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Mets name Cacciatore Suns' manager

January 17, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Frank Cacciatore feels wanted.

It's not like the former hitting coach of the Double-A Harrisburg Senators should have any doubts, but being named as the new Hagerstown Suns manager means Cacciatore will be returning to everything that is familiar and good about working in minor league baseball.

"I'm flattered that they want me to be there," said Cacciatore via telephone from his home near Orlando, Fla. "They felt like this (Single-A) is an important position for them. They have a lot of good kids coming through and they want to get them up the ladder as soon as possible."

By accepting the Suns' job, Cacciatore enjoys a homecoming on many levels. He returns to the South Atlantic League, where he worked for the Houston organization in 1992. But maybe more importantly, he returns to work with a core group of baseball people from his days with the Montreal organization.

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That list starts with Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who left the baseball-owned Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) to take the reins of the Mets. The switch allowed Cacciatore to team again with a man he is very comfortable working with.

"I'm coming back to work with Omar and coming over, it's great to see some old familiar faces," Cacciatore said. "A lot of us were working for the (Florida) Marlins and we were all thrown together in the switch (when baseball assumed ownership of the Expos). Omar did a great job when he was there and now he's doing a great job with the Mets."

Cacciatore replaces Gene Richards as Hagerstown's manager while the rest of the coaching staff returns for a second year. Hitting coach Luis Natera, pitching coach Shawn Barton and trainer Matt Hunter will be back to work with the Suns.

Richards, who managed the Suns to a first-half Northern Division championship and their first playoff appearance since 1991, is no longer with the Mets organization.

Cacciatore has worked as both a manager and hitting coach since his playing career as a minor league outfielder. He has worked for San Francisco, Florida, Houston and Montreal before spending last season with Washington's Double-A team in the Eastern League.

"I've done so much and I'm getting old, every job I get now has good things about it," Cacciatore said.

Cacciatore got an early look at some of the possible Suns for the upcoming season last week at the Mets camp in Florida. He admits he doesn't know much of the whos and whats about the organization, but knows there will be quality to work with.

"After seeing everybody down there, it is tough for me to sit still for three weeks," he said. "Everyone is super excited to get going. Omar understands the development of players. He shows patience, but he wants the guys to be better and do what they need to do to be professionals. They might not end up being with us, but he wants them to be the best they can to help the club."

The 2005 Suns were prime example of improving for the betterment of the Mets. Pitcher Gabriel Hernandez, third baseman Grant Psomas and outfielder Dante Brinkley were three of Hagerstown's best players last season and yet all three were used in trades to Florida to bring first baseman Carlos Delgado and catcher Paul LoDuca to the Mets.

Cacciatore has made a career out of teaching hitting, but he turns to the bigger picture when it comes to managing.

"We will play to the personnel we have," he said. "You win with pitching and defense, but I would love to have a team that bangs the ball and scores a lot of runs to make it easy on the pitching staff. We'll just have to wait ... it will be fun to see."

The Suns open the 2006 on April 6 in Greensboro before coming home to face Lakewood at Municipal Stadium on April 10.

"It's going to be different every night," Cacciatore said. "The talent is going to prevail in this organization. I just want to get us off to a solid start and see what happens."

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