When outfielder Ramón Laureano was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 16th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, he must have been flooded with phone calls.
He made sure to answer one in particular.
Ricky M. Rivera was a former teammate of Laureano’s at Northeast Oklahoma A&M several years back. Laureano had tears in his eyes as the two continued the call. Rivera wished him congratulations on his new adventure to the big leagues.
That call would soon be returned when Rivera got a job opportunity to be the manager for the Gulf Coast League Astros. The 26-year-old is the youngest in professional baseball to currently hold such a title.
The two remain close. So close, in fact, I spotted Rivera at the A’s home opener last season as a guest of Laureano’s. The outfielder is a member of the Green and Gold following a trade in 2017, but Rivera remembers when the two met.
“I remember the first day I got there,” Rivera told NBC Sports California. “I walked up the stairs with my luggage bag and I was getting to my dorm room and I saw [Laureano] was just sitting and drinking coffee with his sunglasses on watching TV in the middle of our dorm room -- and I thought ‘Who does that?’”
The two clicked instantly, mirroring one another’s work ethics. Although Rivera admitted Laureano was “a bit more dedicated.”
“We would go to the yard together,” Laureano told NBC Sports California. “[Rivera] would go different times because he was a pitcher. He would be in the cage with us, but he was always running. His cardio was unreal.”
But the two were both chasing the same goal.
Responsibilities of the manager for the GCL Astros include, but aren't limited to, running the entire program for the rookie ball team. Anything a manager would do, at any level of the organization, Rivera takes care of it.
“I would say my role is manager/player development, I do a lot of developing with the infielders and outfielders -- a lot of defensive work, plus the mental side,” Rivera said.
Rivera had a bit of a chuckle to himself upon asking about his background and what it took to get to where he was -- a sense of accomplishment appeared to be behind the action.
The résumé includes being a graduate assistant at Central Missouri. After that, he had a part-time gig with the Royals youth program which consisted of him coaching the scout teams.
It was a slow job market after that, Rivera said. That was until he saw the job post on LinkedIn from a friend. But he was hesitant at first.
“I applied obviously with my hopes really low,” Rivera said. “I had been out of the game, I’ve never been a professional player or professional coach.”
But the interview process went extremely well, obviously.
When Rivera got a call of his own that he would be working for the Astros organization, he made sure to give Laureano a ring. After all, the A’s outfielder knew if Rivera kept at it, he would make a career out of the game.
“He was one of the first people I called,” Rivera said. “He was like ‘Man, I feel like I just got the job' -- I’m so excited for you.”
Laureano immediately offered up any contacts his long-time friend would need.
“He’s taking care of me and he was really excited for me,” Rivera said.
He felt as if he too was just drafted to the bigs.
“I know he pays attention to detail pretty well, sometimes he’ll show me ideas and I’m like ‘Wow, that’s a pretty good idea,” Laureano said. “He helps me with my baseball stuff, and it’s good, he’s one of my best friends.”
Laureano cares about Rivera’s future but made it clear he would support him no matter what road he chose.
“He knows when to ask me questions,” Laureano said. “I know how to ask him questions, but he’s very eager -- he’s as obsessed with baseball as I am. He’d be a pretty cool boss to have.”
Laureano marked his words that Rivera will be a major league manager one day. Would he want to play for him?
“Ricky?” Laureano laughed. “Yeah for sure, why not? That would be fun.”
Photos courtesy of Ricardo Rivera