Nogales native Rafael Valenzuela was named Monday as the new manager of the Hudson Valley Renegades, the short-season Class-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays based in Fishkill, N.Y.
The move is another step up for the 32-year-old Valenzuela, who joined the Tampa Bay system five years ago and made his managerial debut in 2019 with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays, who finished 25-28.
The Renegades play in the 14-team New York-Penn League and have won the league championship three times: 1999, 2012 and 2017. They finished second in the league’s McNamara Division in 2019 with a 42-32 mark. Their 2020 season begins June 24.
After joining the Rays organization in December 2014, Valenzuela coached in an instructional league in the Dominican Republic and then in the Gulf Coast League in 2016. He spent half of the following season as a coach with the Rays’ Major League team.
Valenzuela spent the second half of the 2017 campaign as the third-base coach for the Durham Bulls Triple A national championship team, and served as infield and third-base coach for the rookie-level Princeton (W.V.) Rays in 2018.
Last winter, he was a member of the coaching staff of the Perth Heat of the Australian Baseball League.
Valenzuela graduated from Nogales High School in 2006 and was drafted that year by the Kansas City Royals. He opted for college instead, and played for three years at University of Arizona after spending his freshman season at Cochise College.
He then signed with the Astros as a free agent and played four seasons at first and third base in the Houston organization, reaching the Double A level in 2013 before wrapping up his playing career with a .283 batting average, 13 home runs and 81 RBI in 165 total games, according to Baseball-Reference.com.