When spring training begins for the Oakland A's in February, there will be a familiar face missing - Tony DeFrancesco. For the first time in 17 years, DeFrancesco will not be gracing the fields of Papago Park and Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Instead, he will be in Kissimmee, Florida, imparting his knowledge of the game to the Houston Astros.
DeFrancesco, who has served as the Sacramento River Cats' manager for seven of the past eight seasons, will be managing the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks, a Houston Astros' affiliate, it announced this week.
DeFrancesco may be with Houston next season, but his impact will still be felt throughout the A's organization, from the major leagues on downwards.
"Tony has been an integral part of our organization for many years. He has been able to influence Oakland players from rookie ball to the major leagues," Oakland A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said on Friday.
"The winning tradition he has created for our affiliates and players is unparalleled. His energy, knowledge and passion for the game is recognized throughout the industry."
After a nine-year minor league playing career, DeFrancesco native joined the A's organization as a hitting coach in 1993. In 1994, the New York native was given his first managerial position, and he guided the Arizona Rookie League A's to a 32-24 record and a second-place finish. He would follow that season with two years in the Northwest League managing the A's Southern Oregon squad, followed by two more years in the California League guiding Visalia before leading the Texas League's Midland Rockhounds to four consecutive winning seasons.
In 2003, DeFrancesco took over as the manager for the Sacramento River Cats from current A's manager Bob Geren. DeFrancesco quickly began what has developed into an unprecedented run of success for the A's Triple-A affiliate. He won the Pacific Coast League championship in 2003 and 2004 and made the playoffs in 2005 before finishing in second place in 2006. He led the River Cats to another crown in 2007 and also won the Triple-A Championship with a win in the Bricktown Showdown.
In 2008, DeFrancesco was finally given an opportunity to coach at the major league level. He served as the A's third base coach for one season, but was not brought back as part of Geren's coaching staff in 2009. Instead, he returned to Sacramento, where he put together yet another winning season and playoff appearance. The River Cats went to the PCL Finals, losing to the Memphis Redbirds. In 2010, DeFrancesco put together arguably his best managerial season yet. He guided a Sacramento team that was 12 games out of first place midway through the season to a division title, his sixth in seven seasons with the River Cats.
During his time in Sacramento, DeFrancesco became a fan favorite, hosting pre-game chats with the fans, among other activities. His teams were marked by their professionalism and their passion for winning, two things that can sometimes be hard to find in the minor leagues. While managing the River Cats, he helped develop a number of current major leaguers, including Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, Bobby Crosby, Brad Ziegler, Aaron Harang, Gio Gonzalez and Vince Mazzaro.
DeFrancesco joins the Oklahoma City staff in its first season as a Houston affiliate. It had previously been affiliated with the Texas Rangers. He has a career managerial record of 1100-953.