Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros officially introduced former University of Mobile Ram Joe Espada as the organization’s next manager during a press conference on Monday morning, (Nov. 13) at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Espada, the Astros’ bench coach for the last six seasons, will replace legendary manager Dusty Baker, who retired following the 2023 season after leading the Astros to a World Series Championship in 2022.
News broke of Espada’s hiring without team confirmation on Sunday, with the Astros calling a press conference led by general manager Dana Brown on Monday to make the announcement official. “We at the University of Mobile are proud of Joe Espada,” said University of Mobile President Lonnie Burnett. “He has paid his dues and his impeccable work ethic has paid off. He is a class act.”
“We are ecstatic for Joe and his accomplishments throughout his professional career, and look forward to seeing his continued success in his new role,” said Sally Shouppe, athletic director at the University of Mobile. “Joe has a huge support system at the university and we will be cheering him on throughout the rest of his career.”
Espada, 48, attended the University of Mobile in the mid-’90s as a middle infielder for the UM Baseball program, being named a three-time Gulf Coast Athletic Conference First-Team All-Conference selection and a two-time GCAC Baseball Player of the Year. Additionally, Espada was selected as an NAIA Baseball Second-Team All-American following the 1995 and 1996 seasons. During the 1996 season for the Rams, Espada hit a program-best .442 on the year with 13 home runs and 38 stolen bases. Following that same season, he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the second round with the 45th overall pick.
From there, Espada played 10 seasons of minor league ball across seven MLB organizations, five of those seasons being played in Triple-A. He hit .275 in Minor League Baseball with 130 stolen bags and 379 runs scored in his career before hanging up the cleats following the 2005 season. He then became a member of the Miami Marlins organizational coaching staff from 2006–2013 to begin his professional coaching career.
Prior to the 2018 season, Espada eventually came to the Astros from the New York Yankees, where he served as the team’s third-base coach. Espada’s previous managerial experience includes the Puerto Rican Winter League in his native country of Puerto Rico. Following Dusty Baker’s retirement this year, all indications showed that Espada was the first choice for the Astros’ front office to assume the managerial role.
‘Dream come true’
“This is probably one of my biggest hires of my career, and that brings a lot of excitement to me,” said Astros General Manager Dana Brown during Monday’s press conference in Houston. “Without a question, Joe is a good fit for this job. So, I am excited to announce that Joe Espada is going to be the new manager of the Houston Astros,” said Brown.
“This is a dream come true,” Joe Espada said. “This is a very exciting day for me and my family.” Espada thanked Astros owner Jim Crane and Brown for the opportunity, while also thanking his family for their support and patience throughout his professional coaching career. When addressing his two daughters, Eliana and Viviana, Espada said, “Follow your dreams … Daddy is living his dream. You guys can do whatever you want. Whatever you put your mind to, you guys can accomplish that.”
Espada then took several questions from media, saying that he relied on his faith after several past managerial interviews did not go his way. “I prayed,” Espada said. “I think that sometimes we think that we can choose our destinations, but I think God has the destinations chosen for us. I think God wanted me to stay here.”
In the Fall of 2019, Espada saw his No. 6 Mobile jersey retired during a UM Baseball alumni event. Beloved UM Baseball founder and coach Mike Jacobs led the jersey retirement for Espada, who was the third Ram to see his number retired. Former teammate and World Series winning pitcher J.C. Romero (No. 32) and the late Scott Vereen (No. 16) were the previous two Rams to have their jersey retired at the University of Mobile. Mike Jacobs’ No. 18 jersey was retired following his sudden and tragic passing in December of 2019.