you are leaving a lot of players out," Mansolino said. "I think the most important thing for me to come in is to partner with each player individually. Find out what he is good at, what he isn't good at, and what he wants to get better at. And partner with him to help him improve wherever he needs to improve."
And Mansolino does believe that even established major league players with several seasons of service time can get better with the glove.
"I think every major league player should have something they want to get better at. I think the best ones do," he said. "I think at any point when a player, regardless of their age, I guess feels like they don't need to get better, you're probably going to start seeing a decline. And that is certainly something we don't want to see. The most important thing is me with these guys individually and partner with him. Find out what they want to do and find out what they need to get better at. And cross-reference that with some of our internal scouting reports and data and come up with a plan to help him get where he wants to be."