Jim Riggleman, who has been involved in professional baseball as a player and a manager for five decades, was unveiled as the new manager of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in a December press conference at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze.
Riggleman returns to the minor league ranks with enthusiasm after his extensive career at baseball’s highest level.
“I have great respect for the minor leagues and how hard the guys are working, not only the players, but also the staff,” said Riggleman, who has managed for four different major league clubs, the last being the Washington Nationals from 2009-11.
Riggleman also managed the San Diego Padres (1992-94), the Chicago Cubs (1998-99) and the Seattle Mariners (2008). This will be Riggleman’s first minor league assignment in 20 years, when he was the Triple-A manager of Las Vegas 51s in the Pacific Coast League.
“Double-A is a tremendous level of baseball. I think my most enjoyable time that I’ve ever spent in my career, both as a player and a manager, was at the Double-A level,” Riggleman said. “It just has to do with the enthusiasm the players have. The energy they play with – there’s very few jaded attitudes, concerning ‘why am I not in the big leagues?’”
The Blue Wahoos The Blue Wahoos, the new Cincinnati Reds’ Double-A affiliate, will open the 2012 season at home April 5.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to be the first manager of the Wahoos,” said Cincinnati Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty, who has been a World Series-winning general manager (St. Louis, 2006). “His heart is in the minor league and player development. He loves working with the kids.”
Jocketty stressed the importance of a strong minor league system – especially considering the Reds’ are the 28th largest (out of 30) markets in Major League Baseball.
“It’s extremely important for our organization to have strong affiliates,” he said. “When we sign a kid, out of high school or college or out of the Latin America countries or wherever, we try to put them in the best environments for them to not only live, but to play and develop as players and human beings.
“We try to get them engaged in the community and we think it’s important that they learn that at the grass roots level.”
The Blue Wahoos will be playing in a new stadium at the Community Maritime Park in downtown Pensacola. Construction of the new facility is expected to be complete by February, with the team’s staff operations moving into new offices at the park in March.
Owner Quint Studer has high hopes for team, the stadium and the excitement he hopes it will create in the area.“We hope you fill up this place, because we really want to create something special,” said Studer, who thanked the former and current City Council members for their support the last few years.
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward also shared his excitement at the press conference.
“This is an extremely important day for Pensacola. It’s going to be a huge economic drive for the City of Pensacola. Not just the city, but the region and everyone around the Southeast,” said Hayward. “When you have Double-A baseball, that’s a game changer for Pensacola and for our area.”
Baptist Hospital’s Andrews Institute of orthopedic medicine will join the Blue Wahoos as the organization’s sports medicine provider.
“When you think about the best athletes in the world, and who they turn to for sports medicine, the Andrews name is a consistent response,” said Blue Wahoos President Bruce Baldwin. “We are thrilled to have the Andrews Institute as our official sports medicine provider. It is a real testament to the community that we have such incredible medical talent in the area, which is being recognized for its expertise by this partnership.”
Al Stubblefield, President and CEO of Baptist Health Care, can attest to Studer’s passion for baseball, having attended a Cubs game with him after attending a meeting in Chicago.
“I’m excited for Baptist Health Care and the Andrews Institute to be a part of this exciting time,” Stubblefield said. “I had no idea that day that 15 years later that he would have had the opportunity to bring professional baseball to Pensacola and that Baptist Health Care would have had the opportunity to connect with Dr. James Andrews and create this world class health care facility and together we’d be able to be a part of a new venture.”
You, too, can be a part of this new venture. Visit www.bluewahoos.com to find out more information about the team and to purchase ticket packages. Turn to pages 16-17 for photos of the stadium construction progress through the end of December.