The Red Sox hired a new bullpen coach yesterday. There's nothing odd about that except that the man, Euclides Rojas (cool name, by the way), is the Cuban national team career saves leader. He escaped Cuba by raft in 1994, pitched in the independent Western League in '95, and has coached in the Marlins and Pirates organizations ever since.
It's the first time that I can remember that a coach or manager has been hired at the major-league level after spending most of his career outside of "organized" ball. It could the first step in expanding the old boy network that has dominated coaching circles since Harry Wright called up his brother George to play short for him. And it's about time.
I know that Bobby Valentine had one ill-fated year managing in Japan between his Rangers and Mets gig. I cannot recall a player from Japanese, Cuban, Korean, et al leagues getting the same treatment in American organized ball.
It kind of reminds of the legend of John McGraw employing Rube Foster to tutor a young Christy Mathewson, after realizing that the great African-American pitcher could not be signed to a major-league contract. The allegedly apochryphal story of Foster teaching young Christy his famous fadeaway pitch is especially memorable. When baseball integrated in the late '40s, the Negro league managers, coaches, and execs were left out. Legendary African-American managers like dictatorial Foster (he's credited with every innovation under the sun: the bunt-and-run, catchers backing up first, making the ball round, etc.) and C.I. Taylor were no longer among the Negro league ranks, but their successors like Foster protege Gentleman Dave Malarcher and C.I.'s younger brother Candy Jim Taylor were still going strong.
There is one exception that comes to mind: the great K.C. Monarch manager Buck O'Neil was hired as a coach also with the Red Sox forty years ago, the first African-American to be named a coach on a major-league team. Let's hope that the Red Sox can similarly blaze a trail for attracting international instructors to the major-league ranks. I for one would love to see Sadaharu Oh managing in the majors one day.