Jose Leger out as manager of Fireflies

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Columbia Fireflies will have a new manager for 2018, as Pedro Lopez takes the reins from former manager Jose Leger (2016-2017). Lopez is making a return to the South Atlantic League after managing the Las Vegas 51s (Mets AAA Affiliate) in 2017.

Lopez enters his 11th season with the Mets organization, having previously managed in Kingsport (2008), Brooklyn (2009), Savannah (2010), St. Lucie (2011), Binghamton (2012-2016) and Las Vegas (2017). In 2013, he was named the Eastern League Manager of the Year after leading Binghamton to a record 86 wins and a trip to the postseason. In 2014, he guided Binghamton to an 83-59 record (.585) and the Mets captured the EL Championship with a three-game sweep of Richmond. He guided Binghamton to three straight EL playoff appearances (2013-15) for the first time in franchise history.

“I’m excited to be back in the South Atlantic League and for having the opportunity to work with the young talent,” said Lopez. “I’m also looking forward to winning some games, and giving the fans another fun year at Spirit Communications Park.”

The Vega Baja, Puerto Rico native was a 21st round draft pick by the San Diego Padres in 1988 – an organization he played for through 1994. Beginning in 1995, he spent two years of his career playing in the Milwaukee Brewers organization before joining the Houston Astros organization and ending his playing career there in 2000. His coaching career began in the Texas Rangers system, where he coached at various levels from 2000-2007 before joining the Mets. 

Fireflies fans will welcome the return of Jonathan Hurst for his third season as the Fireflies pitching coach. The 2018 season will be Hurst’s 13th with the Mets organization. The South Carolina native attended Spartanburg High School and played baseball at Spartanburg Methodist College before being drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1987. His first step into the majors was as pitcher for the Montreal Expos. He then went on to play for the Mets where he pitched in seven major league games.

Hurst’s playing career took him all over the globe. He pitched in the Mexican League from 1995 to 1998. After a brief showing with the Texas Rangers organization, he pitched in Taiwan for two and a half years through the 2000 season. In 2001, he pitched in Japan, and then in 2002 he returned to Taiwan where he played until 2005. 

Ender Chavez is another new member of the Fireflies staff, taking over as the team’s hitting coach. Chavez has spent the past two seasons as the hitting coach for the Kingsport Mets (Rookie), and spent the three previous seasons as the hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Mets (Rookie). The Valencia, Venezuela native also played in the Mets organization from 2002-2003, helping St. Lucie win the Florida State League Championship in 2002.

The 2018 season also brings a new athletic trainer to the coaching staff, as Hiroto Kawamura takes over for Kiyoshi Tada. This will be Kawamura’s third season with the Mets. The Japan native has previously worked as an athletic trainer with the Texas State University Baseball Team, the Fresno Grizzlies (AAA San Francisco Giants Affiliate) and the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA Boston Red Sox Affiliate).

The Fireflies coaching staff will have two other familiar faces on it this season, as both Tanner Miracle (strength coach) and Josh Kozuch (assistant coach) will return for their second seasons in Columbia at their respective positions. 

Miracle enters his third season with the Mets organization. Prior to working with the Fireflies, he worked with the Gulf Coast League Mets (Rookie) for the 2016 season. Kozuch, a Michigan native, is also entering his third season with the Mets. He spent the 2016 season working with the Kingsport Mets (Rookie).

The Columbia Fireflies contributed to the writing of this article.