The announcement that Riccardo Ingram has been replaced by Bobby Cuellar as New Britain Rock Cats manager for 2008 elicits several emotions.
Ingram will be missed. His demeanor was always upbeat and he was congenial even in the throes of losing streaks. Knowing that he would be waiting for you in the manager's office was always a welcome thought. You knew you'd be able to crack a little joke and he would smile from ear to ear.
Cuellar, not to be mistaken for former Orioles 20-game winner Mike Cuellar, is a longtime minor league coach with exceptional credentials. He handled three Cy Young Award winners during his tenure -- Pedro Martinez when he was with the Expos, Randy Johnson during his tenure with Seattle and Johan Santana when he pitched with the Twins in Triple A.
I go back a ways with the new skipper. I first met him when he was the Expos' pitching coach. I went to Fenway Park to cover the Expos against Boston when Southington native Carl Pavano pitched for Montreal. During batting practice, I talked to Bobby about Pavano and received a very detailed, clear assessment that became a lengthy feature story in The Herald.
I ran into Cuellar numerous times at spring training when he was with the Twins organization from 2002-05. I awlays like to remind him that he's just a kid. He was born on Aug. 20, 1952, one day after me.
While I will miss Rico Ingram, I know I'll get to see him at Fort Myers next spring and hopefully during the season if I can escape to Pawtucket when Rochester comes in. As for Cuellar, I'm sure fans are going to like his affable, easy-going nature as well.