Four years ago, Charleston RiverDogs rookie manager Aaron Ledesma was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life when he ran into Nardi Contreras during a mission trip in the Dominican Republic.
Since retiring from Major League Baseball in 2000, Ledesma had started his own sports agency, had tried his hand at real estate and had even considered opening up his yoga studio.
But none of those jobs really fulfilled him.
Despite playing five seasons for four different teams at the major league level, Ledesma didn't see a future for himself as a baseball coach or manager.
He had had enough of the traveling and late nights.
"When I retired, I really wanted to take a step away from the game and kind of recharge my batteries," Ledesma said. "Up to that point, my whole life had been about baseball, and I was looking for something new. I was looking for a new challenge. I didn't think I was ready to get back into the game. A lot of guys want to be a coach or a manager after their playing careers are over, but I never really gave it much consideration. I didn't think it was for me."
But after talking with Contreras, who is the pitching coordinator for the New York Yankees, Ledesma reconsidered his options. Maybe baseball was in his future.
"After talking with Nardi, I felt like maybe the universe was sending me a message," Ledesma said. "Maybe it was time I got back into the game. I missed it. Nardi told me if I was interested in getting back into the game, then give him a call."
A week after getting back from the Dominican Republic, Ledesma landed a job as a hitting coach with the Yankees' high Class A affiliate in Tampa, Fla.
"It's not something I pursued. It's something that happened for me," Ledesma said. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm back in the game. I just think I needed to step away from the game for a while and kind of weigh their options. But I think this is where I belong."
The last two seasons, Ledesma has been the hitting coach for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. This is Ledesma's first season as a manager.
"The game is so much more polished at the Triple-A level," Ledesma said. "You're still trying to develop guys, but a lot of them have played in the major leagues. At this level, your main focus is on development and moving guys onto the next level. It's just a different mindset."
Ledesma said he's excited about making the transition from coach to manager.
"It's just a lot more responsibility," Ledesma said. "The last two or three years, I've been mainly involved with hitting and the defensive side of the game. My main responsibility was moving guys around in the infield and making sure we were set up defensively, so this is a little more involved. I'm going to have to worry about a pitching staff for the first time."
Ledesma said he'll be seeking plenty of counsel from veteran RiverDogs pitching coach Carlos Chantres.
"I'm going to lean heavily on Carlos," Ledesma said. "Carlos has been with these guys for a couple of years, so he knows these guys better than anyone. During a game, I'll be communicating with him a lot and he'll be giving me options. Running in a pitching staff will definitely be a different experience for me."
Ledesma said the RiverDogs have a nice blend of talent.
"We offer a little bit of everything," Ledesma said. "We have a little bit of speed and we've got some power. We've got some really good young arms. If we can catch the ball and make the routine play defensively, we're going to be all right this year."