Carlos Tosca spent 24 years riding buses from Oneonta to Baseball City to Portland, Maine, touring the minor leagues. All the while, Tosca, a former USF baseball player and graduate, was waiting for a chance. A chance to be the manager of a major league baseball team.
“There were different times where I got discouraged,” Tosca said. “I even said to myself, ‘This is probably not going to happen.’ But I never stopped dreaming.”
But all that waiting and dreaming turned to reality on June 3 when the Toronto Blue Jays made Tosca their manager. After stints at every level of the minor leagues and beginning as the manager of King High School in Tampa, Tosca’s managerial odyssey was complete. He had finally fulfilled his dream.
“I grew up playing baseball, and that position (manager) always intrigued me,” Tosca said. “I would pay as much attention to the managers as the players. I was always preparing myself for when that day came (that I would be a major league manager).”
Tosca was born in Cuba, but came to the United States at the age of eight in 1962.
“It was a struggle,” Tosca said. “My dad wasn’t able to come, and we went from pretty well off in Cuba to basically poor here. We had to start all over, and I didn’t even speak the language.”
Along with his mother and siblings, Tosca slowly made the adjustment to living in the United States.
“It was a tough transition,” Tosca said. “But my mother never complained, and she raised four kids. Life throws you bumps, I say it’s how you respond that shapes you as a person.”
Using baseball, Tosca responded quite well. He played one season for the Bulls under manager Jack Butterfield. Tosca graduated in the spring of 1975 with a degree in physical education from USF, but being a major league manager wasn’t even on his radar yet.
“I wanted to be a physical education teacher and coach baseball, maybe football, too,” Tosca said. “Coaches were a big part of my life. I thought maybe I could return that to some young people.”
Teaching at a private school, Tosca got the manager’s job at King High School, where he coached current King manager Jim Macaluso. In the 1976 season, Tosca guided the Lions to a berth in the regional finals.
That’s when his former coach Butterfield gave him a call. Butterfield was named the player development director of the New York Yankees in 1977, and he had a position for Tosca the following season. Butterfield offered Tosca the chance to be in the pros as a part-time coach with the Yankees Class-A team in Oneonta of the New York-Penn League.
“I was extremely proud and appreciative to be employed by the New York Yankees,” Tosca said. “I never thought that would happen. The scenery was pretty, and the weather was cool. It was an extremely enjoyable experience.”
Tosca worked with Oneonta for two seasons (1978-1979), and then he got the chance to manage his own team. The Yankees named Tosca as the manager of their Gulf Coast League team in 1980. Tosca was at the helm of New York’s low Class-A team in Bradenton for three seasons before he got promoted to the Yankees Class-A team in the South Atlantic League. Greensboro was Tosca’s home for two seasons, but even though the Bats finished in first place in the first half of the ’84 season, the Yankees started to slide Tosca back down the ladder the next season.
Tosca was back in the Florida State League in 1985, managing New York’s team, which was now in Sarasota. The following year, he was an assistant with Sarasota until he finally was out of coaching in 1987.
The Kansas City Royals allowed Tosca to get back into the minors in 1988, but he was still stuck in the Gulf Coast League. Tosca stuck by the Royals until 1991, but the next year opened a new opportunity for him.
Major League Baseball added two new expansions in Colorado and Florida. The Marlins hired Tosca as the manager for their Gulf Coast League team. In the Marlins organization, though, Tosca’s stock was on the rise. In 1993, he was managing in the Northwest League, and the following year finally saw Tosca make it to Double A.
Tosca made his breakthrough in his three seasons at Kane County. He led the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate to first-place finishes in ’95 and ’96. Tosca also started having awards heaped on him at Kane County. In 1995, Tosca received the Carl Barger Player Development Person of the Year. National recognition was on the way for Tosca in 1996 as he was named the Eastern League’s Manager of the Year and Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year.
That got him a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte, and the 1998 season saw Tosca reach the major leagues for the first time in his 20-year career. The Arizona Diamondbacks picked Tosca to be their bench coach, a position he held for three seasons before returning to the minor leagues in 2001 to helm Atlanta’s Triple-A squad, the Richmond Braves.
Tosca’s stay in the minors was short this time, as he returned to the big leagues in 2002 as the third base coach of the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I was just happy to be back in the majors,” Tosca said. “Third base coach is a job I’ve always dreamed about. I was satisfied.”
But with Toronto struggling under the tutelage of manager Buck Martinez, a former major league player and broadcaster who had never managed before, the Blue Jays’ brass turned to a man with ample managerial experience – Tosca.
So after more than 1,700 games at the minor league level and a 932-827 record, Tosca took over the 20-33 Blue Jays on June 3, leading the team to a win vs. the Devil Rays in his first game as manager.
With a tough demeanor, Tosca went to work on turning around the Blue Jays, drawing upon his 24 years’ worth of experiences in the minor leagues.
“That’s where my No. 1 – creative – and No. 2 – experience dealing with people – skills come in,” Tosca said. “I know you can’t save every soul. You do the best you can to get everyone in line and follow your plan. If they don’t want to pull their weight, you have to determine if you want to keep them around.
“I’m real big on honesty,” Tosca said. “I want honesty. That may hurt your feelings, but you have to be mature enough to accept that kind of honesty and do what’s asked of you and behave right.”Tosca has done a good job of righting the Blue Jays’ record, as the team has played .500 baseball since Tosca became Toronto’s manager.
“These guys are under the microscope everyday,” Tosca said. “Every mistake they commit is caught by the cameras. You have to make sure their psyches are all right. That’s why I stress taking it one game at a time. You have to let what happened the day before be, and not be consumed by it.”
While Toronto was 20-33 under Martinez, Tosca has the Blue Jays’ record at 28-28 since he became manager June 3. Still, with the Blue Jays’ record sitting at 48-61, Toronto finds itself a distant 20 1/2 games out of first place, with little chance of finishing the year .500, let alone making the playoffs.
“We’ve added and subtracted personnel, and there is a much more crystal clear direction and expectations of the players,” Tosca said. “Everyone needs direction and clarity. And to their credit, yes, the young players have bought into it.
“Wins and losses are not the barometer for this team. Effort and execution are what we strive for each and every day,” Tosca said. “Our record is not what we’ll be judged on. It’s important that we’re building right now, that we’re making progress on a daily basis. When you’re a contender, you have to do that every day, no matter how far you’re ahead, and hopefully, that’s what we’ll be next year.”
The real question for Tosca is will he be a part of the Blue Jays next season? While Tosca took over as the full-time manager for Martinez, it is uncertain if he will be given the job on a permanent basis. Most mid-season replacements rarely lose their interim tags, and there’s a chance that Toronto will want a manager with more major league experience to lead its rebuilding effort. Still, Tosca takes his uncertain future completely in stride.
“I think there’s only been one time in my managing career, when I was with Florida from 1994-96, that I’ve had a three-year contract,” Tosca said. “So, I try not to think about it until the end of the season. I’ve been given a tremendous opportunity, and I’ll let the chips fall as they may.”
Whether Tosca returns to manage the Blue Jays, it’s quite evident that baseball is a habit he can’t kick, and it will continue to stay with him.
“I’ve been playing ever since I remember,” Tosca said. “I was born in Cuba, and there were no other sports but baseball. I played all the way until I was a senior in college. The best thing I could say about it is if I were a fisherman, I would probably fish on my days off. Well, I’m a baseball manager, and I watch baseball constantly. It’s the prettiest game in the world, and I feel so fortunate to do what I do.”
Contact Oracle Sports Editor Anthony Gagliano at email@example.com