There will be a special request from Tito Fuentes Jr. when the Napa Silverados – a new team that will play its first season in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs starting in 2018 – orders uniforms and hats and other gear and equipment.
Named recently as the team’s manager by Bruce Johnston, the Silverados’ owner, president and general manager, Fuentes Jr. would like to wear No. 23. It’s in honor of his dad, Tito Fuentes, who wore the same number for the San Francisco Giants while playing second base.
“That was my dad’s playing number,” Fuentes, Jr. said last week. “It became a family number for us.”
The younger Fuentes has learned so much about baseball from his dad, who played for the Giants from 1965-1974. He also played for San Diego, Detroit and Oakland and batted .268 during a 13-year career in the majors. A native of Havana, Cuba, he is on the Dream Team for the Giants’ 25th Anniversary team, as voted on by San Francisco fans in 1982. He was also inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
“My dad’s influence in baseball to us was essential, because that was his passion, and it became our passion,” the younger Fuentes said.
Tito Fuentes provides coverage of the Giants from the Spanish language broadcast booth. Tito Fuentes Jr. played baseball in his native Dominican Republic, for the A’s and Dodgers, in the Dominican Summer League. Born in Moca, Dominican Republic in 1967, he signed as a shortstop-second baseman with Oakland and spent two years, 1987-89, with the A’s organization, and was in Class A ball. He went to spring training with the A’s in 1989. He played two years of Class A ball, from 1990-1991, with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
He was the manager for the Vallejo Admirals of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs in 2013-14.
Vallejo won the 2017 title, beating the host Sonoma Stompers 11-8 on Sept. 1 in the league championship game at Peoples Home Equity Ballpark at Arnold Field.
The independent league, based in Northern California, was founded in 2013 and also includes the San Rafael Pacifics and Pittsburg Diamonds. New to the league next year is the Martinez Clippers.
Each team plays an 80-game schedule, with the season running from early June through the end of August. Forty of those games are home games. Weekday games start at 6 p.m. Saturday’s games begin at 5 p.m. and Sunday games at 1 p.m.
The Silverados will play their home games at Napa Valley College’s Storm Field.
Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs is not affiliated with major league teams. Players are paid monthly.
“I think the fans of Napa County can expect a lot of excitement. And they’re going to see a really good product,” Fuentes Jr. said. “We’re going to have local and regional players coming to play for the Napa Silverados.
“We expect a championship and we’re not going to settle for anything less.”
Fuentes Jr. is part of the organization’s executive team, which includes Johnston and Megan Castellucci, the Silverados’ assistant general manager.
Fuentes Jr. has operated the Tito Fuentes Baseball Academy in Napa and provides clinics and private instruction. He has also managed several travel teams.
“He knows baseball,” said Johnston. “He’s played in the minors. He’s an instructor. He’s got his academies. He’s well connected and well thought of in the industry. He understands talent and he’s able to identify talent and that’s going to be very important, because we don’t have last year’s team to go to and say, ‘Hey, can you come back?’ We’ve got to field 22 guys. Tito’s going to have to find them. But he’s got an eye for doing that. When he puts them on the field, hopefully they’ll respect his experience and listen to what he’s trying to tell them.”
“The ultimate goal is to get these guys to move up, whether it’s (Class) A or Triple A. He understands that. And I think that’s critical.”
Castellucci, who worked as the assistant GM for the San Rafael Pacifics this past season, said Fuentes has a presence on the field and knows how to run a ball club.
“He is respected and he knows what he’s talking about,” said Castellucci. “And he’s out there for the same reason that these guys are. He wants to push his players, and push them to their peak performance. I think that’s going to be evident when we step foot on the field in June.”
The league’s preseason and spring training starts in mid-May, with the regular season beginning in early June. The Silverados’ team colors are red, black, silver and white.
Team schedules are still to be finalized. Castellucci expects to have the first Silverados’ player signed by the end of January or in early February.
Castellucci is a 2011 Justin-Siena High School graduate who worked as a media relations and special events intern during the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the San Rafael Pacifics. She was a community relations intern for the Oakland Athletics, assisting the organization with the implementation of community outreach initiatives while also contributing to the planning of various A’s Community Fund projects and events in 2016.
“We’re now at the point where we have to figure out who we’re going to sign, which is exciting,” said Castellucci, a 2015 graduate of Cal State Fullerton, who received her degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations. At Fullerton, she worked in the ticket operations department for athletics, and became the assistant ticket manager.
She received her master’s degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco.
“We’re trying to put together our thinking caps in how to put a great product out on the field,” said Castellucci. “We’re starting with an entirely blank slate. This is a great opportunity to be home and give back to my community, because Napa is at the core of who I am. My family is still here and we have a lot of ties to the community. It’s really great to be home.”
Fuentes Jr. also makes his home in Napa. He grew up in Foster City and went to Hillsdale High-San Mateo. He pursued pro baseball after high school by returning to the Dominican Republic.
He is currently working in sponsorship and advertising sales for the Silverados, and then will move into the manager’s position as it gets closer to the season. He will have responsibility for all aspects of the team, including scouting, recruiting and training, according to a press release.
“To me, it means a whole lot, especially with the confidence that Bruce has given me,” Fuentes said.
Johnston is working closely with Fuentes Jr. and Castellucci.
“As an executive team, we’re going to have fun,” said Johnston. “They are doing all of the heavy lifting. I’m just helping to try and keep everything together. It’s very much a team effort. The personalities are a great fit. They’re great people to be with. They’re very knowledgeable.”
Johnston is from North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1979 with a degree in English literature.
Johnston, a Napa resident, formed Johnston Real Estate Services in 2006 and works as a consultant in the shopping center business. He consults for shopping center owners, managers and institutional investors.
A need for host families
Castellucci will oversee the host family program, which allows the players to spend the summer in Napa while reducing their expenses.
“To be with a host family gives them a sense of stability,” she said. “It’s hard to ask those players to look for temporary housing for the three months’ time.
“This host family program gives them a great way to really embrace the city that they play for and to understand what it means to live in Napa and what it means to be a part of the Napa community.”