Seton Hall alum Tony DeFrancesco has been named the Minor League Baseball Manager of the Year by Baseball America. The 52-year old from New York managed the Houston Astros’ minor league affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, to its first division title since 1998, its first playoff berth since 2005 and the league championship before winning the Triple-A National Championship. DeFrancesco has been a minor league manager since 1994 and has spent the last six seasons with the Astros’ organization.
In his 20-year managerial career, DeFrancesco has led his teams to the playoffs 10 times and holds a career record of 1,449-1,255. As a lot of managers so often do, DeFrancesco credited the team’s success this past season to the players. “We had a lot of guys who bought in to the Astros’ system,” DeFrancesco told Baseball Ameri- ca. “These guys did the work, they took the information we gave them and then they applied it. We led the league in runs (804), on-base percentage (.357), walks (606) and we tied in stolen bases (157).” DeFrancesco has coached in the big leagues twice, having been the Oakland Athletics’ third base coach for the 2008 season before returning to the minors the next year. Then, in 2012, DeFrancesco became the interim manager of the Astros after the team’s new regime fired former manager Brad Mills in the process of rebuilding. After the trading of almost all of its veteran players, DeFrancesco led the Astros to a 16-25 record after being named the interim manager on August 19.
In 2014, DeFrancesco survived a cancer scare that required six weeks of chemotherapy during the season. Prior to his outstanding managerial career, DeFrancesco was a catcher for the Seton Hall baseball team in the early 1980s. He helped lead the Pirates to Eastern College Athletic Conference titles in 1982 and 1984, as well as NCAA Regional appearances in 1982, 1983 and 1984 before being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1984 amateur MLB draft.
DeFrancesco played eight seasons in the minors for the Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds before becoming a roving catching instructor for the A’s for two seasons, after which he became a coach with the Southern Oregon A’s for one sea- son. Kevin Huebler can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Hueblerkevin.