OAKLAND, Calif. - Ron Plaza, long-time minor league roving instructor for the Oakland A's, passed away last night in St. Petersburg, Fla., the team announced today.
Plaza, 77, was entering his 30th season as the A's minor league roving instructor and his 61st in professional baseball as a player, coach and manager. He had recently suffered a series of small strokes and was being treated at a rehab nursing home in St. Petersburg.
"On behalf of the A's, I send my deepest condolences out to the Plaza family," said A's Vice President and GM Billy Beane. "Ron was a great baseball man and a wonderful person. His love of the game and dedication to teaching were unmatched during his 30 years with the A's. All of us - front office, staff, and players - are richer for having been around Ron for so long. He will be missed by everyone in the organization."
Beyond his role as minor league roving instructor, Plaza played a prominent part in the building of the Athletics' training complex in the Dominican Republic and was praised for the positive impact he had on the team's Latin American program and such players as infielder Miguel Tejada and catcher Miguel Olivo.
Plaza joined the Oakland organization in 1983 after 14 years with the Cincinnati Reds. He served as the Reds' minor league roving instructor from 1970-77 before serving on the Major League coaching staff for six seasons (1978-83). He also managed on various levels in the St. Louis Cardinals' chain from 1963-68, and was named Florida State League Manager of the Year in 1967. A former infielder, Plaza played in the Cardinals minor league system for 12 years (1951-62), including six seasons at the Triple-A level.
"Ron had a pure love of baseball and demonstrated it as a passionate teacher and contributor to the game," said A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman. "He left an important legacy, not only with the A's organization, but with the impact he had on the many lives he touched throughout his career. He elevated players and staff through his knowledge and his ability to get the most out of them. The game has lost one of its great teachers."