BOISE — Following the 2002 baseball season, Steve Soliz made a choice.
After nearly a decade in professional baseball without making it to the Major Leagues, the catcher had ended his career with a short stint playing independent baseball in Yuma, Arizona, and decided to pursue his second passion — coaching.
“At that point, I was 31-years-old, I had arm surgery, spent the last four or five years in AAA,” said Soliz, who is entering his first season as a manager this year, with the Boise Hawks. “I was a catch and throw, no-hit guy. The writing was on the wall and I said, ‘It’s time. It’s time to transition to the second career, so to speak, and attack the coaching profession.’”
Soliz found a job for the 2003 season as the bullpen and catching coach for the defending World Series Champion, Anaheim Angels. He didn’t have to look for another job until this past offseason, spending the next 16 years on the Angels’ staff.
“The challenge for me, and what was really intriguing to me was, I’ve learned a lot of baseball,” Soliz said. “Now to see if I can apply it as a manager, myself, at this level, is something I’m definitely looking forward to, personally.”
Soliz will make his managerial debut on Friday when the Boise Hawks open the season at the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He was hired by the Colorado Rockies this past offseason to coach their Short-Season ‘A’ team, replacing Scott Little, who was promoted to the manager of the High ‘A’ Lancaster JetHawks.
The Hawks’ new skipper brings with him years of experience in the Major Leagues, where he’s worked with the likes of Mike Scioscia, Joe Maddon, Ron Roenicke and Rockies’ manager, Bud Black.
“He didn’t get to work a lot with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but he sees tidbits here and there,” said Hawks’ first baseman Daniel Jipping. “Just knowledge of (the) game, being a bullpen coach and a catching coach and then him playing, too, those are some big useful things that he provides.”
Soliz coached under Scioscia for his entire time with the Angels. But after Scioscia stepped down following last season, Soliz too, found himself looking for a new job.
He said he was open to anything, be it a managing job in the minor leagues or another bench job in the Major Leagues. He said he made many calls, inquiring if teams had any openings.
One of the calls he made was to Black, who was the Angels’ pitching coach before being hired as the San Diego Padres’ manager in 2007. Black was hired by the Rockies in 2017.
Black put Soliz in touch with Zach Wilson, the Rockies’ Farm Director, and in January, Soliz was named as the new manager of the Hawks.
“I’m of the mind that you never know where things are going to take you,” Soliz said. “So to pigeon hole myself and say, ‘Hey, I just want to be a manager’ or ‘I just want to be a major league catching coach, or bullpen coach, or what not,’ would be foolish in my opinion. I just kind of cast a wide net and lo and behold, a manager’s job came open and I got it. I’m lucky for it and I’m looking forward to it.”
He got a bit of a crash course during extended spring training, getting roughly a couple dozen games under his belt with the Hawks.
Soliz said there’s a learning curve with the whole process, and every game, he picks up something new. While the Hawks are batting, he’ll be coaching at third base, something he’s never done before.
But fortunately for Soliz, he has a plethora of people he can bounce ideas off of.
“The one good thing is, I have some resources to call on, obviously not in game,” said Soliz. “Freddy Ocasio, who’s the development supervisor here, has done it for years. He’s someone I can instantly get feedback on the bench. But throughout the nights, I do not hesitate to call Dino Ebel, who’s the third base coach with the Dodgers, and in my opinion, one of, if not the best, in Major League Baseball. I’ve been on the phone with him quite a bit. I’m gaining all the information, but it’s one thing to gain the information and actually see it for the first time on the field.”