TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras was supposed to start his fifth season at Parkview Field today. He is already the Fort Wayne franchise's all-time leader in wins and is the only manager to lead the team for more than three seasons.
Instead of returning to Fort Wayne to open the TinCaps' 2020 home schedule tonight, Contreras is still in Arizona spending time with his family as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed back the start of the baseball season indefinitely.
Contreras is still looking forward to returning to the Summit City, though it's unclear when he'll be able to do so.
“It's kind of a good metaphor for baseball,” Contreras said of the uncertainty. “You've got to adjust, you've got to make changes to things all the time and it's not much different than what we're dealing with right now.”
Contreras, 36, first managed the TinCaps in 2016 and guided the team to an appearance in the Midwest League Championship Series in 2017 despite losing star Fernando Tatis Jr. to a late-season promotion.
He enters the 2020 season with 256 wins in his Fort Wayne tenure, managing teams that consistently rank among the youngest in the Midwest League as the parent San Diego Padres have rebuilt their farm system from the bottom up over the last half-decade.
When the season does get underway, Contreras is prepared to lead a staff that includes a new pitching coach (Leo Rosales) and a new fielding coach (Jonathan Meyer).
The TinCaps will also welcome back hitting coach Jonathan Mathews for a third season.
“I'm excited to go back to Fort Wayne, it's a place I call home now,” said Contreras, a California native. “After five years, I know the city pretty well, I know the people out there. Obviously, (TinCaps president) Mike Nutter and his staff that I've been around for the last five years, they're first class and I'm going to miss them a lot being out here in Arizona.
“But also (I miss) being able to start a new fresh season, with a fresh set of bases. Honestly I was very excited and I'm still excited to work with the staff that I'm going to have. Some really, really good guys that I respect a lot. I have a good gut feeling that this group this year is going to do some good things and it's going to be another good year of Fort Wayne baseball.”
The Fort Wayne manager, who lives in Arizona with his family in the offseason, has been working with a select group of players in the Padres organization who are unable to return home during the pandemic.
Contreras was an infielder when he played in the minor leagues from 2005 to 2013 and he has been working with the few remaining infielders in Arizona a couple of times a week to stay active.
“That kinds of keeps me sane for the most part where I get a little bit of baseball,” Contreras said of that limited coaching work.
He is also spending far more time with his family than he usually does during April.
“You've got to take as much as good from the situation as you can and (being with my family) is definitely at the top of the list,” he said. “This time every year pretty much, I'm leaving and it's usually a sad time for us, but now I get to be home and be with the family. This will actually be the first Easter that I'll spend with them in the last five years or so, so that'll be a nice change.
“We're just enjoying ourselves and making the most of our situation.”