NEW YORK (AP) — Omar Minaya is switching sides.
The former New York Mets general manager left his job as senior vice president of the San Diego Padres on Thursday to become a special adviser to Major League Baseball Players Association head Tony Clark.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Minaya started in baseball management as a scout for the Texas Rangers, where he helped sign Sammy Sosa. He became the major leagues' first Hispanic general manager with the Montreal Expos from 2002 to 2004. He left the Expos to become GM of his hometown Mets, who fired him after the 2010 season. He was hired by the Padres in December 2011 as senior VP of baseball operations under GM Josh Byrnes, who was fired last June.
"Our membership that comes from the Latin countries is growing," Clark said. "That means having folks on staff that are reflective of those countries, that have the ability to communicate with players in their native language."
Minaya will focus on international affairs and game development in the U.S., including amateur ball. The number of Dominican and Cuban players in the major leagues has increased, and management hopes to get agreement on an international draft in the collective bargaining agreement that expires after the 2016 season. Currently, only players residing in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico are subject to a draft.
"These are going to be major issues as the game goes forward," Minaya said.
He is following the path of Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who left his job as executive vice president/senior adviser of the Padres after a dozen years in December 2013 to become a special assistant to Clark at the Major League Baseball Players Association.
"It probably hasn't happened very often," said Clark, the former All-Star first baseman who took over as union chief after Michael Weiner's death in November 2013.
The 56-year-old Minaya is reversing the path of former major leaguer Tony Bernazard, who was a special assistant for the union from 1992 until he left to work for Minaya and the Mets from 2004-09.
Clark said he expected it to be a long relationship. Minaya said it was difficult to leave scouting and player development.
"When you are a baseball operations guy, and you are a guy like myself, every morning you wake up and you're thinking you're in the hunt, the hunt for that player," Minaya said. "Look, I love scouting. I loved being a scout. I loved talking to coaches, talking to family, talking to players, understanding that. Every day you wake up, if you're the general manager, you try to get that trade. If you're a scout, you try to beat somebody to a player."