Most people would consider going from Altoona one year, to the DSL Pirates the next season, to be quite the demotion. For Stephen Morales, it’s actually a promotion and a vote of confidence from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After serving as the third base coach and catching coach this past year with the Altoona Curve, the Pirates offered Morales a managerial position at the lowest level of the system for 2019. Morales told his local media last night that the Pirates consider him to be a future leader in the system, so now they want to start to get him managerial experience. He noted that he still has a lot to learn, so he’s beginning his pro career as a manager at the lowest level.
Morales has never managed in the United States, but he has built a nice resume quickly in Puerto Rico. The 40-year-old former catcher won a title during summer baseball in Puerto Rico by leading Sultanes de Mayaguez to the championship in 2017, right before being hired by the Pirates. This winter, he lead Indios de Mayaguez to a first place finish with a 21-14 record. He looks to lead them to the Caribbean World Series now. Indios won their playoff opener last night.
When the Pirates hired Morales, they were getting someone with a lot of experience in pro ball. He was drafted as a catcher out of high school by the Florida Marlins in 1996 and played minor league ball through 2007. Morales played in three organizations through 2004 and then three more years of independent ball, while also playing winter ball during that time. He played winter ball for another four seasons in Puerto Rico after 2007 before his career as a player ended. He then served as a coach in winter ball for five seasons (2012-16), which included working with the catchers.
Morales never made it to the majors as a player, topping out at Triple-A for parts of three seasons, so now he will give coaching a try to get him to the highest level. As someone who rode buses for 15 years as a player, he gives the DSL Pirates a coach who knows how difficult it is to reach the majors. That should be a good role model for the young group of players he will be managing this season, especially the catchers.