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story.lead_photo.caption Mike Rojas NWA Naturals new manager

Mike Rojas grew up watching his father play for the Kansas City Royals and he's excited to be a part of the same organization.

Rojas was named the manager of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the Royals' Double-A affiliate, on Wednesday.

Rojas, 55, becomes the Naturals' third manager in the team's history and replaces Vance Wilson. Wilson, who spent eight seasons in the Major Leagues as a catcher, managed the Naturals for the previous four seasons and was recently named bullpen coach for the Royals.

Rojas is currently managing the Leones del Caracas in the playoffs in Winter Ball, but said he can't wait to put on the Royals' uniform in spring training. He grew up around the game as his father, Cookie Rojas, played in the Major Leagues for a number of seasons, including with the Royals.

He's now chasing the dream of donning that same uniform as a manager.

"That's my number one priority is to be a big league manager," said Mike Rojas, in a phone interview from Venezuela on Wednesday. "I still have that goal, that dream. I've been managing in the minor leagues and in the Dominican to show that I can manage in the big leagues.

"I'm ecstatic to be putting that Kansas City Royals uniform on. I'm excited to get to know the staff and players. I've heard nothing but great things about them."

Rojas spent last season as the manager of the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

He has been involved with professional baseball all of his life, playing professionally for two seasons before pursuing a coaching career. After retiring from playing, he spent time as an assistant coach at St. Thomas University in Miami before becoming the manager of the Gulf Coast League White Sox in 1992 where he managed for three seasons.

During his time in pro baseball, he has spent time several organizations. He has served as a minor league manager for 13 seasons, worked in various front office roles, and was a bullpen coach for the Seattle Mariners during the 2014 season.

The remainder of the Naturals' field staff returns from last season. Pitching coach Steve Leubber returns for his third season in Northwest Arkansas, while hitting coach Leon Roberts is back for his second year with the Naturals.

The Naturals will host their annual hot stove luncheon at noon Monday at The Apollo on Emma Ave., in Springdale. The event features Wilson and J.J. Picollo, vice president and assistant general manager for player personnel for the Royals. Admission is $20 per person, which includes lunch. Fans that are interested in attending the luncheon are encouraged to call Sam Ahern at (479) 927-4055 or email him at Sam@nwanaturals.com to purchase their ticket(s) to the event.

The Naturals open the 2018 regular season by hosting Corpus Christi on April 5 in Arvest Ballpark.

Sports on 01/11/2018

Print Headline: Rojas named Naturals manager

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